Free coffee against Starbucks campaign is hit and miss in Dublin

‘I blame Irish people, they think it is hip and cool to walk around with a Starbucks cup’

Independent coffee shops say it is hard to compete against Starbucks. Photograph: Getty

Independent coffee shops say it is hard to compete against Starbucks. Photograph: Getty


Tuesday’s great coffee giveaway across Dublin which was prompted by news that the city is to get another Starbucks was a hit and miss affair with some cafes embracing the idea and others oblivious to it despite being listed as supporters.

The Stage Door Cafe in Temple Bar was buzzing as owner Alan Halpin waited tables and offered advice to tourists on the best pubs to visit while they mopped up the last of their breakfasts.

He had put up posters advertising the giveaway initiative first thing on Tuesday morning and by 11am had given away around 50 takeaway coffees and a further 100 cups of Joe to diners.

“I think it’s a great idea,” he told The Irish Times. “I have had a few new customers coming for the first time and that was really good. I hope it’ll help the business in the future.”

He has owned the cafe for more than 17 years and, by his estimate, Starbucks and Costa “have taken nearly a third of our business in recent years but I don’t really blame them, I blame Irish people because they think it is hip and cool to walk around carrying a Starbucks cup or whatever.”

He is defiant and points out that at €2.20 his coffee is cheaper than in Starbucks. “And we are a very expensive area but even so we are practically giving it away.”

Next door in the Joy of Cha, the first thing owner Anna Letsko heard about the campaign was when The Irish Times called in to find out how it was going.

Despite being unaware of it, the coffee shop she has owned for 11 years appeared on multiple lists in recent days and even though she was taken by surprise she was supportive of the idea. “It is very hard for independent coffee shops to compete against the likes of Starbucks,” she said.

Great coffee

“And the thing is I think they have bad coffee. We have great coffee, it is locally roasted and starts at €2. I don’t know what the appeal of Starbucks is. Maybe it is just a familiar brand. Where we are in Temple Bar there are a lot of tourists and that’s a name that they would recognise because they see it everywhere they go.”

On the Quays nearby, the Dwarf Jar coffee shop was quiet. Staff said people had been coming in all morning looking for free coffee but they knew nothing about the campaign.

The Foam Cafe on Strand St on the other hand was very much aware of it and had decided to offer free coffees to all diners over the busy lunch time rush. “It is more about raising awareness than anything else,” co-owner Tom Butler said.

“We are not anti-Starbucks and I know that they bring employment to areas but there are just so many of them and they are just so homogenous. The thing is you can go in to one and buy a cappuccino and nurse it for three hours using their free Wi-Fi. It is very hard for independent cafes to compete with that.”

On Liffey St nearby one of the 50 Starbucks outlets in the city was quiet. Of the 30 or so tables only three or four were occupied and everyone was sitting with laptops open.

Audrey Devenney from Tallaght was talking to a friend at one table. “I don’t normally drink coffee here,” she said “I prefer Butlers or the Bald Barista but my friend doesn’t drink coffee at all and he wanted one of their strawberry drinks.

“I can’t see the need for so many Starbucks and I think that for a lot of people it is just an easy out, they recognise the name. She said she “100 per cent” believed people should support local retailers and businesses. “If we don’t support local businesses and local coffee shops then they will go out of business, that’s the bottom line.”

Ahead of the campaign a spokesman for Starbucks said it would be creating 15 positions in its new Crampton Quay outlet and that it would have more than 800 baristas in Ireland.

“We are proud to be part of Dublin’s vibrant coffee culture. Whilst we are not the biggest coffee brand in Dublin, it’s great to see many independents and brands raising the bar with innovation and coffee quality, giving Irish customers even more choice.”