As my semester here draws to a close, I’m starting to anticipate being in Seattle more and more. As temperatures here routinely cross 35 degrees Celsius (or 95 degrees Fahrenheit), I yearn for cloud-filled skies. While the Indian Premier cricket league kicks off and the Hyderabad team continues to disappoint, I long for my own horrible hometown sports team, the Mariners. And despite what many Seattle-ites proclaim about the (several) major brands that put our city on the map, I would really like to sit in a Starbucks.
All these sentiments sent me into a branch of Café Coffee Day, an Indian coffee chain. I’ve been in different branches of this store all around India and I can tell they’ve clearly adopted the Starbucks business model. The store’s design elements are replicated all around the country: Maroons, browns, fake brick and thin stripes of metal are the main colors on the walls. The ceiling is exposed, showing the venting and light canisters. This appropriation of industrial style on no industrial spaces has always bothered me. I guess this style is supposed to make the business seem more honest — we’re open about what goes on in our ceiling, so we’re open about what goes on behind the counter as well! Or maybe, we’re not one of those lame, old businesses that worry about ceilings — just making great products that hip youths want. This faux-industrialism is a design adoption of the West; if not Starbucks then maybe more of a Central Perk.
Also drawing from the Starbucks model, the menu is expansive. CCD has everything: the expected coffee, both hot and cold, but also a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian chicken sandwiches, mint and lime nachos, decadent cakes, ice cream and more. Furthermore, it’s expensive. Whereas a hot tea on campus costs 10 rupees (16 cents), the same drink costs 73 rupees (about $1.15) at CCD. A 500 percent price increase is possible when you’re not only marketing your product, but marketing the West.
Apparently, this model is paying off. According to one social network analysis, “Café Coffee Day” is synonymous with coffee in India (perhaps a better line would be “coffee is its middle name”).
Despite its popularity online, business is never too crazy on a Saturday afternoon. When I went it, nobody in the restaurant was over 30 years old. Several clusters of kids under 20 were in the restaurant, a group of three sipped drinks outside and a 16-year-old sat with her younger brother eating ice cream next to me. One 20-something typed away under a net of electronics and device, while another poured himself across a giant test prep book. Two couples entered, although one left quickly and they ordered their drinks and quickly plugged in their phones. As long as CCD can hold onto this youthful audience, they should be successful for years to come.