The Rise of Independent Coffee Shops in the UK

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Coffee is big business.

In 2015, consumers in the UK spent a whopping 7.3 billion pounds in coffee shops.

“Britain is becoming a nation of coffee connoisseurs. Coffee is becoming like wine – people want to learn how to taste it, where it’s from, how it’s made. The thirst and the desire to have better quality coffee is growing.”-

But it’s not just big brands like Costa and Starbucks that are cashing in…

There are now more than 20,000 coffee shops in the UK. Around 6,500 of those are believed to be independent coffee shops, and there’s a good reason why.

According to Café Culture, 59.2% of independent coffee shop owners and cafés saw business performance improve in 2015 compared to 2014. What’s more, industry consultancy Allegra Strategies, suggests that 38% of UK coffee drinkers buy their out of home coffee in an independent café.

So what set’s independent coffee shops apart, and why are they so popular?

“The entrepreneurs at the helm of our thriving independent coffee shops and cafés are playing a major part in fueling the UK coffee boom. Their commitment to customer service and passion for quality is encouraging many of us to be more discerning about our coffee-drinking experience.” – Cheryl Carroll, Event Director

Allegra Strategies’ research into independent coffee shops in the UK suggests that:

1. 93% of independent café owners set to invest in their business this year
2. 22% plan to spend over £10,000: coffee equipment, marketing, training and staff are the key priorities
3. Attracting more customers is the main commercial priority for the next two years (72%), followed by achieving higher profit margins (61%) and offering a better product range (50%).
4. 35% of independent coffee shop owners say that customers visit on a daily basis
5. 43% say that customers spend more than £5 per visit

At 2015’s Caffe Culture show, speaker and business adviser John Richardson said:

“This research is a fascinating insight into the real world of independent coffee shops and cafés, which couldn’t be further removed from the headline stories of Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero high street domination. The results show that despite the relentless growth of ten large chains, there is still substantial growth and confidence within the independent sector with plenty of scope to take the large chains on, regardless of what is often claimed.”

“More than 77% of respondents are single site, single owner operations.  There are still large opportunities to provide better coffee, better food (often markedly better) and higher service levels than the big chains can manage. The critical factor for independents is to also provide the consistency and trust that drives many customers to the chains.”

Do you own your own independent coffee shop? Let us know the biggest challenges you face in the comments below:

26 thoughts on “The Rise of Independent Coffee Shops in the UK”

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