My follow up post on the cafe scene is now more towards the new age, new world coffee shops. As I was doing a bit of research for this post, I bumped across this video on Guardian’s website which you might like.
The older world cafes are on the wane. Oh yes, that is a bold statement to make especially with the type of fan following places like India Coffee House (with its many branches), and Koshy’s have. But, they definitely are limited in number and prices at Koshy’s is driving many of the old timers away to other places for meals. The astronomical prices at Koshy’s for rather mediocre food is sending old timers to a place called Sheesh Mahal (across the street) for lunch. And in large numbers. Just coffee can’t possibly sustain a place, when even the coffee is not really that great.
So, where else is the bite coming from? Of course the likes of Cafe Coffee Day (to a super large extent) and Baristas of the world. There are some international chains starting to open up as well, including Costa, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Cafe Pescucci, Gloria Jean’s and making inroads is Starbucks.
Many of the younger (gen X, and gen Y) type of people do not really identify with the older atmosphere anymore. ‘Atmosphere’ to them is quite different. A profession photographer friend in his late 20s (I think) keeps moaning about the torn chairs, old fans at Koshy’s. I crib about lack of ventilation and lack of air-conditioning.
The New India, and the super consumerist middle class is looking for something else. And the faceoff is not just that simple either. The (relatively) newer chains like Barista are offering a different, and richer experience. Their premier “Creme” cafes serve salads, smoothies, sandwiches, mochachhino and a private(ish) space with cushions and sofas instead of the open plan series of tables under slowly whirring fans. The music caters exactly to people who visit here. A place where younger people can still hang out with people of the opposite sex (in some amount of privacy) without their parents raising their eyebrows.
The success of the new coffee shop chains reflects the change in social taste, disposable income and social customs. Both Cafe Coffee Day and Barista are rapidly spreading into tier 2 cities, and attract young adults with an aspirational target. Its working!
Of course, a lot of old India still remains. Why else would you not be able to find yourself a table at India Coffee House in most of the larger cities during lunch time or tea time. Many of these people are not from the affluent strata of the society, and a large number carry a thick wallet but prefer the old world atmosphere. It is almost an intellectual ‘vindication’ to be seen at Koshy’s where the intellectuals (or the ones who pose) show up, and rub shoulders with other professionals, politicians, media folk, authors (some absolute rubbish ones) too. You are not the ‘cultured type’ if Coffee Day is your hang out. If you get the drift.
But besides the new atmosphere, and catering to new tastes there is a lot else which goes for the coffee shop chains. Many of these places have a wifi hotspot, which encourages people to sit around. Some of these places (as in the picture) have a blue tooth point which sends out messages and coupons. And some of these changes have started a loyalty program. Well done, I would say. Can you possibly imagine any of that at ICH, Koshy’s or any such place? Probably not!
And there in lies the challenge. It is not very difficult to hold on to the old world charm, by putting one foot into the current and future, is it?