McDonalds and virtual coffee bars

McDonalds are going to roll out a big coffee chain. Good timing. Coffee’s mainstream now. Intra-day refreshment used to be divided sharply down the middle with tea in a styrene cup on one side and a decaf skinny latte in a paper cup with an elaborate lid on the other. Now I stand in the queue at Caffe Nero in the morning behind window cleaners and yummy mummies in equal numbers.

Working people now drink posh coffee drinks and McDonalds can probably already claim most of the credit for this: they’ve been moving millions of reasonable cappos and lattes in their restaurants for several years now, shifting tastes as they do so.

What I’ve been wondering, though, is less to do with the High Street coffee chains than with the interesting new class of virtual coffee bars that sits on top of them. You’re probably already a member of at least one group that regularly meets in a coffee bar to a) shoot the breeze, b) earnestly network or c) knit. Some of them are quite well known, Geeks and marketing types like them a lot. They have names like Open Coffee, Edinburgh Coffee Morning and Geek Coffee.

Nobody owns them and they’re hardly substantial things – disappearing as quickly as they arrive – but what I’m wondering is how long can it be before the first of these informal entities becomes a real brand? And how long before the real coffee shop brands start to compete for the business of the virtual ones? After all, a weekly coffee morning is like a kind of giant, collective customer and the regular custom of one of these floating gatherings could be worth hundreds of pounds per meeting.

Of course, none of this addresses the more important challenge of finding a more masculine name for a ‘Caffe Latte’…

Categorized as Uncategorized Tagged