Thursday, May 7, 2015

Caffé Bene Coming to 5th Ave (off 86th)

Caffé Bene store
 (Pictured: Caffé Bene cafe/bakery in Ditmars-Astoria)
This vacant storefront [8614 5th Ave] didn't sit long on the market before being snatched.
CeX Store 2014 2000sqft 8614 Realty LLC
CeX 8614 5th Ave
With the shuttering of CeX (electronics retail chain) this past winter, we know now that slated for opening 2H'15 in its place will be the rapidly expanding franchise upstart, Caffé Bene. No timeline has been specified but we expect this may take a few months since the former store was an electronics retailer, and Caffé Bene is a cafe/bakery.

caffe bene

Caffé Bene is considered by many as the Starbucks of South Korea (over a thousand locations in Asia, and in 12 countries worldwide).  Fast Company wrote that they were poised to take on the U.S. market in a big way starting with NYC.  Back in 2012, corporate-owned stores first opened in Time Square, Chelsea (FIT) and Flushing (Queens).  Subsequently, last year 80 new agreements were signed to bring additional stores online in New York alone. As of the end of 2014 according to Forbes, they have 86 operating U.S. locations. 14 of which are now open right now1, in addition to the ones in North Jersey (they have 8 coming their way).

Coffee Percolates
They hope to be the ones to give coffee chains leaders, Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts a run for their money in the competitive $80 billion industry, at a time when sky-high record commercial rents are being recorded in certain neighborhoods. New Yorkers familiar with the brand will recognize it immediately, as their direct competitors Paris Baguette and Tous Les Jour are expanding in the same manner.

caffe bene sets themselves apart by being different
Wood and stone lend a unique look & feel

Caffé Bene's plan to win over hearts and minds is to give customers a better experience than Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts, starting with friendlier employees and ambiance designed to keep patrons in the stores lingering (read: camping out).
Ambiance is key
comfy chairs & AC plugs to attract and keep customers
With welcoming, simple, clean colors and hues, the light wooden material, stone floors & walls, comfy leather, rattan chairs, and free wifi does much in the way of keeping people there to sit, relax, work, read and/or chat. Modeled after European coffee houses, but with a New York twist of industrial and recycled natural materials, Caffé Bene invites customers to stay, even use the shop as a meeting place by offering up electrical outlets. This comes at a time when their counterparts are mostly doing the exact opposite, forcing some to grab & go (many Starbucks' are packed).

menu covers beverages, baked goods, dessert, and sandwiches
Menu covers beverages, baked goods, dessert, and sandwiches
Beyond conventional hot and cold coffee drinks, beverages (smoothies and bubble tea), Caffé Bene is also known for their baked goods (croissants, pastries), sandwiches, waffles, gelato, and in some locations, seasonal ice parfait and grain-based drinks?

Mocha, espresso, waffles
Mocha and signature waffle? Yes, please!
How does Belgium waffles dipped in hazelnut chocolate sound?  Honey bread?What about sandwiches like Asian shrimp, portobella, spicy chicken, teriyaki chicken, or ham and egg served on a hero roll?

We've been told everything on the menu is made fresh daily in-house, including their gelato and breads. Their menus are also modified based on local customer demand too.

Caffe Bene 1611 Broadway
1611 Broadway (Courtesy of TheRealDeal)
Issues at Stake
This puts independent coffeehouses at risk due to the competitive pressure of another chain but that's not where Caffé Bene's service-oriented business model ends. Both Paris Baguette and Caffé Bene have their sights aimed at the fast-casual restaurant segment, an area occupied comfortably by Panera Bread and Chipotle. Now that's scary food for thought.

Do residents of Bay Ridge have a pressing need for more coffee and lunch options? Hard to say.  More choice is usually better, though we'd like to see more independent shops set up.  This store joins the other Brooklyn locations also coming online, including (nearby) 8th Ave Chinatown, Brooklyn Downtown, and one other unnamed location.  With such an aggressive timetable, it won't be long before the brand itself becomes as ubiquitous as Starbucks or Panera Bread.

Can Caffé Bene be a better Starbucks than Starbucks? We shall soon see.

They are hiring, send resumes to caffebene [dot] bayridge [at]

Caffé Bene: Website, Facebook, G+

1July 2014 Astoria-Steinway
 May 2014 SunnySide
 Sept 2014 Astoria-Ditmars
 Washington Heights WaHi "one of Manhattan’s final gentrifying frontiers"
 Other upcoming locations can be found here

Franchisees pay a $35,000 one-time charge plus 4.9% of gross sales for the franchise rights. Additionally, 1.9% of gross sales is charged as a marketing fee.

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