Australians (well, at least inner-city Melburnians) have embraced coffee with abandon in recent years. There is much talk about a third wave of cafes and consumers. On the bean sourcing and roasting side the shift in mindset and approach is one where:
“the bean is not a commodity business based on volume sales but something precious, sourced directly from Third World farmers in small batches and treated with respect.”
On the consumer side, we’re seeing a more boutique/connoisseur appreciation of subtlety and nuance in flavour, more akin to the expanding palates in wine and microbrewed beer. I guess once you’ve educated folks about lattes and macchiatos, this is a logical next step.
An International Business question to ask is whether this shift might translate into some sort of competitive advantage for some of the players in the Australian scene. One pioneer certainly seems to think so.
Salvatore Malatesta, one-time barista at a Melbourne Uni sushi bar, and recent acquirer of the very hip and groovy St.Ali cafe(s) (which he bought from the now proprietor of the closest third wave cafe to my office – Seven Seeds) has spoken of bold plans to take this new approach to Tokyo, New York and London.
The challenge, as always, is establishing an advantage beyond the highly localised retail and service experience we see in the cafe scene. I’m not necessarily suggesting the pursuit of a Starbucks approach (which we know was scorned by most Aussie sippers), but building a capacity to deliver a high quality, distinctive coffee drinking experience in multiple locations across one or more cities.
Thinking about the transfer of cuisines and food experiences, there are a surprisingly few examples of a firm or firms building any big advantage from the take-up of a new dining experience beyond fast food, however. Where are the Japanese sushi giants, Italian pizza brands, an international winebar chain etc?