After months of speculation and waiting, Second Cup has started to roll out their rebranding effort with the Grand Opening of their “store of the future” at the corner of King St West and John St. in Toronto.
Second Cup has been losing ground in the café market to Starbucks for nearly a decade in Canada, and more recently they have also had the heat turned up by both Tim Hortons and McDonalds. With results dipping for 10 consecutive fiscal quarters, some measure of rebrand was required to keep themselves relevant, and afloat. The question now is whether or not the path they’ve taken will lead to success.
The new store in Toronto is just the beginning of a three year turnaround plan for the brand, and in the words of new CEO Alix Box, “This café is an important step in our revolution and reflects our passion for coffee in creative and collaborative ways,”
The new shop, and presumably all future rebranded cafes, will be offering locally made artisan baked goods, delivered daily. It’s a small touch that will matter to some of the consumers in the marketplace, particularly in areas like downtown neighbourhoods that have fostered strong “shop local” mentalities, but it may not make much difference in other urban locales.
King & John also includes a slow bar that allows for customers to sit and relax, charge their phones, use their laptops (wireless chargers and outlets are available) while watching baristas make custom cups of coffee, one at a time. Again, it’s another touch that makes Second Cup more comfortable and welcoming to guests who have time to burn and want to sit down to enjoy their coffee. But if it slows down the speed of service for customers who need to be in and out, this could do more harm than good for overall sales.
Box also says that a loyalty program and smartphone app are in development and testing stages in Calgary, and should be available to the full Canadian market for Spring 2015. The ability for Second Cup customers to use the same technology as Starbucks customers will be a large step forward, and brings the brand into the 21st century if nothing else.
The rebrand also includes a new logo. The low-key rectangle and word logo is a big change from the current Second Cup icon, and signals big changes to the focus and identity of the brand. Seeing the logo at other new stores will come slowly over the next three years of the rebrand rollout, and in that time we will be able to see if bounce-back success can be found for Canada’s original specialty cafe brand.