Second Cup launches new-look cafe as former Cdn market leader seeks recovery

TORONTO – The Second Cup has unveiled a new-format store that includes a redesigned circular “slow bar” where patrons can plug in their personal electronics while they sit and watch servers work an array of high-end brewing machines.

The new store at King and John Streets — in Toronto’s theatre district — is part of the specialty coffee chain’s attempt to inject new life into a Canadian brand that has languished in recent years.

Among other things, the new-look Second Cup cafe has a Steampunk coffee and tea brewing system that the company describes as “true theatre in motion.”

It has also collaborated with Canadian artists to design special paper cups: “Optimism” by Matt Andres of British Columbia, “Creativity” from Adrian Forrow of Ontario and “Collaboration” by Zela Lobb from Quebec.

The Mississauga-based franchise company (TSX:SCU) has been working for months to recover its position in the Canadian market, hiring Alix Box — who has held senior positions at Holt Renfrew and Starbucks — as its chief executive in February.

“This café is an important step in our revolution and reflects our passion for coffee in creative and collaborative ways,” Box says.

“For me, the Steampunk embodies our new essence because it is a high-end artful machine that is famous with coffee connoisseurs and trendsetters around the world.”

To fund its growth initiatives, Second Cup recently issued 2.9 million common shares at $2.75 each, for gross proceeds of about $8 million including overallotment options.

Second Cup has been faced with increased competition in recent years from both high-end coffee retailers such as Starbucks and major restaurant chains such as Tim Hortons (TSX:THI) and McDonald’s.

In the third quarter, it reported a $26.2 million loss — mostly due to a writedown of its trademarks’ value. Second Cup previously suspended dividend payments to shareholders and reduced its management structure.