The first overseas branch of Caffé Bene opened on Broadway's W 49th Street near Times Square in Manhattan last Friday, and its reception by New Yorkers has exceeded all expectations.
It is rare for a non-U.S. coffee franchise to open a store in a major U.S. city in these days of contracting financial markets, when even many local cafes are closing down as big-name coffee chains like Starbucks enlarge their presence and market shares. For example, there are now more Starbucks in Manhattan than there are metro stations.
Caffé Bene in New York will occupy two floors, but at this preliminary stage only the 334-sq. m ground floor is open to the public. The official opening will take place in one month's time. Kim Soo-ran, who heads the Times Square branch, said, "Because we haven't fully opened yet, we haven't done any promotions or advertisements. But the reception has been much better than we predicted. Our week-long supply of hot chocolate ran out in just three days."
Kim, who has been working on getting the branch operational since last April, said the team has developed an entirely new menu to suit local tastes, independent of what Caffé Bene offers in Korea.
After conducting market research on various cafés in New York, the team concluded that Koreans and New Yorkers view cafes differently. While Koreans more often think of them as places to snack on delicious desserts, busy New Yorkers tend to head there for quick meals.
About 20 new menu items have been developed for the store, including Mediterranean sandwiches, tuna paninis, bacon waffles with salad and various kinds of pastries. Meal substitutes such as gimbap, rice wrapped in seaweed, and grain lattes were also added.
Six members of a task force dispatched from Korea, including Kim, were in charge of getting the branch ready. The group, all of whom are in their 20s, studied the local market from morning to night, logging the gender and age of passers by in the area and even spending hours in Starbucks watching what people buy.