“NO!” That’s what 5,700 people from Totnes, Devon have said to one of the UK’s largest coffee chains.
The independent and ‘alternative’ town of the South West have petitioned against the Whitbread owned brand to stop a 70 seat café being built in their town centre. With 41 independently owned coffee shops already situated in the town, the residents of Totnes were determined to prevent the arrival of the large coffee chain. As it stands, there is a coffee shop for every 139 people in the town.
As a lover of Costa Coffee myself and a Whitbread employee, I would have welcomed such a brand into my town with open arms. To me, they’re a friendly face, have an up standing and strong reputation, so I would trust their knowledge on how to make a great Latte on a winter’s morning (with an extra shot to wake me up). However, its domineering presence among city centres and towns are proving to be tough competition for independent cafes and coffee shops, much like those situated in Totnes.
So, I fully understand the up rise the town has taken to prevent such a thing happening to their own coffee shops, which they love.
Costa listened to the town and its 5,700 strong signed petition, they backed down and respected that if a Costa Coffee shop isn’t what the town wanted, then it wouldn’t give them one. With 19 stores in Devon already, Costa has a strong presence and they gratefully respected that Totnes treasured their local community in which locally owned shops, cafes and restaurants keep the town self-sustaining.

Many thanks to touring_fishman for use of this image.

Apart from respecting the local people, the petition has shown the brand, Costa, in a very positive light. Many other brands who seek to improve profit and reputation may have initially taken the risk to experience hostility at first and then over time, let the residents adapt to the brands presence, much to their dislike in the first place. However, Costa respected the town’s disapproval of them entering the town and it has fared well for them. From this, Costa has shown a ‘human’ side to its brand, one that understands and respects its publics.
Having worked for Whitbread for 6 years, I know how important it is for them for the guests of their restaurants, hotels and Costa Coffee shops to be at the centre of everything they do. The guest is what comes first, and rightly so. Brands make their money from the people who buy their products and so without the ‘guests’, companies such as Whitbread wouldn’t be as successful as they are.
Interestingly, Costa hasn’t posted anything on their Twitter account about the news that they weren’t opening a store in Totnes, avoiding the subject so it doesn’t look like a ‘PR stunt’??
Either way, Costa has managed to grab headlines in national and local press which all reflected positively on their behalf, to some extent. I’m sure that this tiny “mishap” won’t prevent them from further expanding their empire across the UK and the rest of the world with stores everywhere from Egypt to Greece, Costa are on a path to becoming the world’s largest chain of coffee stores.

About Natalie Richmond

Account Executive at Prohibition PR.