Mixed results in mystery shopper survey of cafes

Di Lieto's coffee shopat Waterside in the Sovereign Harbour Eastbourne April 15th 2013 E16081P
Di Lieto's coffee shopat Waterside in the Sovereign Harbour Eastbourne April 15th 2013 E16081P

Eastbourne’s coffee shops are a mixed bag of service and hygiene according to a mystery shopper survey.

It was carried out at 29 coffee shops around the town in February by members of the Eastbourne Seniors Forum and Shoppers Anonymous and organised by Eastbourne Designed for All, a local market research company.

Those visited were Eastbourne Beach Deck, Black Cat Tea Rooms Meads, C&H, Coffee Republic, Cafe Express, Cafe Nero, Cafe Ruby, Caffe Corro, Old Town, Central Eating, Debenhams, Di Lietos, Dickens, Enterprise Diner, Favoloso, Fiesta Bistro, Fusciardi’s, Grand Hotel, Holywell Chalet, La Parisienne, M&S, Mulberry, Neates, Plantation, Rockwells, Shades, TJ Hughes, The Towner, Urban Ground, Vickery’s and Will’s.

Three were singled out for being the best in Eastbourne: Di Lietos, Central Eating and Fusciardi’s, with honourable mentions for Cafe Corro in Old Town and the Grand Hotel.

Surveyors were focusing on the interior of the coffee shop, the service experience, product and ambience and the eatery’s toilets.

A spokesperson for Eastbourne Designed for All said, “Eastbourne is well served with coffee shops both in growing number and quality but this does not mean that all are equally inclusive in meeting the needs of local people.

“The service element is revealed as one for attention. Customers, not all admittedly but some, want and need to feel some engagement with those who serve them. They respond to being treated in a friendly way, with warmth, a welcome and even a chat. The absence of name badges, lack of eye-contact, manners and conversation may not affect the quality of the coffee but do affect the experience – and happier customers come back.

“The greatest point of difference and focus of consumer concern between some would seem to relate to the toilet facilities with only eight of those surveyed scoring full or almost full marks in this section.

“Food outlets can attract or repel by a variety of senses. A surprising number, nine, of the coffee shops visited were described as not smelling inviting and two had dirty counters. Products were generally well presented, appearing fresh and appetising, though two outlets failed in this respect.

“In just four coffee shops staff wore name badges. In 21 shops the customer was personally welcomed and interestingly of the nine instances where this did not occur, the outlet was part of a larger venue or chain.”

The average price of a coffee served in the shops visited was £1.98 and of tea £1.58.