What makes a cafe independent?

Tesco have apparently been criticised for setting up cafe shops that look independent even though they are 49% funded by the ginormous billions-in-profit-making multinational. I find this very bizarre. I would instead criticise the Harris & Hoole brand for thinking it was acceptable to present their cafe chain as an independent one.

Nick Tolley, the chief executive of the cafe chain said to the Guardian that Harris + Hoole was “trying to create a shop that’s local to the community”. He said localism was so important that one of store managers’ key performance indicators used to determine the level of bonus payments would be based on the “extent to which they are part of the community”.

He said: “The intention is to have the values of an independent, and behave like an independent.”

Apart from his serious lack of understanding that “independent” meant independent from multinationals such as Tesco, he also seems to not understand localism. Benefiting the local community means keeping the money within the location. This is a point Chris Mundy, co-founder of the Bristol Pound, made to the AFP: “Eighty percent of the money leaves the area if it is spent with a multinational – but 80pc stays if it is spent at a local trader”.

The look and feel of an independent cafe is not the only thing that determines where people enjoy their coffee. As consumers, the money spent at cafes is an important social and economic tool. If I think that I am benefiting a local outfit who are sending their children to school in the area and buying their groceries at the local market, I am being cheated if instead my money goes towards buying the CEO a new island or a Rolls Royce.

Branding as an independent when you receive your funding and pass on your profit to a multinational is fraud no matter how you look at it.

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