What Japanese Coffee Chain Doutor Learned From Starbucks

  • The huge popularity of Starbucks worldwide has led to the creation of a modern myth that Starbucks has brought the culture of coffee shops to Japan. Contrary to this myth, Japan’s coffee shop culture has been already established in the 1960s with Doutor Coffee chain under the leadership of Hiromichi Toriba.

    The Great Coffee Chain Rivalry


    While Starbucks’ popularity has seemingly become a threat to other coffee shop brands as it has successfully carved its brand name in the Japanese coffee market in 1996, its major competitor, Doutor, has been riding along with Starbucks’ popularity. All thanks to Starbucks, Doutor has already set its eyes on a huge profit target using a modified marketing formula adopted from its major competitor that is surely fitting to the taste of Japanese consumers.

    So what are the most important things that Doutor needs to thank Starbucks for?

    1. Modified Marketing Approach


    Starbucks may be expanding but since the brand is losing its luster, Doutor is planning to open 2,000 stores in a span of three years. So far, the coffee chain has more than 1200 outlets worldwide and its growing exponentially. All thanks to Starbucks, Doutor was able to understand and adjust to the changes in the taste of the Japanese from the grab-and-go style to the sit-and-talk-awhile style. Hence the birth of Veloce, Tully’s and Excelsior Caffe–Doutor’s superior coffee chains.

    2. Food, Cigarette Smoke and Lights Matter

    The secret: what Starbuck’s marketing approach missed that Doutor has long understood is that Japanese people demand proper food and a smoking area. Besides the two basic demands there is the need of having a better lighting in the shop, creating an ambience that is good for chatting or reading and is unlike a run-down shop.

    3. Price Control


    Before Starbucks came to Japan, Doutor was already suffering from the burst of the country’s economic bubble with the growing deflation rate. Because of the lack of competition, it was almost impossible for the company to have control over the prices of their products. When Starbucks entered the Japanese coffee market with its coffees and special products at a high price, it was successful in convincing the Japanese to pay a relatively more expensive price for just a cup of coffee. Ergo, Doutor was able to sell their premium coffee at a higher price and advertise their coffee beans as ones of the most sophisticated.

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