Costa Coffee, which styles itself ‘officially the largest and fastest-growing coffee-shop chain in the UK', has made a series of bold moves to endorse its position.
The company has confirmed that it will open its first drive-through café soon, has promised to develop its commitment to ethically-sourced coffee, and has released some plans for a complete re-design of its existing cafes.
Costa Coffee has announced that every cup of coffee it sells will now include an element of beans sourced from farms certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Costa has now committed to buying almost 1,500 tonnes of green beans from certified farms; it already buys one-third of its stocks from such sources, and is now in discussion with the Alliance over how it can gradually increase its proportion.
In announcing its commitment, Costa commissioned leading pavement artist, Manfred Stader, to create a giant 3D image of a Costa cup, using chalk and coffee-roasting waste product from the brand's own London roastery. Costa managing director John Derkach, pictured balancing on the edge of the artwork, said: "Recent YouGov research has revealed that UK consumers want ethically-sourced coffee, which is a reason why we have made this important choice."
Costa has also said that two-thirds of its 780 UK stores will have undergone refurbishment by the end of this year. Key features of the programme include softer lighting schemes, in which the 'costa red' colour is slightly adapted for a more relaxing atmosphere, and a set of 'zones', which is a design concept well-known in the coffee-house sector.
In this strategy, a café will divide its premises, even subliminally, into areas which will suit different customers. Costa has decided on three zones - one for short-stay, 'pit-stop' business, another with homely sofas for longer stays, and a 'darker, moodier, carpeted area' with harder seating and banquette tables to be used for business meetings.
The combination of such elements has been a constant item for debate in the coffee-shop industry for several years now, coming most notably to the fore when Coffee Republic decided to throw out all the sofas which had at one point been its unique feature.
The decision for Costa to open a drive-through has not yet been officially announced, although Coffee House magazine reports a company spokesman confirming that the first site will open soon, 'somewhere in Kent'. The drive-through coffee bar, although an American institution, has so far only really been trialled in Britain by two companies, Starbucks in Cardiff and Island Drive in Thurrock, for which owner Matt O'Halloran won a local business award this summer.
Costa opened its 1,000th store worldwide this year (in Moscow) and has reported turnover up 23.5 per cent in 2007-8, to £216.3 million, with profits up 16.9 per cent to £20.8 million.
By Ian Boughton