At Israeli Café Outlet, It Pays to Say Please

Chain lowers price of takeaway coffee to those who say the magic word

Yuval Tebol

The Café Café coffee chain is lowering the price of its takeaway hot beverages from 8 shekels to 6 shekels ($2.20 to $1.65), bringing them in line with the discount coffee chain Cofix. But there’s a small catch. The lower price is only available to customers who say “please” and “thank you.”

The owner of Café Café, Ronen Nimni, said the price cut, which applies to all of the chain’s branches except Ben-Gurion International Airport, will remain in force for years to come. (Nimni said that the chain’s coffee is the cheapest at the airport but its contractual arrangements there don’t make it possible to lower the price any further.)

The aim of the price cut, Nimni added, is to boost sales of takeaway coffee, which does not require the chain to provide table service or seating space. “A cup of coffee costs us 3.00 to 3.50 shekels [85 to 95 cents], so if we sell it at 6 shekels and sell a lot, we are still earning 80 percent to 100 percent on the product without having to provide service or a place [to sit].”

Up to now, he said, Café Café’s takeaway coffee sales have amounted to just 5 percent of total sales, and the expectation is that many takeaway customers will buy food to go with their hot beverages. If the move is successful, Nimni said he would also lower the price charged for takeaway baked goods. The chain has total annual sales of about 700 million shekels ($194 million), Nimni said. Café Café has 157 locations.

The requirement that customers say “please” and “thank you” is part of a joint marketing effort with the Pnima movement, a group that has among its cofounders former Israel Defense Force Chiefs of Staff Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi. Pnima bills itself as an apolitical social movement aimed at fostering solidarity.

Major competitors of Café Café said they have no intention of matching the price cut. “It’s a public relations move and nothing more,” said an executive at one competing chain. “Sales of takeaway coffee at chains like Café Café, which offer a varied menu, are no more than 5 percent of [total] sales. And also as I see it, there is no reason to provide a reward for the required use of words like ‘thank you’ and ‘please.’ We will not bring our prices in line [with Café Café]. We are not Cofix, and we have no intention of playing in that market.”