Archives for posts with tag: urban

In the past three years or so, espresso bars have spread at a fast pace.

It is now a common meeting place for:

  • businessmen,
  • students,
  • OAPs,
  • young mothers with their offsprings.

The barista will have to produce the occasional babyccino with that dusty layer of chocolate sprinkles. The kind of drink which sounds very trendy but is nothing else than luke warm milk!


Anyway, the customer is always right… apparently.

Coffee shops have to cater for everyone; they are the new public houses. After all, a coffee is cheaper than a pint of beer and you can drive after such beverage. Everyone is a winner.

Have you noticed how many coffee shops are blossoming in most commercial centres, High Streets and even narrow alleyways? They are literally everywhere.

Meanwhile, there is enough space for everyone to share a slice of the daily trade. They are all busy and smiling.

It is down to the consumers to decide which one is their favourite. This means that a Costa drinker won’t go to Café Rouge or Nero and vice versa.

Even two good friends might take different directions when it is time for their caffeine fix, and then meet up proudly after having been served with their drinks which will bring something special to their busy and stressful day.

But are our towns and cities saturated with cafés?

It is true they are so many but what is also important is to make the right choice before stepping into one of them. Having a nice shiny espresso machine and décor is one thing. But what about the coffee quality/origin and the type of roast profile?

This is what should attract the client in the first place and not the cool seats or free magazines.

Are some people missing the point of what makes a cup of coffee so special and unique?

Sitting in a crowded space with a hot drink and a generous slice of cake will unconsciously make that person part of a community.

There is also the question from a business point of view: should buyers be informed about what is in the hopper or should the barista just pull espresso shots back to back without asking questions in order to guide people towards a specific taste/flavour such a waiter/waitress would do with the wine list in a restaurant?

It is first of all important for the business owner to define what he/she is after. Running a shop with all the equipment is not cheap – especially at the start. There are as well several factors to consider; is it preferable to get a rented place or  go the extra mile towards freehold investment? All this without mentioning business rates.

Indeed, there is a cost to setup such business and making coffee requires not only certain skills and knowledge but also a capital – mainly when being a small independent. There is no room for mistake.

Speaking recently to a regular coffee lover, he was amazed and shocked to hear the price for a grinder such as EK43 and La Marzocco PB. Then to this add fine coffee beans, milk, cups and all the monthly bills/expenses such as staff wages, electricity or water.

Nevertheless, when all is correctly run there is an increase in staff and some places such as Kaffeine, Workshop, Notes or Caravan in London manage to open multiple units. This is without a doubt a testimony of success in a Capital city, where everything is expensive. BrewLab in Edinburgh is following this path too.

These are great entrepreneurs. But are they taking a risk when expanding in a Society where a lot of families seem to face a financial struggle?!

According to the popularity of the existing venues, there is a kind of pattern showing more demand and interest on different levels. Growth is what is needed for the economy of a Country and without those decision makers there would be no evolution.

Knowing the average amount spent per head is around five Pounds (coffee and cake) it doesn’t seem to be affecting the consumers’ budget, it is then natural to go forward by using the same recipe.

Could we reach a saturation level for such outlets?

Do we have too many clothes shops, restaurants, supermakets? Absolutely not! Consequently, coffee shops are safe too, aren’t they?

For the time being, people want their coffee anywhere and everywhere. It is also not unusual to attend coffee talks and classes to learn more about that “new” industry which is definitely breeding successfully.

A real paradox for the United Kingdom which was at a time known as a tea drinking nation!

Coffee is not my cup of tea - teapot


London – Shoreditch is where all (real) coffee shop activity is taking place.

Just go to Liverpool Street tube station and walk around that district.

There a few coffee roasters around and delightful espresso bars too. To name a few: Nude espresso, Ozone, the notorious Brick Lane Coffee, Prufrock…etc.

But if you explore East London there is something which is not that obvious to check out: Boxpark (virtual tour HERE).

Boxpark Shoreditch London

Boxpark Shoreditch London

It might look like a place where containers are stored but in fact, it is a kind of (new) urban design involving various types of shops going from food to fashion and other unusual purveyors of goods. The city has this unique location of industrial looking pop-up stores…some shops have been here for a while and others are temporary, because of these shipping containers, which make the entire retail space changeable with a flexibility regarding floor plans.

Boxpark also has #Guardiancoffee:

…Launched in partnership with EE, #guardiancoffee welcomes anyone and everyone to drop by to debate the issues pertinent to the UK’s tech sector, share ideas and opinions, or simply enjoy a great cup of coffee… Source

Nude espresso being the coffee supplier for this concept.

Having such a specific place to create a non-permanent shopping village could definitely be the way forward for start-ups. Costs and commitments being limited and certainly not too high,  give the opportunity to independent businesses to make a mark in the retail industry, whatever the sector.

In other parts of the United Kingdom, some Councils give the right to use empty shops for a short period of time. However, something else would/could be interesting: using empty office spaces as shops. Rather than having stores looking like a traditional shopping centre, all could be situated on different levels but in one unique building. Ground floor could be for clothing, first floor would shelter shoes and rooftop a coffee shop or restaurant with (ideally) a view.

So many towns and cities are thinking of a long term investment and therefore decide to convert empty office buildings into apartments, because it is almost risk free: the income will be guaranteed without a fear of a financial loss for the years to come. Going on the property ladder being a dream for so many, especially after the painful credit crunch.

If Boxpark is so straight forward why can’t we see something similar appearing throughout the country/world? A container is not that expensive compared to a real shop!? It can be adjusted easily and quickly according to what is needed.

One day it can have a counter and chairs and the other it could shelter an art exhibition by just using the existing and original walls.

Boxpark London Clothing - Photo Credit: Robert Wade

Boxpark London Clothing – Photo Credit: Robert Wade

Pop-ups are truly part of the 21st century, probably because of the flexibility and short term trading options.

shipping container

shipping container