Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Before Starbucks opened in Japan, there were no coffee shops that were non-smoking, or at least there were no chains of stores that offered it as a blanket policy. There may have been a few "mom and pop" places which excluded smokers but coffee and smoking went hand and hand. In the first few years that Starbucks was doing business in Tokyo, a lot of the Japanese people I spoke with said they didn't like going there because they couldn't smoke. For those who needed their cancer sticks and their caffeine, there was still the Japanese chain store called Doutor.

When I was working full-time and my company's office was in Nishi-Shinjuku, a Doutor was only about a 2 minute walk away. I never had their coffee because most Japanese brewed coffee tastes pretty rank to me. Doutor did have one draw for me though. They were one of the few places that offered freshly-made bagel sandwiches at a reasonable price. The one thing I hated though was that I'd always have to endure a ton of second-hand smoke while I waited for the sandwich to be prepared.

Most of the smokers who generally avoided Starbucks because of their non-smoking policy did like the coffee or at least they liked the unique design and style of the shops. Doutor wasn't about to sit back and watch Starbucks erode their market share without a fight. To lure back some of the people who were looking for an espresso bar experience, Doutor started opening up their own version called Excelsior (pictured above). Those who wanted the designer coffee experience paired with a nicotine fix now had the option of turning to Excelsior instead of Starbucks.

If you click on the smaller picture above and load the larger one, you can see that they not only copied the general in-store experience in terms of how one ordered coffee and the types of available beverages but they also aped the circular logo and clean-looking fonts.

In fact, aping Starbucks logo isn't limited to a big chain trying to hold onto its business. My husband took a picture of this coffee and crepe shop in Shibuya with an even more egregious rip-off of the Starbucks logo (though with more unique color scheme).

Incidentally, crepes were a really big food fad in Japan awhile back. There were shops everywhere for awhile but the number has gone down a bit and the strongest survivors are in area with heavy youthful foot traffic. You can still find crepes everywhere but generally as a dessert option among many others whereas shops like this let you choose from a wide variety of fat-delivery options. One thing about the crepes you see in Japan is that they're all about the cream, especially lots of whipped cream.

Anyway, I'm not sure who people who create logos like the one on this shop think they're fooling and I'm even less certain of why they bother to lift a design so obviously because it rather makes them look like they're desperate.


Kai|Kat said...

Smoking isn't allowed outside the coffee shop?

Most (if not all) of the coffee shops in the Philippines have chairs and tables outside for people who prefer to smoke. The only exceptions are usually the ones inside the shopping malls because of the centralized air conditioning. But some coffee shops have an air conditioned smoking room if their front doors aren't facing out into the street.

Starbucks has a lot of branches here but they have pretty good competition with several other coffee shops in any major area.

Personally, Starbucks brewed coffee tastes kinda quirky--in a bad way. @_@

Shari said...

Smoking outside is more complicated now than it once was. While I'm sure you can smoke outside of some Starbucks (or other shops), there are some streets in Tokyo now where you aren't allowed to smoke on the street. For instance, when I worked in Kudanshita, there was no smoking on the street in front of our building. This was actually bad for me because people had to smoke in recesses off the street and they often smoked under my window. Even though were were on the 4th floor, it still wafted up and I could smell it.