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.
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.