Would you pay £27 a month for unlimited coffee? New app offers caffeine subscriptions

Israeli start-up has just launched its Cups app for independent coffee shops in the US and says that they plan to come to London in the "near future"

Alongside mobile data plans and public transport, it seems that caffeine has moved from ‘occasional expense’ into ‘indispensable resource’: don’t bother buying it piecemeal, is the received wisdom, buy it in bulk and save.

Or at least this seems to be the motivation behind a new mobile app that lets customers pay a monthly subscription fee for unlimited coffee from independent shops.

Called Cups, the app launched in New York last week after a successful spell in Tel Aviv, with co-founder Gilad Rotem telling The Independent that the Israeli-based start-up is also coming to London in “the near future”.

For a monthly fee of $45 or $85 (depending on how fancy you like your coffee), users can drop into any one of several dozen independent coffee shops, show the cashier a uniquely generated code on their smartphone and walk away with caffeine fix in hand.

Participating shops don’t pay anything to Cups, with the company reimbursing them only for coffee sold. The subscription is roughly equal to about 22 cups per month, meaning that customers drink less than this then Cups keeps the change.

The Cups app offers previews of local coffee shops and how to get to them.

Although the concept is certainly appealing to any office worker for whom a cup of coffee is a guaranteed daily (or even twice-daily) expenditure, Rotem also says that he wants Cups to give independent shops a way of competing with the loyalty schemes of big chains.

“We started with eight coffee shops in Tel Aviv and quickly grew to over 80,” says Rotem. “What was an unlimited coffee subscription turned to a powerful means for independent customers to get more people through the door.”

As well as giving customers an incentive to try out new places to buy their coffee (the app comes with a map showing the location of all participating stores), Cups also say that shops benefit from additional sales of snacks bought with coffee as well as getting access to data about customers’ coffee habits.

The subscription comes in two tiers, with the basic version offering filter, brewed and drip coffees (as well as teas) with the pricier “Foreign Flair” (that’s the $85 one) adding espresso, Americanos, cappuccinos, lattes and ice teas.

Customers who don’t want to commit to a monthly fee can also buy packages. These start at five basic coffees for $7 or five pricier drinks for $14, scaling up 20 basic for $28 or 20 fancies for $56.

The main danger of the scheme seems to be reinforcing users’ caffeine addictions, with subscribers reportedly drinking 20 per cen more coffee after signing up for the app. For Cups though, that just means more return customers.

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