Scott Waddington, chief executive of SA Brain, has told MCA that Coffee#1’s experiment with a licensed café offer “is not flying” and there are no plans to roll the concept out.
The company launched an evening offer at its store in Welsh Back, Bristol, last year after choosing to keep the alcohol licence that came with the former Indian restaurant.
Waddington told MCA: “I was very clear at the time that this wasn’t something we had targeted but we had an opportunity to try it in this site and with what was going on in the wider market we thought it was worth testing the waters.
“At the moment it is not flying. It ticks over but we are not looking at a wider rollout at the moment.
“I don’t know if it’s the customer base at Coffee#1 but I generally think fundamentally people go to coffee shops for a certain experience and alcohol isn’t really part of that.
“If you are in higher footfall areas of London then maybe people will be willing to stay in a coffee shop and move on to alcohol but in the kind of areas we operate I don’t think it’s what people want.”
The coffee chain’s recently opened Lichfield site was its 66th and it aims to open another five before the end of its financial year in October.
Waddington said the geographic focus for expansion at the moment was “infilling and slightly pushing our existing boundaries”.
He said that while sales splits varied considerably across the estate, food represented roughly 25% of sales. He said he still saw scope to increase that and was watching with interest what was happening in the rest of the market.
On the pubs side of the business, Waddington said investment continued to go into the existing estate with a focus on its Grills & More template. He said trade in the first five weeks at The Dock in Cardiff Bay, which received investment in excess of £1m, had been ahead of expectations.
He said: “For the moment we have plenty to do in our existing estate. In the next year or so we will then turn our attention to adding pubs back into that portfolio.”
Waddington said Wales’ inclusion in the Euros was likely to provide a significant boost to trade during the tournament and said several Brains’ pubs had been designated official fan zones.
On general trading so far this year, he said: “ Our financial year starts October 1 so we had a pretty decent first quarter but definitely after Christmas there was a real slowdown and the early Easter wasn’t helpful, especially combined with poor weather. But later into April things started to pick up and have been at a good level since then.
“In coffee the dynamics are different. It is counter-cyclical to the pubs. It’s much steadier but even so like-for-likes haven’t been quite as high as last year. I think most coffee operators would say the same. It’s a combination of the weather being milder and a bit of a slowdown on the high street.”