What ever happened to Starbucks in Australia?

What ever happened to Starbucks in Australia?

If you’ve ever travelled to a major city outside of Australia, you’ve probably noticed the big green mermaid that is the Starbucks logo on just about every street corner! They are the undisputed kings of the coffee chain world and have one of the world’s most recognisable brands. As of 2018 there were 29,324 Starbucks stores around the world; while their next nearest competitor, Dunkin Donuts sit at around 10,000 stores world-wide. They’re in Forbes’ Top 500 and boast a market value of $70.9 billion (as of 2017). Their branding is saturated absolutely everywhere around the world; everywhere that is, except Australia!

Starbucks entered the Australian market in 2000 and rapidly grew to 82 stores nationwide. But in 2008, it all went pear shaped. They closed 60 of their stores after accumulating huge losses; leaving around 700 people jobless. So why has the Starbucks model been a relative flop here in Aus? How is it that a model that has gone gangbusters in so many other countries never got a decent foothold among the Aussies?

One hypothesis is that Starbucks went too hard, too early. In the short period of just 8 years they opened a massive 82 stores here in Australia. Even the Adelaide cafe scene saw the opening of 3 stores. It would seem that this incredibly rapid expansion simply didn’t give us Aussies a chance to develop a desire for the brand!  

Professor Paul Patterson of the University of NSW Business school believes Starbucks fundamentally misjudged Australia. “I don’t think it was much to do with the coffee, the problem was the brand.” “The Americans assumed that Australians would fall in love with an American brand and that just didn’t happen. Australians are not anti-American but they are anti arrogant American brands.” The ‘build it and they will come’ approach simply didn’t pay dividends.

Couple this with the fact that Starbucks were charging higher prices than most of its competitors means they were essentially asking Aussies to pay more for branding that they didn’t care about!

“Better make it quick, kiddo. In five minutes, this place is becoming a Starbucks.”-The Simpsons accurately depicting the shear saturation of Starbucks in the USA

Another hypothesis is that for many countries, Starbucks were largely responsible for  introducing coffee culture. In countries that didn’t have a well-established coffee culture, like Britain and China, all of a sudden Starbucks came along and made coffee drinking cool!

The difference with Australia? We already had a majorly established coffee culture, propped up primarily by small, independent coffee shops. We Aussies love getting our coffee from the local barista down the road! This is backed up by the fact that of the (approx.) 20,000 cafes in Australia, two thirds of them are independently owned, according to President of the Cafe Owners and Baristas Association of Australia, David Barnham.

Will Young, Managing Director of Campus Coffee (Australian Coffee Roaster) said; “The specialty coffee industry in Australia has raised the bar so high… that Starbucks coming in sets a low level… where perhaps the baristas aren’t so professional and are not as dedicated to their craft.”

So, was it that Starbucks didn’t fully appreciate Australia’s dedication to the small independent specialty coffee shop?  Was this big multi-national chain more or less chased out of town by the humble local barista? It certainly appears that way!   

For the record, in recent years Starbucks have introduced a handful of new stores on our shores off the back of new ownership and a changed market strategy. In 2014, Starbucks Australia was purchased by one of Australia’s richest families; the Withers Group. Withers Group’s then CEO Warren Wilmot said the company had big plans for its new acquisition.

“Growing store numbers will be one of our primary opportunities…Our aim will be to make Starbucks the most successful coffee chain in Australia.” Lofty ambitions indeed!

A check of their website today shows that they now have a total of 46 stores across Australia (Gloria Jeans has 450 stores nationwide and Coffee Club 350). They have concentrated on tourist areas; catering largely to international visitors who know and appreciate their brand. You’ll see them in places like the Gold Coast, Sydney and small scattering around Melbourne. As of this day they still have no Adelaide cafes. If history is anything to go by, it’s safe to say that Starbucks will have to get creative if it wants to make any sort of mark on Australia. Many business insiders simply can’t see them fitting into Australia’s highly competitive coffee market, but it certainly will be interesting to see what happens!

So what do you think? Will Starbucks ever have a place in the Adelaide coffee scene? Do we Adelaide coffee drinkers have a place on our palates for the American’s take on our favourite beverage? Would you bypass your local Adelaide cafe in favour of the big green mermaid? Tell us in the comments section below.

Coffee- it’s a big deal

Coffee- it’s a big deal

We Australians love coffee. For many of us, starting the day without popping into one of our local Adelaide cafes for our daily brew is an unthinkable concept! Australia is widely regarded as the home of milk-based coffee: we even claim to have created the ‘flat white’! You might be interested to learn that here in Australia we are in fact minnows when it comes to coffee consumption! It turns out that the rest of the world is just as obsessed with the humble bean, if not more so! In this article we’ll look at just how big of a deal coffee really is around the globe. It is after all the second most traded commodity in the world (second only to crude oil).

