Gurgaon. In an unexpected turn of events in the history of organized coffee retail that may have far-reaching consequences for the industry, a man and a woman visited the Barista Lavazza Coffee Shop located at the Grand Mall on MG Road this Wednesday for the purpose of having coffee, had two cups of coffee, just coffee and nothing else, paid their bill and went away.
“I still don’t have any idea why those two came to our Barista,” says store attendant Kaushal. “They weren’t rich women taking a break from shopping, and using the time between sips to compete over who had the more expensive accessories. They weren’t young entrepreneurs using the shop as AC office space for the price of a coffee. They weren’t elderly executives trying to chat up young female employees over ‘just coffee’. What did they mean by having coffee without having any ulterior motive in mind?”
Thirty-four year old quality supervisor Harmesh Gupta had just bought a book from the Landmark bookstore located in the same mall, when he happened to comment to his wife, Deepti Gupta, a homemaker, “Hey, I’m feeling like having a coffee.” Before they knew it, they had entered the bright orange coffee shop next door and placed an order for “two coffees”, cappuccinos to be precise.
“It was weird enough for me to notice too,” adds fellow employee Sparsh. “A tray with only cappuccinos tends to stand out. No brownies, no sandwiches no ice-cream. Just coffee. At that time I thought Kaushal must have mis-heard, and felt my only ray of hope in two months of getting promoted over him. But no such luck,” sighs Sparsh. “The freaks. I mean, customers had only ordered two cappuccinos!?”
“It was indeed a first for us,” admits Dinesh Chhabra, NCR Area Manager for the pan-India coffee retail chain. “I hope no one noticed,” he adds.
“Of course I noticed them,” says noted socialite and author Shobha De, who happened to be present in the cafe at that time. “I could tell at a glance they didn’t belong there. The guy was actually looking at the ads being displayed on the big OOH screen, and his girlfriend, I presume, did not look at the other women present in the cafe, even once! I was breathless with anticipation that they would do something socially awkward, so that I could write about it in my next ToI column. But they just drank their coffee, paid the bill and walked out. Just like that! What a disappointment!”
“It’s the direct result of faulty branding,” says Aroop Banerjee, head of Ogilvy and Mather’s Corporate Identity Division, who designed the branding for Barista rival, Café Coffee Day. “If you have a logo that looks like a steaming cup of coffee, sooner or later, people are going to walk in expecting just that, a cup of coffee.”
Aroop says they designed CCD’s branding to counter just this tendency of people to expect coffee in a coffee shop. “You never see this kind of thing happening in CCD. Why? Because of the big red board outside that sets the right expectations – A lot can happen over coffee – it makes sure only those people walk in the shop that have something else brewing in their minds. Ooh I gotta write that down. ‘brewing in their minds‘ Wow, I am so brilliant!”
When contacted, Harmesh and Deepti were unaware that anything was amiss. “I remember it was good coffee,” said Harmesh. “Yes, really good coffee,” agreed Deepti. “Wait, did I forget to tip the waiter or something?” wondered Harmesh.
Harmesh may not realize it, but his action might cause a similar upheaval in the organized book retail industry as well, for he bought a book that he intends to read himself.