Similar to Hotel Chocolat’s shop and cafe concept - it’s yet another example of a brand expanding into ‘experience-based’ food and drink. In other words, offering a place for consumers to sit down and experience the product at their leisure, rather than merely take it away with them.

But, will consumers be willing to trade their barista-made coffee for something they could in theory make at home? Here’s more on the Nespresso cafés, and how it’s part of the brand’s wider experiential strategy.

A unique coffee experience

Café Nespresso is different to places like Starbucks or Soho Grind as it does not employ baristas to make espresso-based coffee. Instead, ‘Maestros’ serve Nespresso (i.e. machine produced) coffee, while offering help and advice on which of the 11 different blends to choose from.  

Alongside this, the cafes sell non-alcoholic coffee mocktails and gourmet blends, plus a range of food options ranging from cakes to salads.

The idea is basically that customers can create a ‘unique coffee experience’ depending on their mood or the time of day. Nespresso says that this is to encourage people to break out of their routines and become more creative with their choices.

Meanwhile, the sit-down element of the café allows people to further immerse themselves in the Nespresso world, in turn allowing the brand to engage with customers on another level. 

This is nothing new of course. Brands are increasingly intent on becoming destinations rather than just a place for people to pop into as they happen to pass. It’s a particularly popular strategy for fashion retailers, with the likes of Burberry opening an in-store cafe, and larger department stores like John Lewis installing multiple chain restaurants in its outlets.

By adding a food and drink element, Nespresso is aiming to increase both the frequency and loyalty of customers, with the hope that people will go out of their way to visit. Meanwhile, it also aims to give passing customers a reason to enter, increasing dwell-time and the opportunity for further sales. 

Self-service boutique

This brings me onto another important element of Café Nespresso – the self-serve ‘N Cube’ which allows customers to pick and choose Nespresso pods for purchase. 

This is an extension of the popular Nespresso Boutiques, which offers a customer-centric shopping experience with features like self-selection and pick-up desks for pre-ordered products. The cafés also include a recycling collection point so that customers can return their used capsules.

While this sounds like a good strategy in theory – the idea being to upsell pods to customers purchasing food and drink and vice versa – there is the danger that it could fall flat. 

After all, why would a Nespresso fan looking to buy pods also buy a coffee that they could make at home? Similarly, the chances of a passing customer (simply stopping for a coffee) investing in a machine on the back of the café experience seems a little unlikely.

While brands like Hotel Chocolat have succeeded with an additional café element, luring in consumers with the promise of hot chocolate and cake, the key difference is that you do not need a machine to enjoy its additional brand products. In contrast, you do need to own a machine to enjoy Nespresso’s.

Perhaps I am wrong, and the café will drive additional sales, but overall the benefits for Nespresso seem to lie in the experience-element rather than anything else.

Is it too corporate?

But will customers actually enjoy this branded Nespresso experience?

As well as sharing the point-of-sale features of Boutiques, Café Nespresso also shares the same design. It is deliberately slick and glossy, with large glass windows and open spaces giving it a slight ‘airport terminal’ feel rather than that of a cosy coffee shop. 

This could be a negative, particularly considering that most cafes strive to create a warm, comforting, and authentic atmosphere – regardless of how at odds it might be with global or corporate scale. 

In this sense, caffeine-seekers might be put off from entering Café Nespresso, especially when they could get a cheaper and perhaps more authentically-produced cup of coffee from round the corner.

That being said, there could be demand from consumers looking for a place to work or read rather than a standard cafe experience. Café Nespresso might attract a crowd on the basis of its free Wi-Fi and relaxed atmosphere rather than its product. 

Extension of experiential strategy

While it’s unclear whether or not Café Nespresso will succeed in the long-term, it certainly signals a wider brand focus on experiential formats.

Recently, Nespresso has started to roll out a brand-new boutique concept in the UK, following on from successful trials in countries including the US and Germany. Alongside standard store elements, it offers customers a more immersive experience via tasting and coffee-related workshops.

This gives loyal customers the opportunity to learn about the product and its coffee in a much more in-depth way, delivering a memorable and engaging brand experience. And unlike Café Nespresso, which perhaps might baffle new customers more than entice them, the new boutique store introduces the ‘brand as a lifestyle’ concept in a much more natural way. 

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