Optimistically Cautious

Friday, February 02, 2007

Musings on Second Cup

I took advantage of a promotion at Second Cup today, where by ordering one of their new drinks, customers are given a free magazine. I chose the vaguely appealing Dark Chocolate Raspberry Latte, and received a complementary issue of Elle.

The drink, while both rich and saccharine (bitter lattes are not for me), had the tang of fruit that I don't think mixes well with coffee (I hold the same opinion for chocolate - the best thing, for example, about Terry's Chocolate Orange is smashing it).

I read an article recently about Second Cup's upward swing in Canada's coffee market. While still ranked third behind Starbucks and Tim Horton's, their goal is to encourage repeat customers by offering excellent service: "It's taken for granted that the drinks are going to be great – but when you're treated so well, that's something people keep coming back for," says Karen Gold, their Marketing Director.

Gold's comment is true to some extent - my morning coffee has become such a ritual in my workday that nearly all of the rotating Empire Building Starbucks baristas know my regular even before I open my mouth. It's such a small thing - earned only over time, consistency, and a lot of money - but their immediate recognition does make me feel "special."

The Second Cup I visited today is one of the nicest (and newest) in the city. Located in the upscale Manulife Place (10180-101 Street), it's filled with plush chairs, polished dark wood tables, a fireplace, and stylish drop lighting. The downside of this particular store is its hours of operation - closed on weekends, and after 5:30 on weekdays, it prevents any extensive post-work gab or unwinding sessions. All Second Cups, however, really need to rethink their coffee bar design - is a ledge the size of an arm really functional, or large enough during the rushes? It seems this fundamental fixture should be paid more attention to than say, an additional couch or new product.

While I'll be faithful to Starbucks until the end, it's always nice to have competition and choice within the market.

Manulife Place Second Cup

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