|Puff banned: A Costa Coffee outlet
London, Sept. 10: Where there’s smoke, there won’t be a coffee ' at least a Costa Coffee. The company, which is bringing a new lifestyle to India, today announced a blanket ban on smoking in all its 370 UK outlets.
But the ban applies only to Britain. Indians can smoke as much as they like ' and Costa are considering opening up to 300 outlets all across India following the launch of the first one in Connaught Place in Delhi.
But if a no-smoking atmosphere is more agreeable and healthier for its British customers, shouldn’t the same benefits be applied to India as a condition of taking up the Costa franchise' Or is the health of Indian customers of no concern to Costa management in London'
Last month, when the Costa deal was announced, its managing director, Mark Phillips, enthused about the huge profits he foresaw.
“This is a major deal for Costa and we’re delighted to be the first international coffee brand to open in this fast growing market,” he gushed.
“There are already successful local concepts, so there is a proven consumer demand for the product. We will be exporting to India Costa’s well founded Italian coffee expertise and we are confident that our unique offering will be received well.”
Today a spokesperson for the company said the smoking ban applied only to Costa outlets in Britain.
Later, she added: “We are in discussions with our international partners at present about non-smoking in stores. It’s not a closed door.”
As for the ban in Britain, the company said the move was aimed at protecting its customers and employees from the effects of passive smoking.
The chain had already banned smoking in 90 per cent of its coffee shops. The remaining 10 per cent would become non-smoking from today.
Food sales have risen at many of the outlets that are already non-smoking, Costa Coffee said. The chain estimates that 63 per cent of its customers are non-smokers and 80 per cent prefer a smoke-free environment.
Phillips said: “This is a significant step in the coffee arena as there is a very traditional image of coffee breaks going hand in hand with a cigarette.” The move is backed by anti-tobacco group Ash and Cancer Research UK.
Costa Coffee is part of the hospitality company Whitbread PLC, which includes Premier Travel Inn, Brewers Fayre, Beefeater, TGI Friday’s and David Lloyd Leisure.
A spokesperson for Whitbread said different brands within the group had different policies on smoking. He said: “Whitbread’s policy on smoking aims to reflect changing public attitudes and provide an attractive and safe environment for both our staff and customers.”
Costa Coffee’s attitude fits in with the marketing policies of cigarette manufacturers. As sales decline in the west, they will seek to compensate by finding new customers in Asia and Africa.