Saturday, June 26, 2010

Catering to Coffeeshops

I love independent cafes, and I really do go out of my way to avoid (ball-and-)chain coffeeshops. However, I not really diggin this increasingly-popular trend of the cafe format being fused together with deli and/or catering getups.

I was recently exploring the yuppie-filled sidestreets and hippiecondo-filled blocks of Kits Point for new and quality coffeeshops when I spotted Quince just east of Burrard, on West 3rd Avenue. Quince is just one of the many catering outfits in the city that is also trying to pass as a cafe and deli. It reminds me of the now defunct Sensational Suppers or the popular The Butler Did It in that it is clearly a business focused on catering that attempts to attract passers-by with take-out meals and coffee. This is not a bad business model in theory but - like Communism or clear beer - it just doesn't work in practice. The focus on meal preparation, corporate customers, and large-scale food production makes it nearly impossible for businesses like this to create a setting wherein locals and people off the street can enjoy a quality coffee, tea, or baked good in a space that is comfortable and neighbourly.

Quince and the many catercoffeeshops that are popping up around town often offer quality product, in an isolated sense: they serve great coffee, they always have fresh pastry, the layouts are slick, they offer a wide range of catering services and options, and their take-out meals are outstanding. Unfortunately, when these elements are combined, the poor punter who is hoping to enjoy a crema-clad coffee at a local and inviting independent cafe ends up entering a space suffering from an identity crisis...a perfectly prepared, stylish identity crisis. 

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