In Japan, coffee shops and cafés, which are often subsumed under the term kissaten, are establishments that provide customers with a variety of services, the most basic of which is the provision of caffeinated drinks. While in general the main focus is placed on coffee products, depending on the type of establishment, kissaten may also serve customers sweets, light food, and alcoholic beverages. In some cases, such as at maid cafés, customers are provided with themed entertainment.
The size and success of the coffee shop industry are directly connected to the general aptitude in society to consume caffeinated drinks. Coffee is widely used in Japanese society, as can be inferred from the fact that Japan is one of the largest coffee importers in the world. Although Japan is known for the central part tea plays in its culture and society, coffee also belongs among the most-consumed non-alcoholic beverages. Coffee shops constitute a subsegment of the foodservice industry and make up more than four percent of its market size. The coffee shop industry’s annual revenues exceeded the one trillion Japanese yen mark in recent years before dipping under that milestone again with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coffee shops come in a variety of sizes and concepts. In Japan, coffee shop chains operating nationwide are by far the most commonly used establishments. Leading coffee shop chain operators that exceed or come close to one thousand facilities include Starbucks, Doutor, Komeda, and Tulley’s. These four brands are commonly referred to as the big four in the Japanese coffee shop industry. Other than pure coffee shop companies, large restaurant companies, such as McDonald’s and Mister Donut, are also highly popular places for coffee consumption. Other prominent consumer choices include local coffee shop chains operating regionally, and privately run coffee shops.
It should be noted that not all coffee drinkers are, at the same time, regular coffee-shop goers. Most people who drink coffee also visit coffee shops but do so at varying frequencies. Customers tend to spend on average between 300 to 800 yen per visit at coffee shops. One of the main aspects considered when deciding upon one’s coffee shop of choice is the locality of the establishment. The best spots are often occupied by large chain stores.
Coffee shop industry during COVID-19
Similar to other segments of the restaurant industry, coffee shops had a hard time during COVID-19, with revenues dwindling as customers refrained from visiting the shops. This led to a significant decrease in the industry’s performance and a further decline in the total number of coffee shops, a trend which was already ongoing well before the pandemic. At the same time, the number of coffee shop business operators recorded an increase. This is somewhat surprising considering the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry.
Initially, the financial results of large industry players, such as those of Doutor, plummeted. They recovered however as restrictions on mobility eased up. Starbucks was a possible the only major company that continued to expand, as the company’s increase in the number of establishments remained unfazed by the pandemic. While the coffee shop industry has been undeniably hit hard by COVID-19, recent industry figures show a promising recuperation.
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