How Popular are Coffee Shops in the UK?

Once upon a time, if you walked along a high street in the UK, you would have a seen a pub or two, sometimes more. But as times have changed, the number of pubs have declined in cities, towns and even villages. However, in their place has risen a new type of drinking establishment – the coffee house. So just how popular are coffee shops now in the UK?


In the numbers

According to figures from the BBC, the number of pubs, clubs and nightclubs declined by around 2000 between 2011-16. At the same time, the number of cafes, restaurants and fast food outlets have increased by around 6000. In London, the numbers are small but the biggest increase has been seen in areas such as the West Midlands, Wales, Yorkshire and the Humber.

Within this growth area, there has been a 31% rise in the number of coffee shops. This includes those offering specialist bean to cup brands from a new breed of ‘conscientious-coffee’ suppliers like Honest Coffees that offer a particular type of coffee or even a specialist bean. Other areas of growth include lounge bars, cake makers, juice bars and specialist restaurants.


Why the popularity?

So why has Britain seemingly dropped the idea of a pint at the pub and replaced it with a latte from the coffee shop?

One of the reasons is down to the quality of the product on offer. With the number of commercial coffee machines that produce high-quality coffees, the days of terrible tasting coffee that looked like used car oil is in the past. Now people can choose from a sometimes staggering range of coffees from around the world and all are made to a consistently high standard.


Another reason they are so popular is that the way we Britons drink our coffee has changed. Figures show that the actual amount of coffee we drink hasn’t increased but rather the way we drink it has – and this is primarily down to the coffee shop.


Replacing the pub

Andy Harrison, chief executive of Whitbread, believes that coffee shops have slipped into the spot that was once occupied by pubs and part of this is because families and women use them for social gatherings. And with the growth of women’s spending power, their choices of where to meet friends is influencing the makeup of the high street.

Coffee houses are also more available at any time of the day and this convenience is a reason people frequent them. Opening early and closing late, the coffee shop presents a perfect place to meet friends, grab a snack or drink after work or even stop after visiting the cinema on a date.


Ultimate convenience

The modern coffee shops are the ultimate convenience. You can get a high-quality drink made with great products, even favouring a particular approach such as ethically-sourced. The coffee is available whenever you want it and it is a friendly place to meet anyone from a playdate with the kids to a hot date. And with the many vacant units on our high streets, there are plenty of places to coffee shops to take residence within, meaning their numbers look set to continue to increase.

Best Edinburgh Coffee Houses

Coffee may not be one of the first things you think about when you picture Edinburgh. The Scottish capital is famous for its castle, stunning architecture, rich nightlight and of course, whiskey. But as a bustling, cosmopolitan capital, the city has also added a number of high quality coffee houses to its repertoire. Here are a few of the best, in no particular order.


Brew Lab

Brew Lab is something of a student hangout, namely because two ex-students established the coffee house back in 2012. Tom Hyde and David Law wanted to create a coffee house that was traditional but forward thinking and they did a good job. The concrete bar and leather sofas are very modern and minimalist while the coffee includes filter coffee made by hand with Kalita Wave pour overs. There are even tasting notes from connoisseurs pinned on the wall. The coffee house is located on South College Street.


Castello Coffee Co

This coffee house offers great coffee and an equally great view of the castle, located just off Princes Street on Castle Street. It is a small place with some outdoor seating and it is always busy but their range of top Allpress coffees along with homemade cakes, soups and sandwiches show why.


Cult Espresso

The owners of Cult Espresso started with a coffee kiosk in the South Queensferry railway station and the intimacy and high quality drinks have travelled with them to their new location on Buccleuch Street. The café opened in 2014 and remains family run, with plenty of high quality offerings available. For fans of no-frills coffee, this is definitely a hit with drinks made from the Bath-based Roundhill Roastery and made using a Kees Van der Western coffee machine.


Fortitude Coffee

Fortitude Coffee offer a great coffee house experience and also a great shop service where you can buy essentials to recreate their coffee at home. The coffee house only uses ethically sources coffee and is located on York Place, near The Stand Comedy Club so is always bustling. Watch out for their selection of cakes which are definitely worth sampling alongside your favourite coffee.



