Skip to main content

Starbucks versus Costa

I know some people think that Starbucks are on the same axis of corporate evil as McDonalds and Microsoft, but quite like them. I've recently had the opportunity to do a bit of a head to head comparison with their main UK competitor, Costa Coffee - and I'm afraid, Costa, for me Starbucks is well ahead.

It's interesting that last year Costa ran a 'we asked people to compare and 4 out 5 (or some such number) preferred our coffee to you know who.' This is falling for the dreadful Pepsi marketing error. Many years ago, Pepsi did taste tests and 'proved' that a lot of Coke drinkers prefered the taste of Pepsi. Pepsi entirely missed the point. People don't sit down, compare two colas on taste and buy the one they like better. When they buy Coca Cola, they buy the package - and when it comes to the whole ethos, Pepsi comes second best.


Similarly, it wouldn't really matter if Costa's coffees do taste a little better. Because that's not an issue. Starbucks coffee tastes fine. (I'm sorry coffee snobs, it does.) But the whole experience of going and having a coffee at a Starbucks is significantly nicer. Some key points to take note of, Costa:
  1. Starbucks premises have a lighter look and feel. Costa has dark wood to Starbucks' light wood. Result - you feel depressed the minute you walk in a Costa shop.
  2. The staff are better in Starbucks. I'm sorry, I don't know why, but they are. (It would be interesting to compare pay, but I don't know if that's the reason.) Starbucks staff are pretty well always cheerful and friendly. Costa grudgingly serve you. What's more, almost every Costa I've ever been in, all or almost all of the staff had English as a foreign language. This just doesn't help when you ask for anything that isn't straight off the menu board. It's a pain.
  3. The design of the counter is better in Starbucks. Practically every Costa I've been in has the serving bar too close to the till. So you end up with the queue to collect drinks running back into the queue for the till. Messy.
  4. The loyalty card system is better at Starbucks. With Starbucks I have an iPhone app that not only keeps track of my reward information, I can even use it to pay for my drinks. At Costa I have to manually enter the LONG card number into the website to check my points.
  5. The fun extras are better at Starbucks. I love the little card you get every week that has some iTunes giveaway like a book or music. Costa may do something, but I haven't seen it yet.
All in all - no contest. Get your act together Costa. It's not all about the coffee. Actually it's not mostly about the coffee. Coffee is cheap. We pay around £2 of that £2.30 not for the coffee but for the experience. Don't take this as a put down, take it as cheap consultancy. I'd normally charge several thousand pounds (and please do get in touch at brian@brianclegg.net if you'd like more detailed help). But you can have this for free.

Image from Wikipedia

Comments

  1. Yes, but Caffe Nero knocks them both into a cocked hat.

    ReplyDelete
  2. For me, it's all about the coffee. Sorry, but Costa is better. Better = better coffee.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree with Anonymous about it all being about the coffee. So it's Costa. And Richard is right; if it's about coffee, then Caffe Nero is the one.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, I was only talking about the coffee.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sorry Brian. I am a little disappointed in this blogg. Surely there is no 'best' of anything. There may be a statistical distribution that implies one brand is more popular. And this may be due to marketing pressure, personal tastes or political/moral views, etc. Bit like the elevator problem.
    PS I prefer Cafe Nero: I prefer their coffee, decor and jazz.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Whoa - coffee obviously gets people excited!

    I can't comment on Caffe Nero - there isn't one in my area.

    For those saying it's all about the coffee, I admit my palate is pretty rough. Frankly, as long as it tastes good, I'm not too fussed. But I do think you miss the point. You could buy the coffee for 30p - all the rest is for what surrounds it. If all you want is great coffee you are better off making it yourself.

    Vic - puzzled by your remark. I never said anything was 'best'. I am just comparing the experience of visiting Costa and Starbucks.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Coffee doesn't get me at all excited. I only drink the coffee at Caffe Nero because their tea is undrinkable.

    ReplyDelete
  8. To join in belatedly on this debate, Starbucks would be my absolute last choice: I find their coffee manages to be both weak and bitter at the same time! But let us not forget the essence of the coffee issue. All of these places are second-rate American substitutes for the real thing. Go into any little bar in a back street anywhere in Italy, and you will get coffee twice the quality for half the price!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I don't doubt that there is better coffee both in Italy and (for that matter) in the UK in back street coffee shops, but the point was not to say where to get the best coffee (I still say the best is at home), but which is the better experience of these two chains, and why.

    There's is also, to be fair, limited benefit to knowing you can get a great coffee in a backstreet in Italy when you've got 45 minutes to spare in Swindon and want somewhere to go for a quick coffee.

    ReplyDelete
  10. My earlier comment was made before I had my one-a-day coffee treat. My error was misreading/misunderstanding the last paragraph. I took this to imply that you considered the Starbuck experience was better (best!) than Costa's. Also your comment regarding consultancy I took to believe that there was more depth to your comments.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have to disagree with you about Starbucks v costa
    Most new costa stores are very cool and bright looking, modern and inviting and are in the process of reimaging a lot of the older stores, yes I work for costa and to be honest costa prides itself on its service and I don't believe for one second that Starbucks service is better than ours.
    Your point about the nationality of costa employees is a rather strange one as I've been in many costa shops and been served by British and foreign staff and found all of them very pleasant, finally as for the coffee not being that important, I work in my shop everyday and believe me,to a great many people the quality and taste of the coffee is very important, I know this because I hear it everyday. I'm English by the way not foreign!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I would be disappointed if a Costa employee didn't stand up for them (and I can't help thinking that if you are a Costa employee that uses the word 'reimaging' you are in their marketing department).

    Obviously all I can go on is the sample of coffee shops I've been in - it may not be representative, but it has been very consistent and I've tried them in both sophisticated and more rural places.

    The point about English as a foreign language arises primarily because I quite often order something that isn't technically on the drinks menu. (A hot milk with caramel.) Starbucks employees take this in their stride, but a lot of the Costa employees seem to struggle with understanding what I am asking for. It may be a coincidence that the have EFL, but I would have thought it makes it harder to move off the standard menu.

    ReplyDelete
  13. For me having a cup of coffee is almost a ritual. It's the perfect drink you can share in silence or in the best company. If you are on your own, then you focus on the taste and the environment. However if you are in a lively conversation, then what matters is the person where the taste and decor come to a second place. What you said about the big companies, Brian, it's very true, everything is about the marketing. When the both bowls are full, which one would you choose? The one you like the most.
    nomadinthecity.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  14. What other US-based company offers a controller that has a design as
    unique as a fingerprint, allows you to choose your design, and offers a decent warranty on the
    controller? These other guys simply pay the manufacturer to print their half-baked logo on their units, claim authority, and call it a
    day...kinda sad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not entirely sure what this has to do with Starbucks vs Costa...

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope