Coffee segmentation and take away and food courts

I really like the way the coffee market in India is segmented. You have a clear distinction of cafe and coffee shop. If you just want a quick tasty caffeine kick, you just go to one of the cafes (Darshini types) and for some 6-7 rupees you’ll get excellent steaming and strong filter coffee. However, there is only standing room there and you can’t really hang around.

Then, you have the coffee shops. Mostly serve “italian” coffee? rather than Indian. Priced extremely high compared to the cafe (around Rs. 30 per cup). Slow service. And you can infinitely hang around over there. Very unlikely to get booted out.

Looking back, I should rephrase the first line of this post as “I like the way the coffee market in india is divorced from the coffee shop market”.

Two other observations here. This segmentation is not seen in England. You don’t get filter coffee there. That apart, coffee shops don’t charge that much of a premium for parking there as compared to take away coffee (of course there are loads of take away coffee shops there). I’ve read that the cafes in London are a good place to hang out, but somehow the pricing of coffee doesn’t really reflect that. Or maybe there are so many places to hang out that the cafe can’t charge that much of a premium for seating space.

Secondly, the segmentation that I see in coffee I don’t really see in food (unless of course you are talking about stuff like cakes). For example, if you want to have idli, you have to go to a fast food place. You don’t usually get idli (or any other south indian stuff) at fine dining places. Maybe it’s our mindset that an idli is quick and cheap that even if a fine dining place were to offer it (with seats and infinite time and Rs. 30) we won’t really take it.

On the other side, you don’t really get non-Indian stuff cheap (i’m counting indian chinese as indian). Any foreign cuisine you must have, you have to go to a fine dining place, sit for hours and savor it at a high price. You can’t just go buy it off and eat in a random place. I can think of 2 ideas based on this – firstly, fine dining places with small seating areas should put a heavy discount on their takeaways. That ways, they can cater? to a larger set of customers from the same space. Of course, care should be taken that the takeaway business doesn’t cannibalize the sit-in business.

And another is the development of “food courts” – which are extremely rare here. A common seating area. Stalls all around the place. Now, the stalls don’t have a very high space cost (in my opinion, the biggest cost for restaurants) so they can sell the stuff much cheaper. I’m thinking of a place like the Transit at Forum here, btw. Something of the sort could be set up in some random place (with lower cost than a mall) I think.

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