Started in 2007, by Sasini, this coffee chain had a refreshing new approach, at least as far as the Kenyan market was concerned. They were going to have the first Coffee Lounge. The competition they faced was from Dormans and Java. Dormans have a hybrid diner/”stall :)” model. Java have primarily focused on the diner model, with great success. They currently have four outlets (that I know of, feel free to correct):
- Savannah Loita Street
- Savannah Kenyatta Avenue
- Savanna Museum Hill
- Savannah Upperhill
Now, Savannah seem to be going through some “teething issues”, they may not have “found themselves” as it were. Why? They keep toying with different models of running their cafe’s. For example, their new outlet on Kenyatta Avenue is more of a diner than it is a lounge, they are focusing more on volumes, however, in Museum Hill, they have fully embraced the lounge model, along with the Loita Street outlet.
Apologies, I was too lazy to go take pictures of any Savannah (not been there in a while), so I only have the logo for now :(, will get more pictures when time allows.
Enough with the nonconstructive banter for the pro’s:
- Menu – They have a relatively good menu, with a wider variety of foods to serve. Their range of pastries is also quite impressive (I unfortunately quit taking sugar so I’m about as useful as a vegetarian lion is describing meats ), with a bunch of new pastries that were previously not available e.g. the white forest cake was previously not available in most coffee shops.
- Coffee – They do serve a good cup of mud. They have the advantage of having some of the best beans available in Kenya (in my opinion). However, their one issue is the choice of beans. (for me at least, this is an issue : ). They randomly oscillate between dark ground and medium ground beans for their espresso, which in my view is sacrilege :). You only have two options for espresso beans, dark roast and dark roast :). Their cappuccino’s are also quite good as they seem to have perfected their frothing/pouring process.
- Herbal Teas - In a weak moment (having felt sufficiently motivated to go ‘healthy’), I decided to try out their herbal teas. They are actually quite good. I particularly enjoyed their mint flavored tea. I hope never to get quoted on this :).
- Atmosphere – This is particularly for the Museum Hill Branch.One of the most relaxing views one can get in a coffee shop today. It is simply the best place within 2 km of the CBD where one can relax and get some work done over a cup of good coffee. For smokers there is the added advantage of a smoking zone.
Now for the con’s
- Service - Started out brilliant, however, in typical Kenyan service industry fashion, their service standards have been deteriorating with time. Staff are less willing to help etc.
- Furnishing – While the lounge concept was good it is more expensive to maintain. With time however, they have been unable to keep up the standards, and their couches (especially in the Loita Street Branch) need new upholstery… which leads to the next point
- Pricing – They were more expensive primarily because they offered the best experience, however, they are still more expensive while they let the experience drop :(, so it’s not really the first choice for coffee :(.
- Coffee Sales - One of the primary benefits of having a coffee shop is the opportunity to sell your beans and branded merchandise (mugs, French press’s, t-shirts etc). It is a big let down and huge oversight that after a lovely cup of coffee, I cannot buy the beans that the coffee came from, and I have to try and figure out which beans they used.
- Lack of knowledgeable staff – Their staff know little to nothing about the coffee they sell. Added to the above point on lack of coffee sales, makes appreciating coffee a hard task, as the staff members themselves have no clue as to which beans were used and you are left to your own intuition.
- Internet Access – they used to have butterfly access, but this is now intermittent. Anyone working has to find their own means of connection :(.
All in all Savannah makes for a good place to relax and have a slow meal, if you are not in a hurry. My favorite location has to be the Museum Hill branch. If they put some more effort into coffee appreciation and staff motivation, it may just be a hit.