Trendy new age cafés have sounded the death knell for the plain old coffee houses and coffee taverns
A lot can happen over a cup of coffee, goes the punch line. Today’s youth seems quite keen to find out the possibilities of this intriguing line. That’s why Generation Now prefers the aromatic, trendy and colourful breweries of Café Coffee Day, Barista, Costa Coffee and Café Mocha as its favourite rendezvous to the once popular Coffee Houses of the 1960s and ’70s and the fast food joints of the ’80s and the mid-90s. One can spot these outlets full of cash-rich high school and college students at any time in the day (in North Campus, students are found in cafés even post-midnight).
The interesting part is that these places are not simply chilling out zones for family, lovers and friends but also serve as surrogate offices to many customers, who are often found sitting in corporate suits, with blueprints and laptops, discussing serious business proposals with clients and colleagues.
But only a few out of the countless who swear by these cafés are aware that these happening and vibrant cafés of today owe their origin to the coffee houses and coffee taverns of yesteryear.
Transform or perish
The conventional coffee houses – not equipped with numerous varieties of hot and cold coffee, loud peppy music, air-conditioners, trendy decor, exotic dishes and mocktails – have little to attract today’s youth, and that is why those that resisted change have either perished already or are on the verge of closing down. The fast food craze, and the setting up of branded coffee vending machines at every 10 steps, has proved to be a further setback for the coffee house culture.
Another crucial reason behind coffee houses gradually falling out of favour is the change in people’s lifestyles – the super fast lifestyle and demanding work culture has deprived people of leisure time and thus, with the passage of time, the traditional coffee houses as leisure-time gathering places have been discarded totally.
The concept was revived in the 1990s by a few chains, popularly known as ‘cafés’, such as Barista, Café Coffee Day and Café Mocha. These cafes have been using ‘experimental marketing’ to attract customers; it is no longer simply about the taste and quality of the coffee alone, but about the ‘feel’ of the place in totality — the music, ambience, crowd, décor, and even the comfortable upholstery (especially the couches). And, these amenities are what these cafés attribute their exorbitant prices to.
The MTV generation has discovered in the new cafes the ‘zing’ factor: vibrancy, a fair dose of Western culture and cuisine, and peppy music.
To add to the experience, the serving staff makes a deliberate effort to establish a personal rapport with regular customers.
In short, the reason why the cafés don’t share the fate of coffee houses is simply because they provide more than just coffee. To counteract the trend of stagnating coffee consumption in cafés, they are constantly trying to add activities that are lucrative and also act as value additions to the café visit. These include book clubs, film promotions, merchandise, wall- to-wall advertisements, product promotion and special festive offers. With so much of activity around, indeed, a lot is happening over coffee.SHUBHRO SEN