How Cama Café Competes with Starbucks and 7-11

As I’ve said before, exasperatedly so, people here in Taipei are batshit crazy about coffee and cafes.

There are plenty of fancy cafes selling 200NT lattes, but on the other end of the spectrum is Cama Café [現烘咖啡專門店] — a little chain with a great brand that’s been growing steadily the past few years. They sell a solid iced latte for 60NT. Yes, I’m a fan.

I’ve been curious about Cama for a while, so was excited to find this short English interview — albeit from 2011 — with one of the people behind the company.

Not surprisingly, the guy featured has a marketing background. He makes some solid points when explaining their approach to brand differentiation in Taipei’s crowded coffee market, especially up against foreign and local chains including Starbucks, 7-11 and Dante Coffee.

From Cappuccino Capitalism by Nikhil Sonnad (June 2011)

For the convenient coffee drinker, another Taiwanese company is challenging the very raison d’etre of Starbucks on Formosa by offering an alternative model of the on-the-go coffee shop.

This small (and growing) business is Cama Café, typified by its white and banana yellow color scheme and by its humbly-sized shops. Benny Ho, a representative for the company, told me that Cama is a big divergence from the Starbucks model of catering to laptop-wielders and people looking for the famed “home away from home” – the shops are tiny by comparison, barely big enough for 15 people to stand in simultaneously.

“When we opened the first branch of Cama Café, we used the same approach as traditional coffee shops. Our first store was huge, with enough room for 150 people. We served food and pastries and everything else.” said Mr. Ho. Why the change? “We decided this was too complicated, and we wanted to focus exclusively on coffee instead.

Walk into a branch of Cama Café and your senses are hammered into submission. Mr. Ho, a former marketing man, says that he used a “five senses” approach to designing the shops. Loud pop music blasts through speakers with surprisingly good bass, and roasting machines placed in the front of the store spread the aroma of coffee over entire city blocks.

Mr. Ho beams about the way his company competes with international giants like Starbucks or 7-11.

“I see Starbucks as my good friend; the same for 7-11,” said Ho. “These places encourage people to drink coffee, but they also offer something different from us. I don’t mind opening a store next door to Starbucks, because people who want to sit, eat and chat will always choose Starbucks. But on-the-go people who want high-quality coffee will come to us.

Photo Credit: Cama Cafe Facebook Page

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