Sales suffer as coffee shop bans takeout cups

Boston Tea Party cups photo
© Boston Tea Party

Nevertheless, they persist...

Not long ago, I lauded Boston Tea Party for their brave stance to ban all single-use cups from their UK-based chain of coffee shops. And the internet has also lit up with folks supporting their stance:

But it's important to note that free press and consumer good will are only one side of the coin. Huffington Post now reports that take-out coffee sales, which amounted to £1,000,000 last year, are down 24% so far since the ban was implemented.

Of course, some of those take out sales may now be converted to sit-down customers. After all, it's not inconceivable that Brits are learning to drink coffee like the Italians. But it's also likely that some folks are choosing convenience over conscience and choosing to buy their coffee elsewhere.

This illustrates both the awesomeness and the limitations of brave corporate stances. On the one hand, Boston Tea Party took a bold move by rolling out the ban across all of its coffee shops at once, and even changing its Wifi name to NoExcuseForSingleUse. In doing so, it's gotten significantly more press and goodwill than a more moderate, incremental or experimental ban might have gotten. On the other hand, it's now at a competitive disadvantage to its (often larger) chain store neighbors who can keep selling single-use and offload much of the cost on society at large in the form of litter, waste collection, etc.

Ultimately, that's why individual and/or corporate action can only be a part of the puzzle. We need robust government action on single-use plastics. Once that happens, chains like Boston Tea Party who choose to lead instead of follow will be at a competitive advantage over those who wait to be forced. But for now, these folks need your support. So next time you're in the southwest of England, please find yourself a Boston Tea Party, buy yourself some coffee, and sit down and bloody enjoy it.

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