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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Image from Wikipedia