The Courier Mail – April 22, 2024.

New report casts doubt on future of Queensland cafes

Queensland’s coffee culture has given rise to a record number of cafes according to a new report, but there is a downside.

Jeremy Pierce Tourism reporter.
Coffee king Phillip Di Bella
Coffee king, Phillip Di Bella

Queensland is headed for a post-pandemic cafe crisis, amid dire predictions that hundreds of outlets will go broke in the years ahead.

A report on the state of the Australian hospitality sector commissioned by the Coffee Commune has warned the number of customers is not keeping pace with the number of cafes, which has exploded since Covid-19.

While many businesses were forced to close their doors or shut down for good during the pandemic, there are about 3500 more cafes in Australia now than in 2019, with Queensland experiencing a surge in numbers from about 4700 pre-Covid-19 to more than 5000 now.

The sector directly employs about 15,500 people in Queensland, but many of those jobs are under threat with too many cafes now competing for customers.

Coffee Commune founder Phillip Di Bella said that was not sustainable, and something had to give.

Phillip Di Bella and Hiro Sasaki raise a cuppa at the Coffee Commune.
Phillip Di Bella and Hiro Sasaki raise a cuppa at the Coffee Commune.

“We’re going to see a lot of closures unfortunately as demand just hasn’t gone up with supply,” he said.

“There are so many cafes and coffee outlets now – even your local barber or hairdresser doubles as a cafe.”

Mr Di Bella, also founder of the Di Bella coffee empire which supplies to retailers across the country and overseas, said governments should take a leaf out of the book of authorities in his native Sicily, where new cafes were only given licenses in areas where existing cafes were already thriving.

“You don’t see cafes start up on a street where there are already five competitors all doing it tough,” he said.

“It regulates the market and it’s something governments and councils here need to really look at because we don’t want to see people hocking their homes and belongings on a business that is going to fail in 12 months.”

His comments were backed by Zarraffa’s founder Kenton Campbell, who said the closure of cafes and other coffee operators was always going to happen here at some point.

Zarraffa's boss Kenton Campbell has already moved towards a focus on drive thru outlets. Picture: Adam Head

Zarraffa’s boss Kenton Campbell has already moved towards a focus on drive thru outlets. Picture: Adam Head

“I believe this has been a long time coming and is something that happened in the USA in the early 2000s where they experienced high market saturation in this space,” he said.

“Regardless of how well you operate, there are only so many customers and the current economy and rising costs are bringing this reality closer, it’s hard and it’s not for everyone.

“If it’s going that way, then I for one will be sad to see the loss of cafe diversity as we’re known worldwide for our specialty coffee and cafe scene.”

Zarraffa’s has already been hit by the customer crunch, opting to close more than 20 outlets across the country since 2020, with a new focus on drive-through business rather than shopping centre stores with high rents and rigid operating hours.

However, Mr Campbell said there was still a place for more traditional cafes.

“Our business is in drive-throughs now, and while Zarraffa’s might not be in the shopping centres I still believe we need the centres and their cafe offerings which are necessary for the industry and customer experience,” he said.




Being partnered with the Coffee Commune was a logical extension of our business. It is a great opportunity to showcase our equipment range, however, we also see the immense value to the industry of being part of the Coffee Commune’s exceptional training facilities
Fabio Cordovado Director CWE
Labour laws are more and more complex and hard to understand; Through our membership with Coffee Commune, we have constant access to a HR/IR hotline. Quick and Easy.
Phil Johnson Founder and owner Chef
Ecco Bistro
Coffee Commune’s advice, support, and network, helped reduce the red tape, gave us direction, and saved us valuable time.
Sarah Buiso Restaurant Owner of Da Buiso
…if our clients grow, we grow. The Coffee Commune has been invaluable in helping us spread that message.
Vince Monardo Naked Syrups
We are passionate about collaborating with the coffee community to make a real difference for business owners. We look forward to continuing to work with The Coffee Commune.
Matt Allington Partner, Business Services
BDO (Australia)
…we’re passionate about helping businesses identify the things they can be doing to maximise performance.
Alessandro Calabrisello General Manager
Sanremo Coffee Machines Australia