There are more coffee shops crammed into Hanoi than probably anywhere on earth. So opening a café in Vietnam’s capital could be a bit of a gamble. But this month, Starbucks is making an aggressive push, opening three branches in this bustling city; possibly one of its most challenging markets yet.
And it is unique and special in that there is a long and deep coffee history and heritage in Hanoi. And, you know, many things in Hanoi happen over coffee.
The U.S. coffee chain already has 11 outlets in two other Vietnamese cities but France’s coffee legacy is most visible in the capital.
Most city streets overflow with coffee shops that are selling a cup for as little as 50 cents. A black coffee in Starbucks costs about $2.60. That’s about half the average daily wage.
I am not concerned about the competition because we have a number of regulars. Some have been drinking coffee here for the last 61 years or, like those two gents behind me, drink a lot of coffee and have been coming here for 40 or 50 years. That’s why we do not care about competition.
Hanoi’s first Starbucks drew the crowds on opening day but the question is whether it can keep up the momentum as many Vietnamese feel financially squeezed. Country is mired in debt, hit by bankruptcies and last year suffered its slowest growth in four years. Not everybody has cash to spare.
I think more types of coffee, such as Starbucks, certainly make the coffee seem more interesting but to me I prefer Vietnamese traditional coffee. The street side coffee is more down to earth and it suits my wallet too.
Starbucks hopes to brew up profits in Hanoi but the global coffee giant might just find that it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.