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Steaming Success: The Rise of Blank Street Coffee in London

Minimalist, sleek, and adorned in sage green, Blank Street Coffee is a Gen Z heaven. But why is it so popular, and where did it come from?


Blank Street Coffee made its debut in London in the summer of 2022, and in just over a year, it swiftly asserted its dominance in the bustling takeaway drinks scene. It currently has 17 stores spread across central London, with an 18th to open imminently; yet stores typically run with only two employees per shift and are less than 350 square feet. In addition, most of the coffee is made by an automated system – drinks are quite literally ready at the push of a button. So what’s the big deal?


I’ll be the first to admit that I’m easily drawn in by pretty colours and gimmicky flavours. Like many, I’ve become hopelessly obsessed with their new signature drink: the famous Iced Blueberry Matcha Latte. Maybe it’s the delightful hint of blueberry muffin in every sip, or perhaps the pretty pastel lilac and green hues - I just can’t get enough. Clearly, Blank Street target their beverages towards the ever-aesthetic-conscious Generation Z, who appear less inclined towards caffeine, and more so in favour of sweet-treat-style drinks such as violet lemonades, iced strawberries and cream, and pistachio lattes. Their strategy is well-defined, and it proves to be effective. Stores are often so bustling, you can’t even get through the door.


Blank Street’s Iced Strawberries and Cream Latte, and Iced Blueberry Matcha Latte. Photo By Hebe Hancock.


With its popularity among young adults and students deciphered, the question of Blank Street Coffee’s origin still remains unanswered. It appears as if the stores emerged overnight, already on every street corner and achieving instant success. This is, in fact, not so far from the truth — their rapid expansion was backed by private equity firms and tech startup groups, ensuring its instant success. Already on track to achieve profitability in London by 2024, Blank Street has optimised their business model based on a few small factors: optimising compact spaces to reduce rental expenses, and enhancing efficiency and output through automated machines. This allows an incredibly speedy drinks turnaround, making Blank Street an ideal choice for your morning commute coffee or lunchtime rush beverage. Unlike its high street competitors, their stores are not a cosy place to catch up with friends, or even a viable workspace: quick customer service is the priority. Even my beloved Blueberry Matcha is pre-mixed and poured into a squirty bottle, rather than whisked and measured out in front of you, as is the usual norm.


They’ve targeted busy commercial and high-traffic areas, many of which are in close proximity to train and tube stations — King’s students are sure to be familiar with both the Strand and Holborn locations, which are almost unmissable on the commute from station to campus. Clearly, they have their branding spot on. Tote bags, reusable cups, and even socks are available to buy from their stores — all equally as aesthetic, minimalist and sustainable as the rest of the company, thus appealing to the stylish and eco-conscious Gen Z. Blank Street co-founders Vinay Menda and Issam Freiha are just 28 and 30 themselves; perhaps their age and understanding of young people is responsible for their success in an already heavily saturated coffee market.


Blank Street’s aesthetically-pleasing merchandise in store. Photo by Hebe Hancock.


Blank Street’s reign has not been completely smooth; the chain has faced substantial criticism for its gentrification and automation of the coffee world, and many people in particular take issue with the mechanical and self-operating way in which the drinks are produced. It’s evident that their methods do remove the artistry of coffee-making, diminishing its sense of authenticity and community. However, we must ask: do their customers really concern themselves with the intricacies of drink preparation, as long as it delivers on appearance and taste? The skyrocketing popularity of its London branches seems to suggest otherwise; Blank Street regulars, including myself, seem to value aesthetics and convenience above most else. As long as the workers are well-paid and treated fairly — and they seem to be, according to employee reviews and aggregate data collated by Glassdoor and Indeed — it's hard to say there is any real problem with Blank Street Coffee, making it a welcome addition to London's coffee shop scene.

 

This article was updated for clarity in February 2024, in light of recent data published about Blank Street's annual turnover.


Edited by Talia Andrea, Editor in Chief

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