I am thinking of setting up a formal mystery shopper service in lieu of lattes

Our ’man on the inside’ provides a view from the top of the marketing tree

I suspect that marketers may over-index on their use of coffee shops. I am no exception and would probably be classified as a “frequent heavy user” or “grande latte” by the powers at Espresso Towers.

Whether it be Starbucks, Costa, Nero or Pret A Manger, rarely a day goes by where one or more do not enjoy my custom.

If I have a very important meeting, I may even opt for a posh sit-down coffee at Carluccio’s. Only in extreme circumstances will I allocate my hard earned coffee beans to those pseudo own-label food service pretend brands that are also seeking to offer coffee culture. Those marketers out there who buy own-label anything should take a long look in the mirror and remember who pays your salary.

Anyway, back to the coffee. I had my usual fix this week, visiting several of the major chains. I spend so much time in and out of these places that I am thinking of setting up a formal mystery shopper service in lieu of lattes.

It is fair to say that normally nothing much changes in coffee shops. The menu has become all too familiar and the prices rise with similar frequency to rail fares. This week was different though. Yes, the flat white has arrived.

“I am thinking of setting up a formal mystery shopper service in lieu of lattes.”

This new super-coffee has landed at both Starbucks and Costa, which are hoping that it adds froth to an ever-flattening sales line. Costa proudly promises that the flat white is the result of huge development and investment.

I wish the marketing team there had my number as I could have saved them thousands. And Antipodeans out there must be wondering what all the fuss is about. The flat white has been sold in that part of the world for many years and is essentially a hybrid between the cappuccino and the latte without the frothy top.

The difference in Australia and New Zealand is that flat whites tend to taste fabulous because a genuine barista – who takes great pride in their craft – makes them. As I sipped my flat white in my local Costa, the backdrop of made-up Italy overlaid with Eastern European trainee counter service seemed a long way from the authentic espresso.

Coffee brands take note: you can give the drinks fancy names, but you really do need to get the experience right. Just ask one of the many marketers sitting in your stores right now.

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