Australian coffee consumption per capita sits at a very respectable 3kg per year. That means on average, each Australian consumes the weight of a household cat (or a very-very small dog) in coffee! I mean, 3kg is good, but this is a rookie number compared to many countries around the world. In fact, Australia is only the 42nd biggest coffee consuming nation! So which country do you think consumes the most coffee? I’ll give you a clue: it isn’t where you think…

The world’s biggest coffee consuming nations (per capita)

#1. Finland

Yep, Finland! Regarded as ‘the happiest country in the world’, the Finns lay claim to Santa Claus and the Northern lights. They also lay claim to the highest coffee consumption of any country in the world- by a long shot! The Finns consume 9.6kg of coffee per capita annually. That’s 2.64 cups per person per day! Finland’s love of coffee is so strong that employers have a legal obligation to give their workers a ‘coffee’ break! Is it a coincidence that the happiest country in the world also drinks the most coffee? I think not!

Imagine if we all drank as much coffee as the Finns… Our local Adelaide café owners sure would be busy! 😉

#2. Norway

Yes way! Staying in the Scandinavian region, Norway is known for it’s beautiful natural scenery; in particular the world famous Fjords. Norway also has another thing to boast about: it has the second highest coffee consumption in the world, with a whopping annual consumption of 7.2kg per capita! Believe it or not, Norway is regarded as the second happiest country in the world! There’s a real pattern starting to emerge here… Norwegians like their coffee lightly roasted, which means the natural flavours of the bean are truly displayed and aren’t hidden by the roasting process.

#3. Netherlands

Just making the podium is the Netherlands, with an impressive annual consumption of 6.7kg per capita.

… and the rest

I don’t know about you, but when I think coffee, I think of Italy. It was after all the Italians that invented ‘espresso’ coffee back in late 1800s. You might be surprised to find that Italy sits outside of the top 10 consumers worldwide. Coming in at #13 on the list, the Italians go through a highly respectable 5.8kg of coffee per capita per annum. Italian coffee culture is very different to Australian coffee culture. While we Australians have a tendency towards milk-based coffees, the Italians much prefer to sip espresso. Here in Australia we like a combination of light and dark roasted coffee, where as in Italy the coffee is primarily dark roasted. Something worth noting is that if you order a ‘latte’ in Italy you will be given something different to what you’d expect from your local Adelaide café… You’d be given a glass of milk! This is because the word ‘latte’ literally means ‘milk’. If you want a typical Australian latte, make sure you ask for a ‘caffe latte’!

Another country worth mentioning is Brazil. While this coffee-crazed nation comes in at #10 on the list of top consumers, it’s their coffee export that makes them a truly giant player in the coffee world. Brazil is the biggest exporter of coffee in the world- by a long shot! Each year they export around 3 million tonnes around the world; this equates to about 1/3 of the world’s total coffee export. Brazil’s stable, hot and humid climate, along with its rich soils makes it ideal for coffee growing.

It’s a big deal, the humble coffee bean. The world is obsessed and we in Australia are no different. It’s an incredibly exciting industry to be a part of and it’s one that inspires passion and demands dedication to the craft. Even though we are just one small Adelaide café here at First Things First Coffee, we love the thought that we are a piece of the massive puzzle and we take our responsibility of providing Adelaidians with their daily brew very seriously! Drive through and start your day the same way billions of people around the world have chosen to start theirs… with COFFEE!

Where is Adelaide’s Best Café?

Where is Adelaide’s Best Café?

A question that has been floating around social media an awful lot lately is ‘where is Adelaide’s best café?’. A number of local news and social pages have put the call out recently to their social media followers to try and find out who reigns supreme among the people. These polls always attract a huge number of people ready to sling their local caffeine dealer a vote. (On a side note, if you have recently voted for us in one of these polls: cheers!)

So where is the best café in Adelaide? That’s the million-dollar question! There are a huge number of operators that could easily push their case for Adelaide’s best café. Some of my personal favourites include Coffee Barun- Sefton Park, Cream- Brighton, The Loose Caboose- Hindmarsh and Mister Sunshine’s- Thebarton. First Things First Coffee goes alright too I guess…

What actually goes into making a killer cafe? Is it simply having Adelaide’s best coffee? Is it having a huge range of different origins and blends to choose from? Is it a rock solid food menu? Is it the length of the baristas beard?

The fact is; we all have different needs and preferences. What I want from my café may be completely different to what you want from your café.

