Vietnamnet | Mon, Jul 11, 2016 04:10:47 PM
Appearing at nearly all large buildings and commercial centers in Hanoi and Saigon and prime outdoor locations, Highlands is one of the most popular coffee chains in Vietnam.
Phuong Lam, student at a chef training school, said he loves to go to Highlands alone and often stops at a Highlands café in Hai Ba Trung Street, HCM City.
He usually sits in the corner so he can observe Hai Ba Trung and Vo Thi Sau street. "I love this place, where I can see the flow of vehicles back and forth. This is how I choose to relax," Lam said.
Lam said he usually chooses green tea for its good taste and price. Compared to Phuc Long cafes, Highlands green tea is less tasty but Lam still favors Highlands for the more comfortable space here. Moreover, he does not have to queue and wait as at Phuc Long cafes.
As one of the first café chains in Vietnam, Highlands Coffee has the largest number of stores.
Established by Viet Thai International Company of David Thai, an overseas Vietnamese in 2002, this brand was transferred to the Philippines' Jollibee three years ago.
Jollibee spent $25 million to acquire 49% of the business in Vietnam and 60% of the business in Hong Kong (China) of Viet Thai International. Jollibee also loaned David Thai $35 million, at an interest rate of 5%.
Since it was acquired by Jollibe, Highlands Coffee chain has undergone strong expansion, from 60 stores in 2014 to 130 at present.
Meanwhile, Starbucks has only 20 stores after 3 years in Vietnam, mainly in Saigon. In Hanoi, there are only five Starbucks stores, at locations that are less prime than those of Highlands Coffee.
Patrick, an American who has been in Vietnam for 12 years and married a Vietnamese woman, said he came to Highlands Coffee quite often, at least once a week.
Having tried many kinds of coffee in Saigon, offered by both famous brands and sidewalk cafes, Patrick said Highlands coffee is not too tasty, but it's "okay" for its price, quality and service quality. But he did not like smokers there.
"In addition, Highlands no longer serves Western dishes as before," Patrick said.
In fact, the change of menu is the change in brand positioning.
After acquired by Jollibee, Highlands Coffee has been "simplified", to serve many more customers, not only businesspeople and intellectuals as before.
Highlands customers also witnessed a change from being "served" to "self-serving". Design and menu of stories are also simplified.
To coincide with the new model, the price of drinks has also been adjusted. The beverages at Highlands have a lower price compared to similar products offered at coffee chains like Plus Coffee, Gloria Jeans Coffee, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf or later Starbucks ...
Western dishes that Patrick loved are replaced by traditional Vietnam bread.
A survey by the Financial Times shows that Highlands is the brand mentioned second most by the consumer, just after Trung Nguyen.
However, Trung Nguyen won the highest position in the coffee shop chain in Vietnam thanks to its strategy of having 10,000 shops across Vietnam, which only need to sell coffee and hang the Trung Nguyen signboard.
Nguyen Hai Ninh, founder of The Coffee House, a coffee shop chain that is also growing very strongly, said the quality of drinks is just one of the factors that draw customers to the brand, but it is not the most important factor.
"Most people go to coffee shops to find space to meet or work. Therefore, the mission of the coffee chain is to meet that demand," Ninh said.
Andrew Schnauer, a visitor from New Zealand, said he was traveling in Vietnam and came to HCM City for two days.
"My friends in Vietnam told me that I should go to Highlands Coffee, where has delicious drinks, wifi, and air conditioning," Andrew said.
"The coffee here is stronger than that in New Zealand, while the price is by half. Next time to drink coffee, I will return to Highlands Coffee", he said.