Hot Off The Press: Brewing Coffee Wars

As we tweeted last night, it appears the La Boulange food range by Starbucks is set to hit D.C. area stores at the end of March. We checked with our local store in NoVA which is currently receiving new equipment to handle the new offerings. At the same time, D.C. Internationalist received a press release which announced the upcoming debut of London-based coffee chain Caffè Nero in…wait for it…Boston. The location at Boston’s Millennium Place will be the chain’s first U.S. outpost. Sorry Washingtonians. 

“We’re looking to bring European coffee house culture to the United States,” said Jay Gentile, director of U.S. operations for Caffè Nero. “Caffè Nero is an accessible, friendly coffee house where customers are welcome to grab a bite to eat, meet friends, catch up on work or simply read and relax.”

In order to be successful, Caffè Nero must differentiate themselves from the competition, build brand awareness, and understand their local market without compromising their identity. They are likely to be be seen as a competitor to Starbucks. Not Dunkin. In the past, British businesses entering the restaurant biz in the U.S. have had mixed results. When Pret A Manger entered the American market, they failed to do their homework. They over-expanded and realized that us Yanks have slightly different tastes compared to our British cousins. As The New-York Times reported, Pret realized Americans are not fond of mayonnaise and prefer drip coffee over espressos. Oh, we also like to shake our salads too. The sandwich chain ended up closing some stores, re-tooling their product, and eventually bounced back. Keep in mind that their success today is partially due to the fast-casual craze and the demand for healthier food. 

Caffè Nero will open more locations in Boston, but no additional details were provided. If I were their real estate agent, I’d stick to the city and establish a presence in prominent areas to “introduce” the brand. Harvard Square, anyone? Boston’s Logan Airport would be an intriguing choice. What a clever way to get locals introduced to the brand at place seeing thousands of potential customers each day. I’d recommend the Back Bay station, but I hear it’s pitiful compared to Union Station in D.C.


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