Cadbury might be American-owned now, but the chocolate-maker is still focused on its home territory: it's about to open a chain of high street cafés in the UK. The outlets, expected to be called ‘Cadbury Cocoa Houses’, will serve affordable (i.e. cheap) afternoon teas and provide an on-site chocolatier service - allowing punters to snap up giant Curly Wurlys, super-sized Flakes and so on. The deal was signed in January, just before Kraft’s hostile £11.5bn takeover, so there was some concern that the new owner might pull the plug. However, Kraft has decided to go ahead - albeit without contributing any money to the launch. But maybe that's a good thing – if Kraft gets too involved, our Cadbury cuppa might come with a cheese slice rather than a choccie biscuit…
Cadbury apparently plans to open a chain of up to 60 outlets throughout the UK in the next three to five years, with the first one opening as early as the end of 2010. And Cadbury fans aren’t the only ones to get excited at the prospect of chocolate on tap: a group of entrepreneurs have been granted a 20-year licence to set up and run the chain, with retail heavyweight David Morris expected to become chief executive of the venture (though giant Flakes are a world away from the delectable delights sold at posh department store Harrods, where he used to be the director of food and restaurants).
In theory, the move makes sense. High street coffee chains have held up remarkably well in the downturn; in fact, people are buying more posh coffee than ever (so much so that the six big coffee houses were able to bolster shop numbers by 47% to 2,095 in the UK over the year to September 2009, according to the Local Data Company). So it’s no surprise that Cadbury wants a piece of the action - and since it's already so famous for its chocolate, this seems like a reasonable brand extension. It's also a good time to buy/ rent cheap high street properties.
Then again, we can't help wondering to what extent the Kraft saga has taken some of the shine off the Cadbury brand as far as UK punters are concerned (particularly if the chocolate quality goes down). Will customers be keen to visit Cocoa Houses when they know they're filling the pockets of a giant US conglomerate? What's more, Cadbury isn’t actually entirely new to the coffee shop industry. It used to run a café in Bath, which closed after six years in 2007. Let’s hope the new shops don’t suffer a similar fate.
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