My current research project on cafés, focuses largely on the UK, but given the globalized nature of the coffee and café industry more generally, it’s very difficult to look at just one country in isolation, and I am interested in what is happening elsewhere around the world too. On my travels last year I began to find out more about other café chains such as Balzac Coffee and Coffee Fellows in Berlin, as well as Coffee Inn and Double Coffee in Riga. Another chain I have been meaning to write about for some time is the Mikel Coffee Company in Greece.
I first heard about this company from a Greek friend who thought I might find it interesting. She told me that it had become very popular in Greece, particularly with young people as it gave them a welcoming environment to sit and spend time, without huge costs.
The Mikel Coffee Company was founded in 2008 in Larissa in Central Greece and had grown to 17 stores by 2013, 84 stores by 2014 and 97 by 2015 (according the list on the company website), making it one of the fastest growing coffee shop chains in the region. Euromonitor estimates that in 2014 it had an overall share of 58% of café chain market in Greece (although 2% in value terms of the café market in total), clearly a market leader in the café chain sector.
While it has been labelled by some as ‘The Greek answer to Starbucks’ it has had much more success than the US based international chain. For example in 2014 in Thessaloniki, there were 20 Mikel stores but only 4 Starbucks. The cafes offer a range of drinks and food not too dissimilar to cafes like Starbucks but there are some differences, and ones which have clearly set it apart from its competitors.
Forbes have highlighted that Mikel Coffee is different from Starbucks because its business model operates by combining different concepts, including a traditional coffee shops which opens early in the morning as well as offering seating, a traditional cafeteria which opens later in the morning, offers drinks and snacks, a coffee bar/stand which provides coffee to go (which according to Euromonitor is one the rise), and a café bar/club which opens much later in the day, often early evening and offers alcoholic drinks. Their website also suggests that for some stores there is a delivery service too. The Mikel cafes open early around 6am and close late 10pm, providing the options for different groups of people to use the space accordingly throughout the day.
Forbes attribute the growth of the Mikel Coffee stores to three trends in Greece. First, a reduction in commercial property values meaning it has become more affordable to open stores in central locations. Although it should be noted that Mikel stores are not only found in central high street locations, but residential areas too. Second, rising youth unemployment rates which mean that it was easier to recruit university graduates. I would add to this point that growing youth unemployment is likely to have also increased their customer base looking for a cheap place to spend time with friends, or spend time looking for jobs online. Third, is the rise of a sentiment from the Greek people about the importance of buying from Greek companies in order show solidarity with the Greek people who were affected by the financial crisis.
Another reason for its success may also be that it is cheaper than Starbucks. Starbucks has reocgnised the intense local competition from Mikel Coffee Company and even cut prices in the Greek market (although the reasons for this was attributed to a reduction passed onto the customer due to reduced VAT).
Part of what I am interested in is what the roles of cafes are in different communities, and it is interesting to find a café that explicitly states that it wants to contribute to its local community and beyond. The founder of Mikel Coffee, Eleftherios Kyriakakis, has said that Mikel coffee is highly socially conscious concerning its contribution to society. For this reason, Mikel participates actively in social programs and the community. The company website states that it feels ‘that is has to ‘fully to contribute in the local societies in which we seek to develop’ and that ‘together with the rapid growth of our network we actively support the recovery of the Greek economy through the reduction of unemployment…We consider the sustainable development of the company intertwined with the growth and prosperity of local communities which are the ‘tanks’ from which we derive both our workforce and customers’. It would be interesting to explore how local people around Mikel Coffee stores feel about them and if the extent they think they have become intertwined with the local communities.
The Mikel Coffee Company is another example of a growing café chain, and one which has proved very popular with young people, and has presented fierce competition for some of the global chains which have become used to dominating many markets.
Euromonitor (2015) Café/bars in Greece http://www.euromonitor.com/cafes-bars-in-greece/report
Flora, C. (2013) Mikel coffee: The Greek Answer to Starbucks. Greek Reporter 26/08/2013. Available at: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2013/08/26/mikel-greek-answer-to-starbucks/
Giannarou, L. (2013) Coming soon to a street near your, Greece’s Mikel coffee company. Ekathimerini. 15/09/2013 Available at : http://www.ekathimerini.com/153656/article/ekathimerini/life/coming-soon-to-a-street-near-you-greeces-mikel-coffee-company
Mikel Coffee Company (2016) Mikel Coffee Company website. Available at: http://www.mikelcc.gr/en/
Mikel Coffee Company (2016) Social Responsibility. http://www.mikelcc.gr/en/social-responsibility/
Mourdoukoutas, P. (2014) Starbucks is cutting coffee prices. In Greece. Forbes. 22/06/2014. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/panosmourdoukoutas/2014/06/22/starbucks-is-cutting-coffee-prices-in-greece/#4df2595f3e57
Mourdoukoutas, P. (2014) Starbucks’ Little Greek Problem. Forbes. 07/09/2014. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/panosmourdoukoutas/2014/09/07/starbucks-little-greek-problem-mikel/#7e7bc1bc77e5