easyJet cafes are selling coffee for £1. Mornings will never be the same again
Just when we feared we were reaching peak hipster coffee, with coldpress and cortados usurping cappuccinos and a £4 latte the norm, along comes Sir Stelios to tear up the rule book. Just as easyJet changed the face of air travel when it launched in 1995, bringing low-cost, no frills air travel to the people, now the company is set to do the same to the coffee market.
Yes, easyJet is making coffee shops.
Commuters stepping off the train at Earls Court over the last couple of weeks will have been confronted by the sight of that familiar branding – the unmistakeable orange circle, the idiosyncratic use of lower case ‘e’ followed by an upper case mid-word.
People, easyCoffee had arrived.
So many easy Options… The price of the low-cost coffee? A very affordable £1. And that’s the same, whether you order an espresso, a double macchiato or a cappuccino.
So far, so cheap.
The small bar, run by three baristas with gleaming new machines and Lavazza coffee, sells food too. While it’s not exactly extortionate, the food prices are more aligned with the prices their rivals charge. A pastry – croissant or a chocolate twist – costs from £1.10 to £1.50. Sandwiches (cheese and tomato, chicken and avocado, egg mayo etc) go from £1.85 to £2.99, and there are soup and sandwich deals for £3.
So you’re lured in by the promise of cheap coffee, then two minutes later you’ve accidentally bought a croissant (£1.10), a banana (50p) and a bottle of water (£1) too.
Sound familiar? It’s the business model that has worked so well for easyJet and has since been taken to the extreme by other low-cost airlines: attractive bargain bucket fares supplemented by high food prices, excess baggage charges, fines for printing of boarding passes (now illegal, but thanks for that, Ryanair) etc etc.
The simple menu and price points are reminiscent of beleaguered Benjy’s, the erstwhile sandwich chain beloved of students and builders that was big in the 90s, not so big in the Noughties. Heinz tomato soup in big polystyrene cups, egg muffins that were better than McDs, giant cups of nuclear-heated tea that never went cold – and all for under £1.
easyCoffee though has the added benefit of having an expert marketing machine behind it, with two decades of experience in muscling in on the market by undercutting literally everyone in it.
The business is actually a partnership between easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and Nathan Lowry, the director of Peoples Coffee, who has licensed the easy brand name.
‘With coffee shop prices currently averaging £3 a cup, it is clear consumers have been taken for a ride,’ Lowry said. ‘Although wholesale coffee prices have been falling recently consumers have seen no benefit. easyCoffee plans to make top quality beverages available to everyone at affordable prices.’
Sir Stelios added that the coffee industry had been allowed to elevate prices with ‘no good reason’ and that he was ‘delighted’ to be able to bring London ‘something very simple but yet so difficult to find: a great cup of Italian espresso coffee for just a pound. I think this industry is another example of allowing prices to carry on rising without good reason,’ he said. ‘Three pounds is a lot of money for a paper cup of espresso.’ Amen to that.
easyCoffee plan to roll out a chain of 30 easyCoffee shops over the next 24 to 36 months in stations and on the High Street. Talking optimistically, the coffee shops should pose little threat to the top quality, independent coffee shops whose customers visit them for specialist coffee.
But it looks like Starbucks, Costa et al may have met their match.