The 5 Most Overpriced Coffee Chains in 2024

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A 2023 Washington Post investigation found that people now spend around $6 on average for a cup of coffee at their local coffee shop. The cost of producing milk and coffee beans has increased over the last few years, with factors such as changing weather patterns, increased energy costs, inflation, and a labor shortage contributing to these price increases. Retailers pass these cost increases onto their customers, leading to a question of what customers are willing to pay for a cup of coffee. According to a 2021 CBS News poll, 39% of java lovers will pay between two and five dollars for a cup, while only 16% will pay more than five bucks.

A 2023 Vox article estimated the base price for a regular latte could run you around $6, and that’s without any special syrups, non-dairy milks, or fancy foams on top. After those add-ons, your latte can quickly reach upwards of $8 after a tip. At that point, your trusty five-dollar bill isn’t going to cut it anymore. Even baristas admit that coffee prices are approaching the threshold of what customers are willing to pay.

Starbucks, the leading coffee shop chain in the world, has reported a rare decline in sales and guest traffic in the latest quarter, marking its first negative performance since pandemic-related store closures in 2020. In April earnings call, CEO Laxman Narasimhan said budget-conscious customers have been more careful about their spending. Many Starbucks fans have expressed their frustrations online, noting that the price of their go-to order (an iced triple shot latte with soy milk, cold foam, and added syrup) had increased three times since January.

Even Starbucks workers are getting fed up with rising prices, questioning how much higher Starbucks is going to raise their prices. Dunkin’ customers started to notice that their relatively cheap coffees were costing them more in 2022. For example, a medium iced coffee with one flavor that was $2.88 was suddenly ringing up to $3.45. Dunkin’ fans responded that it was too high, as McDonald’s is next door and has a $1.29 coffee.

Other customers have reported similar price increases, which vary based on location and franchise, sometimes in the span of a few days. Some Dunkin’ fans are likening the prices to Starbucks, asking last year if anyone else’s local Dunkin’ is more expensive than Starbucks now. In January, a reporter from Eat This, Not That! found the prices at Starbucks and Dunkin’ in one New Jersey location were pretty similar.

Tim Hortons, a Canadian coffee chain, has experienced price increases in the United States, making it the third-largest coffee chain in the country. As of April 2024, there are over 600 Tim Hortons stateside, mostly clustered along the Northeast border. Customers north of the border are pointing out that long-standing coffee orders are ticking up, with prices rising from $2.50 to over $3. Some customers are even jumping ship, claiming that the past 10 years Tim Hortons has been steadily raising prices and with each price increase comes a decrease in quality.

Customers may be finally catching on to a 2022 price hike, which were implemented to stay ahead of rising food and labor costs. José Cil, then-CEO of Restaurant Brands International Inc, Tim Hortons’ parent company, told analysts back then that inflationary pressures and rising interest rates have pushed the coffee chain to increase menu prices “when and where appropriate.”

Dutch Bros Coffee is among the fastest-growing coffee shops in the country, opening 159 new stores in 2023 alone. The chain is currently planning a massive expansion, with a goal to operate 4,000 cafes in the next 10 to 15 years. However, the prices have become a point of contention for some loyal Dutch Bros fans. In 2022, Dutch Bros raised prices by 11%, but CEO Joth Ricci hoped to avoid further price jumps.

Caribou Coffee is already one of the largest coffee chains in the United States and has its sights set on becoming even larger. The brand started franchising in 2021 and plans to nearly double its American footprint by the end of the decade. However, Caribou has also been accused of slinging pricey drinks of late, likely due to franchisee owners ticking up the prices.

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Source: Coffee Talk

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