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You Mean She Wants A Bloody Big Cup Of Coffee!

by Jo Shaer, on April 28, 2014

BBC2's Business Boomers about the Coffee Hot Shots took me back to my childhood where coffee came in one size dependent on the crockery of the shop you were in.

My mother loved a cup of coffee. She had a particular cup for her Gold Blend that no one else was allowed to use and holiday car trips would always involve the making of a large thermos of milky coffee. She would open the lid to pour one as Dad drove and the smell would permeate through to the back seat. For us kids, it signified that we were indeed going on an adventure.

Some years later, any Saturday morning High Street shopping trip would involve a visit to Planters, the new coffee house where they had proper percolating machines. If ever one of us kids groaned because we wanted to go home, my father would remind us that mum would be in a bad mood if she didn't get a bloody cup of coffee.

So, on one particular morning, the waitress arrived at our table and Dad began to order four rounds of toast and jam, three teas and a big cup of coffee.

At which point my eight year old sister pipes up: "No Dad, you mean a bloody big cup of coffee!" Back in the early 70s, bloody was a horrendous swear word for a small child to be using and my parents were mortified. The waiting staff continued to give us black looks for the remainder of a rather uncomfortable breakfast.

[Tweet "Dad, you mean she wants a bloody big cup of coffee!"]


The Planters shop in small town Rayleigh was one of the first proper coffee shops to open in our area. They were a cafe and sold roasted coffee beans for people with percolating machines of their own. The smell as you walked past was divine.

But as a child I was unaware of the coffee wars that were going on in the much bigger cities like London and Manchester in the latter half of the 20th century.

Costa vs Starbucks vs Caffe Nero

Costa was begun by Italian immigrants who came to London and discovered that it was impossible to get a good cup of coffee like Mama used to make. So they started making their own. At one point, all the hotels in Park Lane served Costa coffee.

Starbucks began in Seattle but it was the arrival of Howard Schultz in 1982 that really got them moving. He had visited the coffee bars of Milan and wanted to recreate that sense of community in the Starbucks' stores.

In London there was also the Seattle coffee company run by a Canadian couple who were appalled by the muck that was being served by most British cafes. Their chain was eventually bought out by Starbucks to start their UK empire for a cool £50 million.

Whilst the Costa Coffee Boutiques were acquired by Whitbreads who were looking at new markets, particularly the women aged 35 and 54 who now contribute to their £648m turnover in the UK this year. We see this a lot at the Costa in Leigh-on-Sea where there are welcoming to mums with young children.

Starbucks turned over £419m last year and is more popular with the younger set who like their iced drinks.

Caffe Nero had a turnover last year of £214m and has a more authentic Italian feel to it which is much preferred by men.

Coffee Shops as a Third Place

The goal of these coffee shops was to create a Third Place - somewhere between home and the office so they needed to have sofas and book cases to help people to feel at home.

All coffee shops are now planned with precision. There will be the seating areas in the windows - for customers to look out but, more importantly, for people outside to look in and see that the coffee shop is a busy place full of happy people relaxing.

[Tweet "Do you hold meetings at the coffice?"]


Then there are the perch seats which remind us o the Italian espresso bars. Further in are the big tables for more formal meetings and the sofas for a relaxed 1 to 1 - these are what have become the new Coffices for those people who work from home but want to have business meetings.

Before we got our lovely new office and training room, we did a lot of meetings in the coffices of Leigh on Sea, especially at The Sand Bar and Oak Tree Market.

When you walk into a coffee shop, you are served by an experienced Barrista and faced with a multitude of choices.

Why are there so many different options for a cup of coffee?

The first is what type of coffee? The reason there is so much choice is that it makes good business sense. The extras allow you to charge more to those who don't mind paying a bit more. It's like an upsell in any other business!

So, if a regular cup of coffee is made up of

15p for the raw ingredients for the coffee
15p for the packaging
1.20 for the wifi, staff, venue, etc
45p for the VAT
and it costs £2.30 per cup
That is 35p profit per regular cup of coffee

However, if you can get someone to order a large cafe latte with a flavour and an extra topping:

30p for the raw ingredients
15p for the packaging
1.20 for the wifi, staff, venue, etc
65p for the VAT
and it costs £3.30 per cup

That is £1 profit per cup - three times what you would get on the regular version.

Think about how much profit you are making for your local coffee big brand each month if you have 2 large special coffees each day? £2 x 5 x 4 = £40.

Even if you have a small one each day that you take to the office in its cardboard container, it's still 70p x 5 x 4 = £14.

I would say that there is definitely a case for getting a good Nespresso coffee machine. It might sound like a large initial outlay but you can recoup that cost pretty quickly. It's great coffee, it's hot and you can have it at your desk in a proper mug.

[Tweet "Quick guide to coffee cup sizes at Costa, Starbucks and Caffe Nero!"]

What size coffee do you want?

Here's a great clip that explains the different sizes of coffee available from the top three coffee providers.

What we did not know is that you can actually order a short cup of coffee in Starbucks, but they never advertise it because it is cheaper. You have to know and ask for it specifically!

As a woman who likes a really good cup of coffee, I would rather buy two small ones than one large because I prefer my coffee to be hot!

Cappuccino 80s stylee

Of course, I could not finish this article without including the great sketch from Not The Nine O'Clock News about the making of Cappuccino

Topics:Women and Small Business

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