At First Things First Coffee we pride ourselves on being a specialty coffee shop first and foremost- only we don’t look like your typical specialty coffee shop at all! We understand that our customers certainly want the best that the coffee industry has got but they want it quickly and conveniently. We only serve one blend- ‘Ex-Wife’ by Code Black Coffee Roasters. Having just the one high quality blend helps us keep it simple and keep the service fast and efficient. To contrast this, many specialty coffee shops at any given time will have a vast array of different blends and single origins on offer. Some of these will be for espresso, some for milk, some for cold drip… the list goes on! I love visiting these places on the weekend and spending a couple of hours sipping away on the various offerings and enjoying the scope of flavours while I catch up with friends and chat about the craziness of the week gone by.

So my question is; which café is better? The one that I quickly swung past on my way to work on Monday morning for a latte and a toastie, or the one with the wall of different coffees that I spent 2 hours at on the weekend? It’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges isn’t it!

The other huge consideration here is taste preference. You only have to look at the coffee flavour wheel to appreciate the huge scope of flavours that can come from our favourite beverage. Some coffees are citrusy and florally, whereas some are nutty or chocolaty. Some of us like coffee with a huge complexity of interesting flavours while some of us just like coffee that tastes like coffee! What you like may be completely different to what your best mate or your partner likes.

The one thing I think we can all agree on is that for a café to be considered any good, they must be consistent! When I think of my shortlist of the best Adelaide cafés, all the venues on the list have one thing in common: consistency! So often I hear the following; “I love (café x) but only when (barista x) is working”… Isn’t it a horrible feeling when that delicious coffee that you’ve been looking forward to (and handed over your hard-earned for) turns out to be a dud!

Consistency is brought about by two main things: well trained, knowledgeable baristas and good procedures. It seems obvious, but so many establishments will throw a fresh, undertrained, nervous staff member out on the coffee machine well before they’re ready. I once heard a story of a new staff member at a café being left to man the coffee machine unsupervised. They sent out a couple of lattes, which were quickly sent straight back. The customer described them as ‘awfully grainy’… Turns out the new staff member had put coffee grind straight into the cup, stirred in some hot water then added milk- just like an instant coffee! At First Things First Coffee a new staff member will train for nearly 2 whole months before they’re even allowed to make a customer’s coffee without supervision. I know many Adelaide cafes thankfully place a similar emphasis on training.

Having good procedures also significantly decreases the chances of a bad coffee going out to a customer. Consistency across variables like brew ratios, extraction times, milk temperatures and pouring techniques all help to bring about consistent product; regardless of who is working.

There are a myriad of Adelaide cafes that are adored by their regulars and could easily push their case for best in the city. We all have our favourites. For many of us they’ve become a part of every day life as well as a social hub. We all have different needs from our cafes. Some of us like to sit and enjoy the whole experience; some of us just need our coffee hit quickly! Some of us value breadth of choice; some of us like to keep it simple. Regardless of your preferences the one thing that we can all agree on is that for a café to be worth our custom, consistency is key!

So where is Adelaide’s best café? I’ll let you be the judge!

Is this a franchise?

Is this a franchise?

I can pinpoint the exact moment that First Things First Coffee came into inception. It was October of 2013 and I was living in Geelong, Victoria where I’d just become freshly unemployed! I had studied at uni for 4 years to complete my Bachelor of Occupational Therapy and pretty soon I had realised the industry just wasn’t for me. At the age of 23 I felt like the path I had mapped out for myself had gone awry! All of a sudden I found myself reassessing what I was passionate about in life. I knew one thing; that for a very long time I had loved coffee! In fact it was probably the one thing that got me through my degree! I’d even had some experience making it. My girlfriend (now fiancé!) Hana, had spent most of her adult life in the coffee industry and she already had a wealth of knowledge on her side. A drive-through specialty coffee shop was an idea that we’d thrown around.  We thought that just maybe, with a lot of hard work and a lot of learning we might be able to pull something off.

Back to that day in October.

My phone rang. On the other end was Aaron Box. Boxy and I went to school together where to be honest, we never really hung out! It was after high school, through some mutual friends that we connected and became pretty tight. Boxy had just finished a contract working in a mine. He was/is a qualified fitter and turner and had worked on some major mining and refinery projects.  Little did I know it but he was starting to feel the same way about his profession as I was about mine; starting to get the sense that he wasn’t in the right place.

He asked what my plan was now that I was officially unemployed! I told him that the realist in me was telling me to go back to uni and get my diploma of education and become a teacher like my parents… but what I really wanted to do was open a drive through coffee shop! What he said next lit the spark that would soon ignite a great partnership: “Get out” he said, “that’s what I want to do!”.

Boxy, Hana and I pulled our knowledge and our resources and got to planning. Where should we try and set up?  What should we call ourselves? How do you even run a business?! When you’re trying to get a business up and running at 23 years old and your surname isn’t Rinehart, one of the biggest questions you ask yourself is “how are we going to afford this?”! The answer?…“We’ll build it ourselves”!

