British consumers will be relieved to hear that Costa is re-opening over 1,100 stores across the UK by the end of June. This will give coffee lovers a chance to get their barista-made caffeine kick, albeit in a take-away cup. While the stores were dormant, Costa implemented a number of initiatives to maintain its operations and engage with consumers, including the retail coffee range.

Since lockdown began, Costa released its own-brand retail coffee range to help consumers satiate their coffee needs, but as nice of an alternative these products have been, nothing hits the spot quite like a barista-made beverage. However, the outlets re-opening will also come with some expected hesitation; with the fear of a second wave of the coronavirus, consumers are likely to be a little cautious. However, Costa has adapted their strategy to ensure consumer and employee safety as their utmost priority, which should put consumers at ease.

To help offset the cautionary behaviour, each Costa café will be fully equipped with protective equipment, as well as hand sanitiser stations and will only accept contactless payments. High quality Perspex screens have been installed to ensure minimal contamination and contact during service. Designated pick-up points for mobile order collections and deliveries will also allow social distancing protocols to be met. In order for clarity on social distancing, signs have been placed in and around the store to help prevent the risk of catching coronavirus.

Drive-thru lanes are also now fully open, and Costa has tailored its facilities to provide consumers with contact-free hatchets to collect their products from. These hatchets have been designed to be lowered to consumer’s windows and are formed of an acrylic box, encasing the consumers order. This will help to reassure consumers that their safety is being prioritised at such a dangerous time. However, this sterilised service will struggle to recreate the warm, romantic café culture that existed prior to the pandemic.

According to GlobalData’s week 1 Covid-19 recovery survey, published 17 June, results show that 71% of UK consumers are unlikely to purchase more ‘on-the-go’ products than before lockdown. This indicates that when consumers visit foodservice establishments they are not just going to purchase a product; they want the whole experience from the warm smell of coffee tainting the air to the first exhilarating sip of a freshly made beverage. This poses the issue to providers who focus on ‘experience-driven’ outlets, as on-the-go products have provided them a lifeline. Small premises in particular may struggle to serve enough consumers to make a profit, should the two-meter rule be maintained.

While there could be an initial boom, cautionary behaviour, the two-meter social distancing rule and less office-driven consumption occasions will impact sales in the long run. Such retailer’s will have to think outside of the box going forward, such as providing subscription or delivery services.

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