Starting this month, Baristas everywhere will sport a fresh appearance. As part of its exercise to refresh its image, the coffee chain will reveal a conceptual shift from cafe to lounge.
Parallelly, Barista also plans to expand its premium offering — Barista Creme. The revamp happens at a time when Starbucks, the world’s premier coffee beverage retailer’s entry into India is imminent.
“We were starting to look a little old,” admitted Partha Dattagupta, CEO, Barista Coffee Company. “The bulk of our customers are in the age group of 20-25 years and one has to keep up with their expectations of comfort and service, which change every two or three years,” he added.
That means comfortable couches, warmer colours, et al. Signature walls inside the cafes will now have new contemporary graphics. This is not just an exercise in redecoration.
Shop signage will now incorporate only the “Barista orange”, sans the cream background. “We’ve decided to capitalise on our brand colour, take it from dominant to signature,” said Rini Dutta, head, marketing, Barista Coffee Company.
There are currently only six of these larger, more expensive versions of the popular product — the Barista espresso bars – but with the upgrade of the espresso bars under way, will customers see the distinction between the two? Well, for one, Cremes are an average of 1,500 square feet as compared with 800 square feet Espresso.
The proportion of lounge seating to regular seating is much higher, the furniture is more high-end, and there is a kitchen to cook up fresh food. The cost to company is Rs 45 lakh per Creme versus Rs 25 lakh per Espresso bar. That’s natural as Creme is purported to become the company’s image leader.
The revamp, which is expected to cost Rs 4-5 crore, comes amidst reports that Sterling Infotech, the holding company for the Barista coffee company, is well on its way to sell a majority stake in the company to a foreign buyer.
“It’s true that we have mandated Standard Chartered to advise us on a transaction pertaining to a possible equity dilution. But we’re talking of 15-20 per cent and we certainly want to retain management control,” clarified Dattagupta. So, until there’s further news on that front, Barista will continue to labour towards achieving its target of 220 Espresso bars and 10 Cremes by the end of this financial year. If Dattagupta is concerned about the imminent entry of Starbucks, Costa and their ilk, he’s masking it well: “It will help keep us on our toes,” he said.
He also hopes that more players will drive up the overall coffee chain business. “We estimate that by 2010 there will be at least 3,500-4,000 coffee cafes in India,” he said, adding, “Retaining success will mean that we need to continue to be relevant to our customers through exercises such as these.”
If nothing else, a rejuvenated brand will, no doubt, pay rich dividends when it comes to the time of valuation.