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Brewing Up Trouble? How Will Brexit Affect the Coffee Industry?

Bonnie Howard 13 December 2018
Brewing Up Trouble? How Will Brexit Affect the Coffee Industry?

Deal. No deal. Brexit. Exit from Brexit and maybe remain. Hard, soft, over-easy. Everywhere you look at the moment, the UK’s proposed departure from the European Union dominates. It’s raising obvious questions – how will it affect the UK economy? Pointless questions – can we have another referendum? Silly questions – why doesn’t the Queen just stop Brexit? And niche questions – how will Brexit affect the coffee industry? At WMF, the latter has been something of a focus.

While it’s tempting to throw your hands in the air and cry ‘who knows? Who cares?’ at Brexit saturation point and unwilling to think anymore, preparing for the worst can often deliver the best, So, what are the likely problems, and are there any solutions?

Brexit and the Coffee Industry: Problems to Consider

  1.       The price of coffee

Coffee prices are already up. And the prediction is that in 2019 they’re going to get even higher, globally[1]. If the current dry period turns into a prolonged drought, it’s thought that prices could increase by as much as 40-50%. So that’s the general picture even before we get to Brexit. Then we need to factor in a weaker pound, with the uncertainty having serious ramifications for GBP. That, in turn, is estimated to make coffee 10-15% more expensive[2] to bring into the UK. This is serious news for the hospitality industry.

Solution? Short answer, there isn’t one. Stock-piling is a great idea, but coffee beans won’t maintain their integrity for more than 6 months. In the past, price hikes have been passed onto customers. It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, but few businesses will be able to absorb the costs themselves.

  1.       The availability of talent

The one Brexit question that every industry is interested in is the likely changes to freedom of movement between the UK and EU and how this will impact upon staffing. With KPMG[3] estimating that up to 23.7% of the hospitality sector’s workforce comes from the EU, it’s safe to assume that there will be at least an initial struggle to fill all vacancies and to find skilled baristas. Particularly without seeing a knock-on effect on wages.

Solution? Technology can help with this. No one wants to replace the human touch in service, but good service needn’t necessarily mean barista skills. The WMF Espresso allows for full manual control for anyone who wishes to deliver the personal touch when making coffee, but it can also be fully automated. With everything from auto grinding to tamping available at the touch of an LED, it’s possible for any business to deliver perfect coffee every time. There’s no need for in-depth knowledge or training, the WMF espresso measures all key brewing parameters – and fulfils them.

Brexit, when it’s finally in motion, is going to throw up all sorts of different unforeseen problems – and benefits. We can’t prepare for them all, but we can take measures to soften the blow.