Rituals: Your Third Place Image

by Tanaka Roberts

Nicknamed the "Starbucks of the Caribbean", Rituals is now a widespread coffeehouse chain throughout the major islands in region. To date they have approximately 55 locations where they started in Trinidad alone and at least 2 in other Caribbean islands such as Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Kitts and Grenada, with plans of expanding to Guyana and Curacao among others. Of course, as one of the most eminent islands within the hemisphere- Jamaica could not be left out. The island's two cities namely, Kingston and Montego Bay, both house a Rituals franchise. To our delight, the busy Operations Manager, Samantha Phillipson briefly hosted us at the Kingston branch for a chat about the impressive coffee shop.

Conveniently situated within the Village Plaza off Constant Spring Road, Rituals is a homely retreat in the bustling commercial district of the city. "What's better than a place that has pedestrian traffic [and] vehicular traffic, where everybody can pass through?" the manager asked wittingly. She conveyed that a lot of businesses in Jamaica tend to deliberately seclude their establishments in such a way that only certain persons can access their services. Rituals however has no such intentions, "t." Alluding to their desire to tap into every possible sector of the market she continued, "You don't want to go on the top of whatever hill because that's uptown, you're isolating yourself. This is something that is accessible to everybody."

For shoppers Rituals' location is an oasis amidst the rush of back to school shopping, Fashion's Night Out, Christmas holidays and weekends in general- for Phillipson, she says it's a blessing.

Although the space is relatively small, it is exactly that which gives the shop its quintessential intimacy and inviting appeal that a coffee shop should embody. Phillipson expressed that, "The one word I have repeatedly used for Rituals is warmth. Between the colours and how the walls actually make you feel because it's just wood and everything, there is a warmth to it." Rightly so, the decor fosters an aura that makes each customer feel right at home, complemented by the alluring aroma of coffee that scents the shop.

Naturally we had to get some feedback as to how she felt about being the manager of an arm of business that is so often compared to the renowned Starbucks entity. Unmistakably contended, she proclaimed, "Great! Starbucks is such a wonderful company and they are trying to do so much for the American economy right now so they have a great reputation. There is nothing tarnished about it, so if they want to liken us to that, then that's great."

Rituals, like Starbucks, is a channel through which local economical growth can be garnered. "Of all the islands in the Caribbean, which is the island with the coffee?" she knowingly asked. "Globally our coffee is known so ideally it would be fantastic and it would be my personal hope if every single Rituals got their coffee from Jamaica," she continued.
Phillipson addresses the fact although Jamaica is so well known for the coffee produced here and its huge amount of coffee connoisseurs, the local market is not known to be drinkers of coffee. Rituals has however represents a flag ship to showcase that there are many ways that we can enjoy Jamaican coffee, especially "at home".

Incidentally, what parallels the two companies most is their extensive menu of coffee beverages. Phillpson explained that, "the beverages on the menu run a gamut of all kinds of coffee beverages, which is a huge introduction into the Jamaican market." The most popular item on the menu among their customers for example is the Frappe beverage called 'The Chiller.' Equivalent to the well-known Frappaccino from Starbucks, Chillers are available in an impressive 28 different flavours. In addition, this signature drink is blended creamy smooth and depending on the preference of the customer may be had with or without coffee, fat free or condensed milk or whichever way requested.

This Phillipson says is what her franchise is very proud of. They are constantly modifying the menu to facilitate every person that walk through Rituals' door. "What I am really proud of with Rituals is that we have made the consideration towards diet, health, specific needs regarding allergies and that we are willing to listen to needs....we are always adapting and evolving.....we have been asked for different things like sugar free, lactose free, glutton free and all other kinds of things," she explained.

In consideration also of the local consumption trends, Rituals has offered several items on the menu that are unlikely to be found on those of franchises in other Caribbean islands. This includes the national dish, ackee and saltfish which is available akin to the coffeehouse menu, so customers can have it with a bagel, in a wrap or the signature "Flatini". There is also smoked marlin or smoked salmon as well as plantain tarts as it relates to pastries. All of these are an addition to the extensive menu which includes but is not limited to; salads, lasagne, croissants, and an array of pastries and beverages. It is no wonder that persons who are not avid drinkers of coffee find themselves seated in Rituals- there is simply something for everyone.

Phillipson made reference to the "Third Place" Mentality purported by Ray Oldenburg which is a concept that states that people seek out a place, next to home and work, to socialize and mingle. Like Starbucks, Rituals has employed this concept as their main marketing strategy. She explained that "there is always something in a coffeehouse that you can have every day, even twice a day and it becomes almost like an addiction but a comfort zone- that place where you are comfortable to sit and chat." I slightly interrupted with, "It becomes your ritual". With a laugh she continued, "I'm glad you said it and not me, because it would have sounded really corny coming from my mouth, but it becomes your ritual and that's truly it."

For those who have made Rituals their "third-place" they go not without being rewarded. Along with free Wi-Fi services, Rituals customers are offered running specials like membership cards which afford a customer a free Chiller after buying 9 Chillers. They can also get 10% discount if they take their own cup or make two separate purchases on different occasions in the same day.

After two year in business, Phillipson is quite pleased with the response that Rituals has received in Jamaica. Their constant effort to cater to the needs of their customers, modifying and creating an atmosphere that seeks to accommodate everyone has gone over well with their clientele. From a pleasant staff to a cosy environment, and an even more compatible menu, it is easy to see how a first encounter can segue into the realization of the coffeehouse's name sake. In her closing remarks Phillipson shared that there are even more plans of expanding their services, "we will look forward to bringing events to the coffee house....poetry nights, reading exerts from plays- things like that...we hope to be doing that at least once a month so those are also the things you could look forward to."
Image To contort oneself into the prescribed of mediocre minds - contradicts character.
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