It was a “green letter day” for Starbucks India and “BIAL” when the first ever Starbucks cafe opened at Bangalore International Airport on 15 Dec. It has been a decade long wait for the airport, the world’s largest cafe chain and most importantly, discerning patrons and passengers who would wish to savour a cuppa before they take to the skies. The newest addition is located in the Domestic Departures waiting area.
Starbucks entered India in 2012 in a 50% JV with the Tata Group, so its sourcing of coffee bean would be smoother and simpler. For the first few years, SBUX would open new cafes only in cities where there was a Taj Hotel, as the same kitchen would serve food to the cafes. The first outlet came at Mumbai 400001 (Pincode) – Horniman Circle much to the delight of the company’s ardent fans. The second one came right behind the Taj Hotel (Gateway of India) and today, the company operates 325+ outlets across India. Interestingly, the company operates over 25 cafes only at Airports – Mumbai, Delhi and smaller ones such as Patna, Jaipur, Guwahati and so on. The fact that pax prefer to pick up “supposedly expensive coffee” even in small towns is no surprise.
Chennai Airport is the only one at the moment which lacks a SBUX cafe while KFC and Pizza Hut operate (in a corner!) at the domestic departures. Cafes and fast food at airports are not just for brand building but also do sound business. Over 75% of all domestic pax are travelling on work (incl. employed as well as businesspersons), therefore the food bills get claimed from their respective workplaces. As the precincts in airports come at a premium, quick service joints command a premium on their food and beverage, yet customers do not mind paying them for reasons mentioned above.
India’s once-upon-a-time largest cafe chain Coffee Day ran over 1,400 cafes across the country in 2016-17. The store count is currently around 400. At its best days, it was CCD which ruled the airport terminals with a presence to cater to almost 50% of all travelling customers (and a presence at 15+ airports). Other international and domestic brands never bothered much to have cafes at airports due to exorbitant rents.
Starbucks has been on an expansion spree at the moment, with a menu-refresh every few months, carefully observing what’s no moving and replacing them. Airports, on the other hand, have seen historical passenger numbers in the past 30+ days. This is due to 3 reasons broadly; an estimated 30+ lakh weddings were held between 15 Nov. – 15 Dec. pan-India; business travel has been at its peak, with most busineeses reporting a surge in their revenues over the past 2 quarters.; the holiday season has somewhat begun early with many Indians preferring to travel with a revenge, after a lull of 2 years.