WHEN students and staff at a city university were asked to choose who would run their new coffee hang-out they hit upon a novel idea – a trial where two of the biggest names on the high street got to go head-to-head in a public vote.
Starbucks and Costa were both given the chance to run an on-campus coffee shop at Queen Margaret University – with staff and students casting votes as to which had been their favourite at the end of the trial.
Over 1,000 people took part in the battle of the High Street coffee giants, with the US-based coffee chain Starbucks defeating its UK rival by 627 votes to 403.
Starbucks has now taken up permanent residence as the winner.
However, that fact has been bemoaned by some anti-Starbucks latte-lovers, as the corporate giant’s “turn” took place before it was revealed they had reportedly paid just £8.6 million in corporation tax in 14 years of trading in Britain – and nothing in the last three years.
One 19-year-old media student told us some people may have voted differently if they’d known the background to Starbucks.
She said: “On the whole it’s probably a good way to cast such a decision because, this way, people get the popular choice and put paid to any quibbling later on. But some people feel their decision could have been swayed if they’d known the background to Starbucks.
“A few people have said to me they’d maybe have voted Costa instead, if they’d known the full facts.”
Both retailers were given a four-week trial to impress students within a “coffee pod” located on the university’s upper terrace with each customer being allowed one online vote.
Starbucks entered the fold first, before being replaced by Costa two weeks later. New Starbucks livery and branding will now be erected once again as the mass espresso peddler takes up permanent residence at the uni. A campus source said: “It’s been a bit crazy. One minute it’s Starbucks, then next it’s Costa and then it’s Starbucks again. It goes to show how serious they both are taking each other that they agreed to take part.”
The idea came about after research into catering provision at the university highlighted a demand among staff and students for a premium high street coffee brand to be sold on site.
A spokeswoman for the university said: “As a direct response to this, the university decided to trial a coffee pod. When the university further developed the idea it became apparent that staff and students were very passionate about their high street coffee choice with most people having a firm opinion on Starbucks versus Costa.
“The university therefore wanted to give staff and students the choice about which of these coffees should be sold within the coffee pod. This resulted in a month’s trial of two of the leading high street brands.”
She added: “The coffee pod proved very popular with both staff and students delighted to be involved in the decision-making process.
More than 1030 people voted, with Starbucks emerging as the winner with 61 per cent of the votes. The majority of voters were students.”
Neither Starbucks or Costa were available to comment.
The news Starbucks has reportedly paid just £8.6m in corporation tax came to light the week after Starbucks was declared winner. The firm – which is valued at £25 billion – has generated more than £3bn of sales in the UK since 1998 but has paid less than one per cent in corporation tax.
Costa, its nearest UK rival, owned by Whitbread, recorded £377m sales last year, compared to Starbucks’ £398m, but its tax bill came to £15m, or 31 per cent of its profits.
BATTLE OF THE BREW
First opened: 1971 (Seattle)
Head office: Seattle,
UK stores: 700+
International stores: 17,000
Last year UK sales: £398m
First opened: 1971 (London)
Head office: Dunstable, Bedfordshire
UK stores: 1390
International stores: 800+
Last year UK sales: £377m