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Starbucks and Dunkin’ have a new challenger

Blank Street Coffee is using automation to fuel its rapid expansion.

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In the US, coffee is dominated by a familiar duopoly.

Starbucks and Dunkin’ control ~66% of the retail market, and their ubiquity makes it difficult for upstarts to break through.

But Williamsburg-based Blank Street Coffee has a plan: to sell cheaper coffee than Starbucks that tastes better than Dunkin’, per The New York Times.

Blank Street…

… started as a small, electric coffee cart in 2020, and has since expanded to 40 locations across NYC, Boston, and London.

The chain is betting big on automation, using a pair of tools to minimize the wait for customers:

  • A mobile app that offers reward points for each order
  • Eversys espresso makers that churn out 700 drinks per hour

This combination allows Blank Street to keep its retail operation small. Most stores are under 350 square feet, making it easy to add new locations.

Another reason for its rapid growth…

… is the $67m the chain has raised from investors like Tiger Global and General Catalyst, which has also created skeptics out of some New Yorkers.

  • Critics condemn Blank Street’s VC associations, accusing the chain of using its initial location to “check the Williamsburg box.”

Unsurprisingly, Blank Street has ambitious goals. Founder Issam Freiha says, “We want to be the really good cup of coffee that you drink twice a day, every day.”

If they accomplish that, we may soon be talking about coffee’s triopoly.

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