TESCO COFFEE SHOPS?
2013 will mark a radical change in the coffee shop market with the arrival of ‘Tesco Coffee Shops’. Traditionally, one was faced with the choice between going to a chain offering low quality coffee or visiting an independent coffee shop serving superior coffee in a more personal environment. Not anymore. With the launch of a chain of new coffee shops, Tesco is looking to conquer the coffee industry and carve its own mark in Britain’s Coffee Revolution.
Rather than branding their chain ‘Tesco Coffee Shops’, the retail group has opted for the slightly more covert title of Harris and Hoole. The new coffee shops are part owned by the multi-national retailer (who have a reported 49% stake in the company) and run by the Tolleys, a group of Australian siblings, who set up the reputable coffee shop business Taylor St Baristas in 2006.
The Tolleys are very passionate and knowledgeable about coffee and have ensured that every Harris and Hoole coffee shop is individual and serves excellent coffee. As you walk into a Harris and Hoole, the minimalist interior mirrors the décor found in many of London’s independent coffee shops.
So if Harris and Hoole serve great coffee, have extremely friendly staff and provide a great environment to enjoy your coffee and cake, what’s the issue? Well, the issue, according to some, is that there is no sign in the stores that they have an affiliation to Tesco. As a result, many consumers feel cheated into believing that they are spending their money in a local, independent coffee shop (a welcome alternative to some of the bigger chains that have been recently criticised for avoiding tax).
I empathise with those that feel duped but the fact stands that Harris and Hoole serve great coffee in a nice setting with very pleasant staff. As the reputation of the company grows, I think people will get over their negative reactions and start to care less about the fact it is part-owned by Tesco. People still go to Starbucks and Costa and they are massive chains in their own right. Even if Harris and Hoole is a chain, I would much rather there be chains that get people excited about great quality coffee than chains that ruin a lot of people’s perceptions of what coffee should taste like.
If you’re still not convinced, that’s more than ok, because there are still many fantastic independent coffee shops in London to please the more discerning coffee lover. I don’t see Harris and Hoole’s emergence on the market threatening independent coffee shop. Ultimately it is a chain and will always lack that unique and personal touch that independents offer.
Saying that, the launch of Harris and Hoole is definitely something to watch out for. The stores will enjoy all the economic benefits of a large chain while offering a lot of advantages that have been traditionally exclusive to independent shops. These new coffee shop hybrids have the financial might of Tesco, combined with the creativity, knowledge and experience of coffee experts and are therefore sure to have a huge impact on the coffee industry in 2013.