Why every cafe is the same 

Have you ever noticed every cafe looks the same? Here’s a deeper insight into why…

Recently I noticed 5 jobs on a coffeejobs.com each read, 

You will be working on LaMarzocco Linea Pb espresso machine and Mythos One grinders”

Brian Jones, brand expert in his slide share said every cafe in the Bay area was “modern rustic” and James Hoffmann says “when every cafe is special then no one’s special”. 

Differentiation from Starbucks 

One of the original reasons specialty cafes became homogeneous was in their successful attempt to be different from Starbucks (or Gloria Jeans in Australia, Zaffas in NZ). The lofty ceilings, white ikea pastels and minimalist feel sent signals to the audience that their coffee was special. 

They differentiated on these points:

  • Traceable coffee 
  • Direct trade 
  • Micro roasting 
  • Manual Brewing 

However as major cities grew from 1 and 2 specialty cafes to now more than 500 in Melbourne every cafe is looking the same. 


Each cafe seems to have the same French breads on offer. They are high margin, low labour and sugar and fat go well with coffee. 

Here are the reasons we see pastries :

  • Council regulations don’t allow full kitchens easily 
  • Rent pressure weighs against restaurants being possible due to cost 
  • Desire to focus on coffee 


With 300 roaster sin Melbourne you would think the beans are different. This is not the case. Often 20 to 30 roasters all buy from the same green importer. Yesterday I drank the same Brazilian coffee from the same green importer at 3 different venues from 3 different roasters. The roasting was similar too. The customer may feel they are loyal to one cafe or another however in reality they’re drinking Brazil Laranjal Pulped natural from MCM importers roasted on a probat  for similar time and Profile and brewed on the same machine and grinder served in the same cups with the same pastry. 

It’s all good 

There’s nothing wrong with this. We love our specialty coffee and the consumer has benefited greatly from this explosion. I would like to see cafes differentiate on aspects such as customer service. There’s an opportunity for cafes to really nail the customer experience and not just the coffee. 

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