You only sell coffee?
Pictured above: 77, Dalston
We often get asked about trends…what do we notice about recent café openings? One thing immediately obvious is the opening of speciality coffeeshops in ever more obscure and remote areas of London, especially as we contemplate trips to Deptford, Kingston and West Hampstead. The other thing really noticeable is that most of the great new places opening are doing a lot more than coffee and service. As the costs of running a coffeeshop in London rise and rise, many cafés are looking to broaden their offer.
We recently selected 13 of the best London coffeeshop openings of 2016. Of those 13 (admittedly a small sample but anecdotally we feel it’s representative), 4 combined coffee with a serious food offer, employing specific chefs; 5 were opened by businesses also operating as roasters; 3 were part of a mini-chain; excluding those – only three opened with a predominantly coffee focus, not supported by another major revenue stream. On coffeeshop opened recently in a premise combining coffee, lunch, fairtrade crafts and a bar!
This might be obvious, profit margins on speciality coffee are slim, costs are high, expertise is vital, wages and prices are probably on the whole too low. Diversification means a better chance to draw a wider clientele and/or a solution to the eternal issue of cash flow. For some reason (bemusing to us) people are often happier to fork out for food or booze, or a haircut than coffee. It might have been steeper but we had a pint of German lager for £6.20 at a restaurant recently but yesterday we saw an argument on Facebook that it is wrong to charge more than 80p for an espresso.
Marketing coffee more as an affordable luxury than a commodity might help change that. But in the meantime we see chains like Notes and Grind putting more and more emphasis on cocktails and wines (and who can blame them?). We also see a wide diversity of combined businesses: coffeeshops in hairdressers, in launderettes, in social/art/music/audio hubs, in cycling shops, in bars, combined with bottle shops, and in Michelin star restaurants. And then we are also seeing the growth of mini-chains, a greater number of roaster owned cafes and a proliferation of cafes with their own chefs and unique and quality food offers.
Bearing this all in mind, here are a couple of great new additions to the app.
Firstly, Froth & Rind in Walthamstow Village serving coffee from local roasters Curved Brick, The Coffee Officina and Climpson & Sons to augment their primary offer of craft beers and fine cheeses. The coffee offer helps transform superb village cheese and beer shop into neighbourhood hub.
37 Orford Road, Walthamstow, London. E17 9NL
Secondly, Royal Exchange Grind, a stone’s throw from the site of London’s very first coffee shop in 1652. This location, like Froth & Grind, serves no filter. Given its elegant, even opulent appearance, it’s not a great surprise that it also functions as a cocktail bar, especially given what we've written above.
34 Royal Exchange, Threadneedle Street, London, EC3V 3LP