Sunday, July 09, 2006

Coming to America – the Israeli coffee chain Aroma

Israel is a coffee loving nation.

There are several chains of cozy and trendy coffee shops (of the caffeine kind, not the leafy ones), where you can sit, chat and enjoy a wide variety of coffees, salads, sandwiches and cakes.

For impatient types like me, there is the coffee-to-go aka Israel’s answer to Starbucks.
Starbucks tried to enter the Israeli market, but left at the same time the US invaded Iraq.
(No, I am not making a political point here – I blame Bush for many things but not for Starbucks pulling out of the Israeli market).

One of the successful chains in Israel is “Aroma”, which I patronize frequently.
The chain opened its first small espresso bar-style café based in Jerusalem in 1994.
It was the brainchild of two young brothers, Yariv and Sahar Shefa, who wanted to offer us coffee lovers inexpensive but top-quality coffee-to-go.

Nowadays, the chain has a national coverage of 72 branches and is going global.
The ambitious Shefa brothers want to add 40 branches in the USA (California and Florida for starters) and Canada (starting with Toronto).

They just opened their first foreign branch in NYC near Houston Street in Manhattan’s posh SoHo district.
The NY flagship branch will have the distinct Aroma branding of red-black-white color scheme and spaceship-like design.
The menu will be an adapted one – both in taste and in names.
To be PC, the famous Iraqi sandwich will be offered as the “Grilled Vegetable Mediterranean Sandwich”, and burekas will be sold as “treat burka”.

Will Aroma make it in the Big Apple?
Quite likely.
The prices are reasonable: USD 3 for a cup of coffee, USD 5-11 per sandwich, USD 4 for a Burekas, and USD 9 for a salad bowl.
Aroma prepares the food in its own kitchen, in contrast to Starbucks.
They are first targeting Israelis living in New York and New Yorkers familiar with Aroma Israel.
Aroma USA is positioning itself as a US brand, so don’t expect menus, newspapers and TV channels in Hebrew.
The ordering system will be different from the Israeli one as well – your name will not be announced over the speaker when your order is ready, and the Israeli “What would you like to order?” will be replaced with “Welcome to Aroma”.

If you are in Manhattan and want a taste of Aroma’s traditional sandwiches or just an Aroma coffee that is warm (not piping hot) served with a complimentary chocolate, visit Aroma's SoHo branch.
It's not kosher, but its made-to-order low fat salads, soups and muesli, can be enjoyed 24/7.

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