Customers win in coffee wars

Bill Bewsher, general manager of 399 Bar in Northbridge, which is offering $2 coffees. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

Savvy Perth cafes and bars are leading the backlash against soaring coffee prices, slashing the cost of a caffeine fix to lure customers frustrated by exorbitant prices.

Northbridge's 399 Bar yesterday became the latest self-styled caffeine crusader, saying it would charge just $2 for any type of coffee.

It follows similar moves by Beaufort Street's Five Bar, which created a social media storm last week when it cut the price of an espresso to $2.50, and Subiaco's The Walk Cafe, which recently erected a sign boasting "Melbourne coffee prices" that start at $3 for a single shot.

Within hours of advertising its new price on Facebook, 399 Bar was inundated with comments from would-be customers welcoming the move.

"I'm liking this Perth coffee war," wrote one supporter.

The general manager of 399 Bar, Bill Bewsher, said the venue could afford to offer cheap coffee because its main business was beer, wine and spirits."It ($2 coffees) is incredibly cheap - it's borderline stupid really," he said. "Coffee's not a major part of our business. We don't need to make money off it so why should we."

Five Bar operator Gary Beadle said the decision to cut prices was part of a wider push to be affordable.

"We're not a coffee destination," he said. "Consumers come to us for a bar experience. Offering them reasonably priced coffee simply adds to that."

Perth coffee prices - topping $7 at some venues - have long been both a sign of boom times and a source of frustration.

According to research commissioned by coffee machine company Gilkatho, Perth is the most expensive place in Australia to buy a cup of coffee.

An average takeaway cappuccino in Perth costs $3.87. The national average is $3.47. Cafe owners argue coffee in Perth costs more in part because rent and staff costs are so high. And venues that offer a premium coffee product say they must charge more for better quality ingredients, more experienced staff and more costly equipment.

Epic Espresso owner Sarah McLeod said many factors contributed to the price of a cup of coffee.

"There is a significant difference between the premium product that we produce and the product some other cafes produce," she said.

Coffees at Epic Espresso start from $4.20.

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