By: Agnieszka De SOuza
When the founders of Poland’s Green Caffe Nero opened the first store nearly 15 years ago, the global ‘Starbucks-on-every-corner’ coffee-chain explosion had yet to reach the eastern European country.
As the only cafe in the neighborhood and lacking the expertise to whip up lattes and cappuccinos, the partners had to order an instructional video from the U.S., said President and Co-Founder Adam Ringer.
“We went to Milan to a coffee expo and found a supplier,’’ Ringer said in an interview in the chain’s busy branch in central Warsaw. “It was a virgin market.’’
Today couldn’t be more different. The coffee chain, now majority owned by the U.K.’s Caffe Nero, serves 800,000 customers a month at its 58 stores and plans to open at least another 12 every year. Market researcher Allegra Strategies Ltd. estimates the number of branded cafes in Poland is up 14 percent in the 12 months through October, nearly double the continental average this year.
It’s not just Poland that’s seeing growth, as new Starbucks Corp. and McDonald’s Corp. McCafe outlets spring up across eastern Europe from Prague to Bucharest. Of course, coffee traditions vary and the drink has been present in parts of the region for centuries, especially in smaller southeastern states. But when it comes to branded coffee chains, most countries are still playing catch-up to western counterparts.