Covid-19: Costa Coffee trials hybrid format store

Hot drinks chain Costa Coffee has opened a hybrid format store, as the company – like the rest of the hospitality industry – continues to adjust operations in light of the coronavirus crisis.

The store, in Argyll Street in London’s Soho district, opened earlier this month with a street-facing ‘To Go’ service hatch, self-service screens, and revamped dine-in facilities.

Its aim is to provide a solution for the multiple consumer missions associated with a Costa customer. The new hatch area means those who have ordered coffee, drinks or snacks via the Costa app and Deliveroo drivers collecting on behalf of their customers do not need to enter the premises to pick up their products.

It’s particularly pertinent in the current environment, when anecdotal evidence suggests consumers are cautious about visiting restaurants, cafes, and pubs after their recent reopening following Covid-19 lockdown.

Essential Retail understands there are no plans to open additional Costa hybrids in 2020, but the team are encouraged by its early performance so have not ruled out rolling more stores of this type in the future. Lots, of course, will depend on how the pandemic influences consumer behaviour in the long run.

To date, the collection hatch has been more popular than the dine-in facilities at the newly formatted store, and that trend could be strengthened when an Uber Eats partnership begins there next week. If that service is popular then the external pick-up window will see frequent use from delivery drivers collecting orders.

There are expectations at Costa, however, that the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, which it is part of and which will offer diners at thousands of eateries across the UK discounts for supporting the hospitality industry, will boost sit-in numbers.

The scheme which entitles everyone dining at a participating site to a 50% discount up to a maximum of £10 is valid Monday to Wednesday on any eat-in meal, including on non-alcoholic drinks, for the whole of August 2020.

Costa is also looking to use a digital initiative to drive customers to its stores, and until Friday 31 July anyone downloading or registering with its mobile app will receive bonus points equating to £3, to spend in a UK Costa store or drive-thru.

Members have access to the Costa mobile ordering service, which launched in 2018 and allows users to purchase ahead for collection and avoid queues.