Interview Mert Askin

How Covid-19 is affecting coffee business in Middle East

Mert Askin
Thomas Fedra
Mert Askin

How is the Coronavirus pandemic affecting the coffee shop sector in the Middle East? An Interview with Mert Askin, President Food & Beverage at Azadea Group.

This text is an excerpt. Read the full interview in foodservice Europe & Middle East issue 4/2020. Read now!

FOOD SERVICE: Mr. Askin, how do you assess the current situation in the coffee shop business?
Mert Askin: Although the coffee shop business is going through a challenging period, the segment is particularly strong and in demand in the MENA region. I believe, performance will gradually come to pre-Covid levels as restrictions are being gradually relaxed.

Which effects did Covid-19 have on the coffee shop market in particular?
Pure play coffee operators with a high dependency on beverage sales must have suffered more than operators with a balanced food and beverage offering. As Corona restrictions forced operators to close their dine-in operations, the main source of revenue became delivery.
Coffee and related products are not as ‘delivery-friendly’ and or in demand as food. Those who have a retail coffee range seem to have benefited from the increased demand for coffee beans, that are ordered to be consumed at home.

How did your own brand, Paul, react to the situation?
First of all, let me start by highlighting that we definitely benefited from the global Paul presence in that we are connected to Paul International headquarters and have been receiving frequent updates on developments across the world. This has allowed us to be better prepared than individual players with no brand support.
Paul has always been strong with the bakery, pastry, and other food categories and, hence, was better placed to fast track the delivery channel. Our teams adapted quickly to the requirements and not only reviewed and adjusted packaging and delivery offering, but also managed to launch a wider range of food and retail offering through delivery.

Do you think the crisis will lead to a consolidation in the coffee shop market in the Middle East?
Certain markets in the Middle East have come to the edge of being oversaturated and I would expect an adjustment there. Mainstream global players with scale will maintain their positions as well as the third wave players, who were able to build a solid base of loyal customers and will also survive.
About Azadea
Azadea Group is a premier lifestyle retail company that owns and operates more than 50 leading international franchise concepts across the Middle East and Africa, including the regionally loved bakery, restaurant and coffee shop Paul.