Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Wishing upon a falling star(bucks)

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of wiling away a couple of hours in one of my favourite places in the word. Rose Bakery in Paris.

A no frills café/bakery serving simple but fantastic breakfasts, cakes, tarts, salads and more.

It is owned and run by Rose Carrarini (who is English) and her French husband Jean-Charles who founded the Villandry in London’s Marylebone High St, which they sold before moving to Paris a few years ago.

I started chatting to Jean-Charles about my café venture, eager to get some advice from a veteran of the industry who knew the Fitzrovia area well. He warned me that he thought London was one of the hardest cities for an independent café to succeed because the restaurant and coffee chains have such a stronghold.

It is interesting that in so many European cities, such as Paris and Rome, the reverse is true: the strength of the independent café culture makes it difficult for chains to succeed.

Chains are also largely shunned in Australia. I read with pride the other week that Starbucks have been forced to close 61 of 85 shops in Australia: “the US coffee juggernaut, with its frothy, milky brew, was unable to meet the challenge of the local stores’ homespun hospitality and boutique qualities.”

It seems that things aren’t all that rosy for Starbucks in the UK now either with sales falling and fewer Britons frequenting their stores. Perhaps everyone is drinking less coffee thanks to the crunch of the credit. It might be wishful, but I’d like to think that its because Britons are learning to love independents - and little aussie battlers.

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