Here’s our in-depth comparison of Starbucks vs CCD – on everything including menu, pricing, ambience, service quality and most importantly – the coffee! Are you ready for Starbucks vs CCD: The Greatest Coffee Shop Battle of India ever? Muhahaha

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As an extensive coffee drinker and (sometimes obscenely smitten) lover of coffee houses, I am going to venture into the possibly uncharted territory here: to compare the two most visited coffee shops in India – Starbucks and Cafe Coffee Day.

Ever since Starbucks opened its first outlet in India, we’ve all been aware of the disruption in the coffee market, but all customer comparisons have been spoken in hushed tones. And even though I have seen the long lines outside a Starbucks outlet in New Delhi, the CCD’s and Costa Coffee’s aren’t exactly empty either. (Although it eludes me why a city as busy as New Delhi would have people with enough time to wait outside Starbucks for over two hours just to get a cup of coffee). Guess that says something about Sbux’s success in maintaining a premium position in India.

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Starbucks outlet at Taj Hotel, Mumbai

Anyway, back to the topic. But before we venture into the debate of bashing and praising different traits of either coffee chains, here are my credentials that set my opinion as (sort of) countable (I guess)!

My Coffee Resume:

I have been to CCDs in over 24 different cities.
I have been to Starbuckses in over 16 different cities in 5 different countries.
I would count the number of outlets of each brand I’ve been to, but can we get started with this already!
I write for a living, and before this I used to be an architect. Both professions are known coffeeholics!!
I’ve had 7852 cups of coffee in my life. (Just kidding, I’ve had way more.)

So here is my comparison in different coffee-shop-judging-metrics: (This review – Starbucks vs CCD is just based on my personal experiences. I am not speaking on behalf of any brand here).

Starbucks vs CCD: Menu:

Both coffee houses have a fairly large and appetizing selection of food and beverages. Both have beverages including hot and cold assortment of coffees, iced teas and frappuccinos (or frappes, as CCD calls them). I like that I like that Cafe Coffee Day is having fun with their frappes by using oreos and coffee beans, but Starbucks wins me over by including less-calorie caffine fixes like iced cappuccinos and espresso shots, whereas CCD for the days I’m looking for non-creamy drinks. Lately, CCD has increased its food menu and even started including Indianized sides like samosa, etc.

Pricing:

Starbucks is infamous not just in India but also abroad for selling overpriced coffee. At a first glance the price point does seem much higher in comparison to CCD. For example, a tall cappuccino in Starbucks costs INR 120 and a regular cappuccino at CCD costs INR 75 (before taxes, tall is equivalent to regular of CCD). Similarly, a tall cafe mocha in Starbucks costs INR 140 and a regular cafe mocha at CCD costs INR 95 (before taxes). here are the two menus for comparison:

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Starbucks Menu
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Cafe Coffee Day Menu

Check out the extensive drinks menu for Starbucks and CCD drinks menu.
But all that begins to change when you do go to CCD to have a cup worth its buck. Last week, Guy ordered a Devil’s Own for me at a CCD in Chennai and ended up being billed for 3 unordered extras: whipped cream, ice-cream scoop and chocolate sauce. When he protested and asked for the unordered items to be removed, the lady at the counter tried to embarass him by saying that they always come with the drink. Devil’s Own is CCD’s version of Starbuck’s Coffee Frappuccino sprinkled with coffee beans.

So eventually I would end up paying INR 139+30+37+37=INR 243+taxes for my drink, which is 1.7 times more than the price of a coffee frappuccino at Sbux. Needless to say, I cancelled my order and went over to Sbux for an iced cappuccino.

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My lovely Iced Cappuccino at Starbucks

Ambience:

Both coffee houses have pretty nice interiors. Cafe Coffee Day outlets have brighter colors like purple and red, while Starbucks has its signature off-whites and rustic browns inspired by authentic European coffee houses. Plus the first Starbucks outlets in Mumbai have classy interiors using Indian motifs infused with modern elements.

Service:

Cafe Coffee Day has self-service in some outlets and table service at others, whereas Starbucks has self-service everywhere. While lots of Indian customers prefer table service, the quick self service at Starbucks is highly appreciated when I’m running late and need a quick coffee to go.

Hospitality:

In India, each time you go inside a Sbux, the baristas call out, “Welcome to Starbucks!”, and when you leave they yell, “Thank you!”, which Guy has specifically asked me to mention to you all that he finds a bit annoying! (“Very,” he calls out as I type!)

Although if you compare the hospitality for Starbucks vs CCD, I’ve had examples of good hospitality at both chains. I like it especially when they remember my name and my regular order. 🙂

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Me at Cafe Coffee Day, Chandigarh

Customers:

Both brands are targeting the youth in India. Guy also wants me to mention that Starbucks can sometimes be full of “wannabes” who want to show off their financial prowess for being able to buy “premium” coffee.

Coffee and Authenticity:

As far as your good ol’ cappuccinos go, I like Cafe Coffee Day’s better, although it’s far from the best I’ve ever had. My Australian friends even go as far as to ask me why I go to Starbucks because “you can find way better coffee at local coffee shops.” But they’re Australian and can taste coffee like no one can!

Extras:

I love the fact that Starbucks has never charged me extra for all the extra whipped cream I have demanded on many an occasion. Rather, they’ve always happily served me drinks in bigger cups to accommodate it. In the US they even have free-of-charge extra milk (whole, low-fat and skim), but I haven’t seen that so far in India.

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My bestie and I at Starbucks, Empire State Building, New York

And extras at Cafe Coffee Day, well I just went through that (read Pricing above). Also, Starbucks will happily make you a whole new drink if you don’t like what you got.

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When the guys at Starbucks don’t get my name right and call me Sweila, which my friends make my nickname forever.

Starbucks vs CCD: Verdict:

So, all points considered for Starbucks vs CCD, it is obvious that Starbucks is quite the winner here. It is giving quite a competition to CCD and for good reason. I hope CCD has some takeaways from this article and we will certainly give them a second chance. Won’t we? 🙂

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Starbucks logo reflected in glass at Oberoi Mall, Mumbai
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At Cafe Coffee Day, Panchkula