Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chain Coffee Shops, Oh No!

The CHAIN is hitting Italy. They are quickly replacing many kinds of shops, like lingerie and teen clothing stores, and now is even replacing coffee and gelato shops that once were in the hands of only small, family-run businesses.

Italy was known for its great hole-in-the-wall shops with character and good quality eats and drinks. In every shop or cafè in every town, you never knew exactly what you would get but you were always pleasantly surprised with what you found, in quality and taste.

In this post I want to talk about how coffee is being taken over by Caffé Dersut chain versions of a slightly Starbucks-esque style shop. The famous Veneto brand of coffee is not just sponsoring the coffee of its faithful Italian bar owners, but it also is encouraging them to open shops that all look the same, from Padua to Agordo and maybe even Milano. (I have personally seen the Paduan and Agordino versions.) The coffee may be good, but I am worried about the consequences: coffee shops becoming uniform across the bel paese.

The shops have fake hand-written signage announcing all the wonderful versions of coffees and "frappucino-style" coffee cocktails you can drink there. (Hence the Starbucks connection.) The environment is bright and friendly. It looks good, if you don't think about how it's all the SAME.

I wanted to leave that stuff behind in America, but after a decade, it's caught up with me.

Starbucks never was able to break into the Italian coffee market by opening up its own stores, but Caffè Dersut is copying the US company's style and successful marketing graphics and aesthetics.

Will this just be a fad or is Italy on the path to become a land of coffee chain shops, too?


  1. NOOOOOO! I am pretty sure Italy loses another valuable piece of herself every time another chain store opens. I hope this is just a short-lived fad.

  2. Anne, I fully agree and hope the same.

  3. I agree hopefully the Italians will discover these places are just not the same!

  4. As a kid, I watched all the small shops in my town close up due to chains. I hate to say it, but I see the same patterns emerging here in Italy. People bypassing the small shops for the convenience of larger ones...etc. and I live in the south! Honestly I don't know if it can be stopped...we can hope and we can make sure to shop in the small places whenever possible. Suppliers start to favor the large places and pretty soon the small ones are priced out. I don't have an answer. Perhaps some sort of financial advantage from the government, that's all I can think of.

  5. Yes, D and G, there is probably also the problem of rents that are spiralling out of control. I have already had some conversations with shopkeepers about this. The bigger the chain, the easier it is for them to swallow the big rent districts in Italy's city centers.