Reimagined store formats, technology updates and product innovation — the way we consume coffee is not what it once was. From everyone’s favourite café, Starbucks, to quaint cafes in cities across the world, the way we drink coffee will no longer be the same.
A couple of months ago, Starbucks announced global transformational changes. New and reimagined store formats, technology updates, product innovation, and expansion and evolution of the delivery program have been rolled out since. Among its many strategies is remodelling stores to focus on need, and an emphasis on mobile pickups in the morning and in-store experiences in the afternoon. Starbucks Pick-up is tailored for customers who rather order and then pay through the Starbucks mobile app.
Quite an interesting makeover for a café brand that built much of its equity on being, what former CEO Howard Schultz described as, “a unique ‘third place’ between work and home that customers could go, to meet friends, get work done or simply hang out.”
In India, Tata Starbucks has made subtle changes and experience additions to keep consumers engaged and the dosh coming in. Last year, with an eye on the Indian market, Starbucks launched a special Diwali Blend made from coffee grown in the Valparai, Jumboor and Suntikoppa estates located in the verdant hills of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The complex blend paid rich tribute to the region’s coffee culture and beautifully balances acidity with warm notes of cocoa, hints of chocolate and spices.
And now, Starbucks has tied up with Chef Sanjeev Kapoor to create a local-meets-global menu.
Chef Kapoor has used ingredients such as red rice poha, chickpeas (chole), cottage cheese (paneer), yam and Indian spices from Tata Sampann to create a menu that reads something like this: Turmeric Brioche with Makhani dip, a flaky French-meets-Indian brioche; Cholle Paneer Kulcha, which Chef Kapoor calls “a croissant-like pastry stuffed with a tangy mix”; Red Poha with Coconut Stew, a vegan fusion of south and west India with fresh carrots, green peas, cashews, and yam; Bhuna Murgh Pie, inspired by the Singaporean Curry Puff with spicy chicken in flaky puff pastry; and Masala Chicken Croissant, “a buttery puff pastry filled with spicy chicken stuffing and cheese”.
Navin Gurnaney, CEO, Tata Starbucks, says, “The pandemic has infused a new-found consciousness among consumers. Embracing technology to order on-the-go and new formats such as Drive Thru will gain traction. We, too, introduced Mobile Order and Pay and WhatsApp payments, which have gained momentum and allowed people to experience Starbucks on-the-go. We have innovated through new products like 1-litre beverages that customers can enjoy at home, beverage outreach programmes, and food trucks that can make the Starbucks experience more ubiquitous.”
The coffee drinking experience has transformed in ways rarely thought about before, offering aficionados and addicts’ access to interesting at-home experiences. “Homebound coffee drinking is yielding more convenient coffee formats like concentrates, steeped, single-serve bags and edible coffee snacks,” states the WGSN Food & Drink forecasts for 2021.
The evolution of the café culture
Coffee may survive, but will the vibrant coffee café culture, which transformed cities, be able to withstand the global health storm? In London, research from coffee industry analyst Allegra shows that when lockdown restrictions were eased before Christmas 2020, Londoners made their way to coffee shops, obvious from long queues outside and drive-through. And yet, the city’s famous café culture is under threat. Costa has announced a cutting down of 1,500 jobs. Pret-a-Manager will lay off 3 000 staff members and closing 30 cafes, and many cafes have reported a slump in customer numbers. `
That’s also because of London’s current troubled times, with rampaging COVID cases and zero tourism. Peter Dore-Smith, the founder and director of Kaffeine says that he has never seen cafés that are as quiet as he often does now. “For the buzz, we need the office crowd and tourists back,” he told The Guardian.
But, survive you have to. Evolution is the only answer. Here are a few interesting solutions devised by inventive cafes:
- Brands such as Blue Tokai, Coffeeza and Araku are offering pour-over coffee sachets. It is as easy as making an instant coffee: Place the filter on your cup using the side anchors to hold it in place and pour hot water to fill your sachet, ensuring the water does not run over. Let the coffee drip through the filter into your cup and voila!
- In London, brunch cafes to roasteries, everyone is bringing java to the doorstep of city residents. The Caravan Roastery offers a subscription service with deliveries made every week, every fortnight and every month.
- Cafes in Tokyo are experimenting with home deliveries and bigger food menus. Terutaka Yamaji, the founder of Streamer Coffee Company, referred to as the “third-wave coffee shop”, told Japan Times, “The cafe (supported) life through COVID, with both owner and customer adapting to the so-called new normal.” Japan’s speciality coffee shops are going through a digital revolution. Streamer Coffee Company opened its online shop during the country’s first lockdown, selling beans and merchandise as a way to reach customers.
- In India, the speciality coffee brand Araku sells its gourmet coffees and merchandise online. This Adivasi-produced coffee from Andhra Pradesh has an offline presence in Paris, where it is among the top coffee brands.
The love for coffee is eternal. The experience of drinking it may now span at-home coffee gourmet coffee and delicious culinary experiences.