The chains then, are generally not overpriced by Inzani’s standards: at Costa a medium latte is £2.45, £2.60 at Starbucks, and £2.35 at Caffé Nero though obviously larger sizes do approach the £3 mark. One of the reasons people might be happy to pay such prices is that the coffeehouse has evolved, offering a space to chat, to meet, and even to work on free WiFi. Costa in particular was praised by one customer who spoke to the Telegraph, as a solid alternative to working from home. “I can plug in my laptop, use their power and WiFi and work for as long as I want for the price of a drink,” Jen Davies, owner of CV Shed said. “Plenty of other people are using it as an office, so I don’t feel bad about it. Costa works well if you’re juggling running a business with parenting, like me.”
In Chelmsford those 10 standalone stores are, in addition, providing employment, which is welcome
In the past, Costa has also flexed its credentials as a large brand doing good for the community. In 2014 it set up a Community Programme to help tackle litter, loneliness, and food waste in local communities by providing its stores as hubs for people to address such concerns as well as encouraging employees to volunteer. The effort was praised by the Sustainable Food Association in 2019. The company also became the first coffee brand in the world to use only Rainforest Alliance certified beans in 2008.
Efforts to diversify via express machines in transit hubs and petrol stations came in 2011 when Costa bought Coffee Nation, and have also proved popular with customers. “I love Costa, its express machines have massively increased the standard of generic coffee machines,” one customer, Jack Jolly, told the Telegraph. “Most shops have generally replaced the generics with them: the milk is fresh and they use decent beans. Whereas previously you’d have lots of small brands unable to offer decent turnover of product, not much milk, and limited coffee styles.”
While Chelmsford might have reached peak Costa by now, that’s not to say the future doesn’t look bright for coffee more generally…