For 6 months Boxy was not ‘head barista’ or ‘company director’; he was ‘site supervisor’! Hana and I learnt to drill, grind, cut and concrete and during the space of the construction period we went from useless, to slightly less useless! The construction was a hell of a lot of fun but we worked hard! We worked just about all day, every day.

The most memorable day of construction for me, was the day we received our shipping containers; which would later form the building that we work out of every day. I managed to convince my parents to let us modify the containers in the front yard of our family home in Ocean Grove, Victoria! There they sat for 10 weeks while we slowly cut, grinded and welded away, attracting the curious gaze of confused neighbours! More than 3 years on and the grass underneath where the containers sat still hasn’t grown back…

After a solid 6 months labouring away on site, we were ready. Ready to do what we’d set out to do 2 years prior: to serve Adelaide coffee!

Like everyone who has ever owned a small business, the early days were tough. We worked ourselves to the bone. It was the opposite of glamorous. We were each working 95 hour weeks to make sure that our dream stayed alive and viable. We were getting home ridiculously late and starting ridiculously early; so in order to get some rest Boxy and I would take turns napping in the office.

Slowly, as our drive- through became busier and busier and the coffee lovers of Adelaide began to stumble upon our humble shipping container store on Main North Road, we began to realise that maybe we were here to stay!

I’m super proud of our beginnings as a business. When people ask if this place is part of a big franchise, or an offshoot of some mega coffee corporation, I beam with pride as I tell them that it isn’t. We’ve achieved what we’ve achieved without mega investors or a head office telling us what to do. We’ve worked our butts off to ensure that Adelaide coffee drinkers are getting the best the industry has to offer and we feel confident that we are now firmly embedded in the Adelaide coffee scene. On behalf of Boxy, Hana and myself, I want to thank you; our customer, for supporting the dream that three kids had back in 2013. It’s because of you that we’re able to wake up every morning and continue the pursuit of making the best coffee in Adelaide.

-James Carrigg: Co-owner of FTFC

Convenience Isn’t Sexy

Convenience Isn’t Sexy

A question that we get all the time at First Things First Coffee is, ‘how the hell do you guys make my coffee so quick?’   Our response to this question is simple… ‘If we told you we’d have to kill you’! If you’re reading with the intention of scoring some top-secrets trade secrets, you’re not about to get them here either… Sorry!

What you will find if you look through every piece of marketing that we’ve ever put out is that we don’t talk about our speed of service… or the convenience of our service. This is for the plain and simple reason that ‘CONVENIENCE ISN’T SEXY’! Specialty coffee is sexy… Delicious food is sexy…  Modern container architecture is sexy… but convenience is not sexy!

We often talk in-house about how we are a ‘specialty coffee shop’ first and a ‘drive through coffee shop’ second. As a team at First Things First Coffee we are not driven to make the quickest coffee in Adelaide, nor the most convenient coffee in Adelaide. What gets us out of bed at a stupid hour of the day every morning is the pursuit of making the best coffee in Adelaide. This is why we’ve teamed up with award winning roaster Code Black Coffee Roasters. It’s why we’re so scientific about our coffee making procedures. It’s why our staff undergo some of the most thorough training in the industry. Sure, our processes, along with the fact that we are a ‘drive-through’ make us very quick and very convenient, but we don’t need to bang on about them! Our passion, and indeed the foundation of our business is and will always be coffee.

Interestingly, the fact that we are a drive-through has been known to actually deter some coffee connoisseurs. The notion being that anything ‘drive-through’ has historically been cheap and nasty.  As a matter of fact we now have many specialty coffee loving regulars that happily admit that they “originally didn’t want to try us out because, well, the whole drive-through thing!”

This mindset that ‘drive-through is cheap, nasty, fatty, greasy and generally mediocre’ is something that we are fighting to change.

Over recent years Adelaide’s coffee scene has undergone some wonderful and exciting growth; meaning that good quality specialty coffee is more accessible to the public than ever. An array of awesome coffee hotspots have popped up all over the city and in the surrounding suburbs, being run by passionate baristas who truly know their craft. We are excited to be a part of this new wave of Adelaide cafes bringing specialty coffee to the masses. We’ve just chosen to do it in a slightly non-traditional format; one that will better fit the modern, time-poor person’s lifestyle.

Are we proud of the fact that we offer convenience? Definitely! Are we proud of the fact that we’re known for our speed? Of course! Is being fast and convenient what drives us as a business? Not really!.. The truth is that making bloody good espresso coffee is what lights our spark. This has and always will be the case. It’s our aim to change people’s mindsets around what ‘drive-through’ looks, feels and tastes like.  So the next time you’re in the neighbourhood, we want to make you a coffee… because that is quite simply what we love to do.