Sitting in a Cape Town outlet of South African coffee shop brand, vida e caffé, with the managing director Grant Dutton, I looked around and saw that a lot of their customers were suited business men and women, fumbling over papers with colleagues.
Sure, this particular branch was located in a corporate complex, but with the brand’s strategy of targeting corporate environments – such as their recent opening of a vida e caffé at Standard Bank’s head office in Johannesburg – I wondered if the growth in Africa’s corporate arena was one of the reasons that Dutton was so interested in expanding the brand into Africa.
“We are actively chasing those areas,” answered Dutton. “It’s a growth opportunity for us, without a doubt.”
He added that their brand, while also successful in shopping centres and retail areas, has typically done well in corporate environments. He owes this to the fact that people are often willing to go outside the building they work at in search of a quality brand of coffee. Furthermore, an established coffee shop in a corporate building can become a popular meeting point for those looking for a more relaxed environment to discuss business.
“That’s part of our strategy,” Dutton explained. “So for example Ghana… it’s not the mall environment you see here in South Africa. So we say, where are the soft targets? Soft targets are these types of environments where you have massive corporates – you have 1,000 to 2,000 people in a building – there is no coffee outside of the building, no coffee inside the building, and you have got people who travel the world, they earn a certain amount of money and they understand coffee. It’s an easy fit for us.”
Dutton said that they plan to expand vida e caffé into Ghana and Botswana by the end of the year. Currently, the brand already has 72 stores in South Africa, four in Mauritius, one in Angola and two in London. Dutton said that vida e caffé, which is Portuguese for ‘life and coffee’, would like to be the first to bring a slice of the European coffee culture to African streets.
The first Angolan vida e caffé store was established just over a year ago, and Dutton said the uptake they received there was very impressive.
“Angola wasn’t just a strategic decision, it was opportunity-based. So [our partners] came to us, they found us, they courted us, and we went with them. Whereas now our expansion into Africa is strategic; so we have said we want to be there and we are actively looking for partners.”
While there are plans to further expand their presence in Angola, Dutton said that the market can be challenging, mainly because it is expensive. For example, property leases are expensive, and the logistical issues surrounding transporting fresh produce into the market can be costly too.