Cappuccinos amid the crash …

2008-10-10 00:00

Testing the validity of a thesis that people necessarily consume and spend less during times of economic turbulence, we discovered that people will continue to pay for quality fare and good service.

Focusing on the spending patterns of patrons at some of the city’s coffee shops and cafés, we realised it’s less about the pain of parting with hard-earned cash, and more about the pleasure of spending it on something truly enjoyable.

Judging by the responses to our investigations, a good coffee and its accoutrements qualifies as a worthwhile expenditure, even during time of tightening budgets. In fact, it could well be that a dose of caffeine is just what the doctor ordered to keep the blues at bay.

Significantly, this X-factor is seemingly at work at all seven cafés canvassed last week.

Starting in the south at the small coffee shop in Bread Ahead, owner Rob Boyd reported that it was business as usual.

“Look, we’re still in the process of growing the coffee shop side of the business, but we still get a steady flow of customers popping in for their cuppa and, more often than not, whatever they have with their coffee or tea,” he said.

The Coffee Beanery in the Park Lane Centre, which specialises in a selection of gourmet coffees, is also unaffected by the economic slowdown.

This outlet’s continued popularity is probably attributable to a loyal following, including a dawn patrol of regular customers who pop in for their early morning caffeine fix.

“We open early and we haven’t noticed much of a difference as our regulars still sit down for their favourite coffee and breakfast snack,” said manager Kirsty Hattingh.

Coffeeberry Café, one of the best branded coffee shops in the city, increased its sales to prove the point that there simply is no substitute for quality fare and sound service.

Owner Con Malherbe collated statistics over a three-year period, within minutes, to show solid support for the outlet in the Cascades Shopping Centre.

“Excluding customers who sit down to lunch, our coffee shop patrons have continued to spend about R30 per head,” Malherbe said.

Having opened only in June, Essence at Wetherly’s in Victoria Road is doing very well, said owner Martin Maltby.

Not scared to innovate, Maltby introduced a lunchtime pay-by-weight table.

“While we’re obviously a coffee shop, we also try and appeal to audiences that don’t necessarily fit the traditional definition,” he said.

Moving across to Liberty Midlands Mall and its bevy of franchised coffee shops, a similar picture emerged.

Nino’s was its usual busy self, and that after the school holidays had ended. Owner Janet Boyd said patronage was pretty much as usual.

“We find that business is especially good during those wet and dreary days we’ve had lately,” she said.

A waiter at Fego’s conceded that business was down a bit, but nothing that wasn’t part of the ebb and flow of running a coffee shop.

Being synonymous with Exclusive Books, the outlet is especially popular with patrons who like to browse ahead of a potential book purchase over a coffee.

At one of the busiest franchise outlets in the city, Mugg & Bean, manager Nico Brandt also reported business as usual.

In fact, Brandt ventured that perhaps part of the success could be attributed to the sense of well-being customers attain when they sample their cakes and coffee.

“I’m sure some people visit us as an antidote to their daily trials and tribulations,” he said.

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