Blurring the lines between café, store and restaurant, Lavazza’s high-end London flagship store is looking to challenge perceptions of the brand as a supermarket staple
The word “experience” crops up a great deal during The Grocer’s visit to Lavazza’s recently renovated London flagship. It’s a fitting word for a space that houses works of art, polished brass and royal blue fixtures and fittings – the ambience more five-star hotel than coffee shop.
But coffee is very much at the heart of the space, stresses Lavazza UK’s head of training, David Cutler. “Coffee is a highly sensorial product. So, it lends itself very well to the experiential side of things,” he says. “It’s more than just what’s in the cup. It’s the cup it’s served in, it’s the mise en place – everything here is very carefully curated.”
The centrepiece coffee bar, for example, is made of actual ground coffee mixed with resin. The main seating area contains the Pillar of Aroma, a work of art made of 368 shimmering moka coffee pots – created by Lavazza with artist Daniele Sigalot. Even the espresso cart is slickly designed, kitted out with everything needed to make a hand-pressed specialty brew.
Sit down experience
The cart moves around the store, allowing customers to order at their table when in the main seating area. Another smaller seating area is also available, in a space previously designed for takeaways.
This was a deliberate move to make the store about more than a “quick coffee”, says Cutler – even if that’s something it will accommodate. “For sure, that’s not the concept of the store,” he says. “It’s designed to bring you in, to sit you down, to take time to explain things to you, and showcase Lavazza as a brand.”
That much is evident through in-store experiences such as coffee cocktail masterclasses and a relaunched food menu, which was developed by Michelin-starred chef Federico Zanasi.
Still, there remains room for a retail element too. Lavazza paraphernalia such as ornate cups and spoons are on sale alongside coffee beans that can be ground according to customer preferences.
“The customer experience is like having a fine suit made – we tailor it to you exactly,” sums up store manager Filippo Sannelli.
For Sannelli, the store is akin to a “fine dining-style experience”. And it’s high-end for a reason. Cutler says the revamped flagship store is key to establishing Lavazza’s brand identity.
“We’re a large roaster, present in over 90 countries, available in supermarkets and many other places,” he explains. “So if you only ever buy a Lavazza coffee in a supermarket, you’ll go: ‘oh, Lavazza is a supermarket brand’. We’re not. That’s just where we show up for you in your world.”
“Likewise, if you only ever experience Lavazza in a fine dining restaurant, that’s all Lavazza is to you. And so, because Lavazza is so many things to so many people, that brand identity can be confused,” Cutler adds. “This is a chance to establish and communicate what Lavazza is in 2024.”
One thing that comes through strongly is Lavazza’s chops as a roaster. A range of specialty coffees are on offer, including the “avanguardia” coffee, a small-batch selection that showcases “the very pinnacle of what Lavazza can do”, according to Cutler.
Every one has been approved by Cup of Excellence, an organisation that recognises some of the finest coffees from around the world. The microlot nature of these coffees means that once it’s gone, it’s gone, and the flagship moves on to a new one.
The store’s location – moments from Oxford Street and Regent Street, and directly opposite Liberty – was chosen to show off these credentials to as wide an audience as possible.
“It was always going to be central London, and the west end made perfect sense from a footfall perspective. Lavazza is an iconic brand, and we’re across from one of the most iconic sites in London with Liberty,” Cutler says.
“Any large-scale project will need to look at the business mechanics… but we also wanted a location people could easily find, where you walk around the corner and think: ‘ah, I’ll give that a try’. And then become a loyal customer from there.”