A while ago, my grandmother made a statement: “the coffee shop is the new pub”. And I couldn’t agree more. Growing more than 11.2% in sales in 2016, the market is still growing. Its foundations are strong. Thanks to the likes of Starbucks and Coffee Republic to introducing the coffee “fad” to the UK, people have been going mad. Whilst tea still remains the staple homebrew drink of the Britons, when out and about, coffee dominates.
I only truly appreciated the dominance of coffee recently. Yes, I understood and have read about its ground-sweeping growth, but until I saw it in practice, I just accepted it as fact. In Wolverhampton, there were various coffee shops including pubs. Then I went to view one to purchase – I didn’t buy in the end. Someone else got it and opened it. Then Lindy Lou’s opened, a romantic historic building, which I am dramatically in love with. Then there’s my “local”, Wild Bytes Cafe. There are plenty more in Wolverhampton, so many you would think opening another one would be disastrous.
But, there was one factor that I noticed: ALL the coffee shops were busy. There were small, but busy. This, in my opinion, stands as a metaphor for the dominance of coffee. And you know what? I truly believe you could still open another 5 coffee shops in Wolverhampton and they will still be busy. I believe this to be the same for anywhere else in the country.
Back to the original statement; pubs have been dying in the past decade. I remember as a kid driving around and noticing all the closing pubs. There is still a place for pubs and I truly believe they will not go extinct. I am a frequent user (I’m writing this blog post in one). I just believe the essence of a pub has changed. It is still the after-work/evening venue, but with homebrewing kicking off, pubs have to compete on that level now – becoming a micro-brewery at the same time. Offering that unique product you can’t get anywhere else is key to success.
Pubs used to be the meeting place for everyone. “I’ll meet you at the pub for 6 ‘o clock”. It was THE place to socialise. Yes, people still socialise at the pub. But it is seen as more of an event. Going to the pub means “a night out” for most people or at least some excess of drinking.
Anyway, the coffee shop has replaced that and in a similar fashion. We all have our local coffee shop. My step-father goes to Greggs for his takeaway coffee. I’m torn between two loyalties at the moment. The very new and exciting Lindy Lou’s or the established, award-winning, and must I say, friendly, Wild Bytes Cafe. But, I would not go anywhere else, because I’ve developed that relationship. The same relationship you have with your barmaid/man at the local pub.
Note a trend here: it is the independent pub/coffee shop I prefer to visit. Yes, my local is a Sizzling Pub and I have no choice in that. But when I visit Birmingham, I purposely visit The White Horse in Harborne, an independent pub that brews its own beer. Whether this is a trend in consumer behavior or just because I’m a hipster, I do not know. But, I do predict that the independent business will rise above the chain.
Plus, notice that pubs are now serving coffee? Coffee has threatened their very existence. In fact, it threatens so much that pubs are undercutting the competition by 20p (or so, in Wolverhampton). Not huge, but makes the difference in the long run. However, what pubs lack is the coffee shop environment. Whether you like it or not, it is the future.
I apologize for this being a mish-mash of ideas, but I just want to get across that the coffee shop is the new pub. It is the new local. The coffee shop has foundations in our society and I believe it will not shift for the next 25 years. Hell, I think the next drink to dominate the market will have to be invented! Nevertheless, this is an urgent call to investors and marketers: the coffee shop is where it is at.