| South Korea

South Korea’s branded cafés steam ahead despite pandemic pressures

South Korea’s branded coffee chains have pressed ahead with outlet expansion despite the challenges of the pandemic, contributing to record coffee imports in 2020

A Twosome Place, South Korea's third-largest branded café chain, opened 191 stores to reach total of 1,291 stores in 2020 | Photo via Flickr 

Despite widespread restrictions on movement and café operations over the last 12 months, South Korea’s heroic thirst for coffee shows no sign of slowing. Data from government agency, the Korea Customs Services shows South Korea imported 176,648 tons of coffee worth $737.8m in 2020 – an annual rise of 5.4% and 11.5% respectively – both the highest recorded since data tracking began in 2000.
World Coffee Portal research shows that even among strict curbs on trading during the pandemic, South Korea’s branded coffee chains still opened hundreds of stores in 2020, with the total branded café market expanding 8.3% to 24,905 outlets over the last 12 months.
Market leader, Ediya Coffee, opened net 235 stores during 2020 and now operates 3,200 stores in South Korea. Starbucks added 102 stores for a total of 1,436, A Twosome Place opened 191 stores for a total of 1,291, and value-focused Mega Coffee now operates 1,119 stores after opening 367 over the year.
A rapid programme of testing, tracing and targeted quarantine measures saw South Korea achieve early success in containing Covid-19 and limiting the economic damage to hospitality and coffee shop businesses. However, highlighting the long-term challenges all economies face in avoiding resurgences of the virus, South Korea has in recent months tightened trading restrictions. There were 404 new Covid-19 cases as of January 21 2020, bringing the country's tally to 73,518 cases, with 1,300 deaths.

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