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.