If you prefer to pair your coffee with something sweet then Lovecrumbs is the place to go – there are no soups or sandwiches on offer here. From chocolate and rosemary cake to peanut butter tarts and vegan brownies, this is a haven for sweet treats and also offers top quality coffee, artisan teas and hot chocolates. There are even organic juices if you want something cooler on a warm day. The coffee house is located on West Port and there is a sister café newly opened on Brunswick Street.


Union of Genius

This is actually termed as a soup café and is the first of its kind in the city but is also a great place to grab a cup of coffee. The soups are made without the use of thickeners, flours or other artificial means and use local ingredients where possible alongside artisan bread delivered daily from the Dough Re Mi bakery. The case is on Forrest Road, the north west corner of George Square.

Where to Eat in Manchester: Fine Dining

For some reason, the experts at Michelin have long overlooked the quality restaurants across the city of Manchester. The last time a restaurant in the city received the prestigious French award was back in 1974 but this by no means relates to the quality of fine dining on offer. Here are a few of the best restaurants in the city that many experts believe should by now have received the famous accolade.


Adam Reid at The French

The French did once have a Michelin star for its restaurant back in the 1970s and with the addition of Great British Menu winning chef, Adam Reid, the restaurant must again be very close to winning the award. The restaurant prides itself on using the best possible ingredients with many sourced as locally as possible and these are arranged into a lunch and three evening menus. The menu combined Reid’s brilliance with the naturalist and foraged style of cuisine that is typical of Simon Rogan’s stewardship.

Rabbit in the Moon

The interestingly named Rabbit in the Moon is a restaurant above the National Football Museum and is operated by Luke Cockerill under the stewardship of Michael O’Hare, known for the Michelin star The Man Behind the Curtain in Leeds. Described by O’Hare as a ‘space age Asian’ restaurant, the 17 course odyssey is certainly filled with many stars.


Where the Light Gets In

This restaurant is outside the city in Stockport but critics say it is definitely worth the journey. Owner and chef Sam Buckley is unconcerned by his unusual location and has created a restaurant that will attract people regardless of where it is located. There’s no menu, to start with, just a series of dishes served on small plates that depend on what’s in season or what has been foraged or fermented for the day. Maybe not one if you like to control your menu but otherwise, a real treat.



Hispi is a modern restaurant in a number of ways. Not only is it at the cutting edge in terms of the food, it is also an interesting venue for its connection with fans – it raised £100,000 from crowdfunding to get off the ground, for starters. The food has received any number of rave reviews from critics and the other interesting part is that you can get a meal for two for less than £50 which is something that occasionally puts up a barrier for people wanting to experience fine dining.



Hawksmoor Manchester restaurant offers fish and seafood brought straight from the quayside along with endless inventions from a very clever pastry chef. This restaurant is a steak fan’s ideal dining experience and has an understated and classy look to it that makes dining there a pleasure. The hardest part may be choosing between the triple cooked fries and the beef dripping chips as both look delicious!


Plenty to choose

These restaurants show that there are plenty of fine dining opportunities in Manchester and it is a shame that none of them or other top competitors have yet to be graced with the Michelin award. Perhaps next time…

Sneaky London Hot Spots for Great Food and Drink

Let’s face it, here in the UK we love our food and have some of the most varied cuisines found right here on our door step. I’m going to hone in on London for this one as it is an easy target when it comes to food and drink, with an extensive food quarter and eateries of pretty much every food style you can imagine at one place or another, you won’t fall short of places to visit if you visit, frequent or even live in London. Here’s some inspiration from Londonite Hannah for fantastic eateries in the great UK capital.

Prufrock Café, Farringdon

Hannah strongly tips the banana bread! However, its main function is that of an awesome coffee house and school.


Faltering Fullback, Finsbury Park

Hannah tips the Treehouse experience for this pub / Tai food place. It’s noted as an Irish pub and looks just that on entry but it’s got some secret charms you’d be a fool to miss out on.


The Miller, London Bridge

Hannah tips the varied food and comedy experience. It’s got a varied and extensive list of arts, comedy, DJ’s and more providing a top-notch events hotspot.


Freud Bar, Covent Garden

Hannah tips the cocktails and the ‘get to know you’ cosy environment. Cocktails range from £5.50-£7.25 and you have plenty to choose from with a menu of over 40 combinations!


Drink, Shop, Do at Kings Cross

Hannah tips this crafty, arty day time café / night time club venue! They rate themselves as a top hen party location and with everything they have to offer I’d say they were worth a visit for plenty more occasions too.