easyCoffee thinks big with plans for 'dining in' and kids' play areas
easyCoffee, the coffee shop and vending business that’s part of the easy family, is shifting away from small and kiosk-only sites to larger stores, to give customers space to ‘dine in’ and, where possible, to create kids’ play zones.
CEO Nathan Lowry told Coffee Business World that he was excited by the prospect of creating more cafes with kids’ zones – soft play areas for younger children – as it allowed ‘mums’ to drop off their children and then relax with a cup of coffee.
It fits too with easyCoffee’s findings in its existing stores, which showed 80% of customers opt to ‘dine in’ rather than ‘grab and go’, which has also served to drive up average spend per head.
“Our coffee is priced 20-25% cheaper than the big high street brands, but when customers buy a coffee and a food item, we have found that the average spend in-store has doubled,” said Lowry.
In Orpington, easyCoffee is currently creating its 12th site, a café, plus separate kiosk and kids’ area within the Walnuts Shopping Centre, which is due to open in mid-September. While in Edinburgh, it has doubled its trading space after buying the shop next door.
In Burnley, which Lowry described as “trading its socks off”, the franchisee was expanding into the first floor storage area to create more seating space.
“We were originally focused more on take-away stores, but people want to dine in and spend time sitting down – 80% are having food,” said Lowry, adding that the low cost coffee offer was bringing in people to eat as well as buy coffee.
“I’m spending my time looking for larger footprint stores – 1,500sq ft. I’ve been visiting a lot of towns with our development partners,” he explained.
New locations will include stores in Lancashire, Bristol, Bedfordshire, Newport (Wales) and Manchester.
In April (CBW, April 24), easyCoffee announced it plans to have 200 stores open by the end of 2020, operated by franchisees. Its ‘on-the-go’ vending offer was also being rolled out to petrol forecourts and convenience stores.
The ‘on-the-go’ business received a boost in July when Stellar Asset Management invested £10m in the vending roll-out, increasing the number of vending machines into 150 sites.
The vending roll-out will continue, as Lowry added they would look to install as many vending machines “as we can”. The injection of cash has also funded expansion of the vending team too, which now includes brand ambassadors and field sales.
Lowry added: “We’re getting a lot of interest from people who have food on-the-go businesses, as our vending offer fits well with this. We offer a 50/50 deal with anyone taking one of our machines, after the cost of the ingredients.”
Instore, the food offer (paninis, baps and rolls, plus pastries in the morning) is also being expanded ‘slightly’ to include more seasonality: more toasties in the winter and salads in the summer. easyCoffee has invested in Merry Chef ‘fold over’ toasting machines, costing £5k per machine, in each café site.
Lowry added: “People value our coffee and want to sit in to use our free wifi, newspapers and kids’ zone – when we have the available space to fit one in.
“With the current challenges on the High Street many landlords are willing to do better property deals. This is a great time to ramp up the business,” he said.