Coffee shops face challenge from fast food outlets

Specialist coffee shops are facing competition from fast food outlets selling high-quality cappuccinos and lattes as new figures show that fast food restaurants have boosted coffee servings three times faster than mainstream coffee shops since 2008.

UKs specialist coffee shops are facing a fast food challenge.
UKs specialist coffee shops are facing a fast food challenge.

Data from market research firm NPD showed that specialist coffee chains have increased individual coffee servings by 21 per cent in the past nine years. Meanwhile, fast food restaurants and sandwich shops – otherwise known as “quick-service restaurants” or QSR, better known for serving burgers, chicken sandwiches or bakery products – have increased their sales of coffee three times faster, at 63 per cent.

Pubs have also realised the importance of coffee, increasing sales by 18 per cent, while the report warned customers are increasingly turning to independent cafes for their coffee, rather than well-known chains such as Starbucks, Costa or Caffe Nero.

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Cyril Lavenant, foodservice director UK at the NPD Group, said the specialists must “wake up and smell the coffee” if they are to retain market share.

However, despite the growing competition, coffee shops have maintained market share to provide some 41 per cent of coffee served in Britain’s QSR sector, a similar level to recent years. Britain’s high street coffee outlets now account for 6 per cent of visits of the entire British foodservice industry.

Mr Lavenant said: “Consumers can grab a coffee anywhere, so the message for the specialist coffee shops is that they must stand out to compete. Britain’s coffee market is highly competitive, with specialist outlets not just competing against each other but also taking on the high street QSR brands. Quality coffee is now available in a huge variety of locations – fast-food restaurants, sandwich shops, bakeries, supermarkets and convenience stores, high street retailers, tourist attractions, and of course petrol stations.”

He added: “Coffee shop chains tend to look alike and have a similar menu and ambience. If there were no branding outside or inside the shops, it would be difficult for consumers to know for sure which outlet they were in. Some of the new, independent coffee businesses are adopting a fresh approach with brighter, sharper interiors, a more inviting atmosphere and appetising menu boards.”

The research showed that by June 2017, Britain’s well-known coffee outlets had increased visits by 120 million since 2008 to 659 million visits a year, a 22 per cent increase.

In 2008, the top ten operators accounted for just over a quarter of all coffee served in Britain. By the end of June 2017, this had increased to 35 per cent, with leading players including specialist coffee shops, QSR brands, supermarkets and a pub chain.

NPD’s report, Coffee Shop Outlet Visits 2017, also showed that takeaway coffee is much more popular in countries where coffee is not a traditional drink such as the UK, where a coffee to go accounts for 17 per cent of cups bought. In contrast, in Italy and Spain, well-known for their coffee-drinking habits, only 3 per cent of all coffee bought was purchased as a takeaway.