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Aroma in New York by: Yaniv Halili,


“Welcome to Aroma. Would you like to order the ‘Grilled Vegetable Mediterranean’ Sandwich or would you prefer the local ‘Treat Bureka’? ”

These will be, more or less, the greeting words you will hear the next time you visit New York and are looking for something to eat that reminds you of home. Nonetheless, you will have to brush up on your English. Not only has the coffee shop chain changed part of its menu to make it agreeable to American taste buds, but it has also joined the politically correct parade when it comes to sandwich names. You’ll no longer find an Iraqi sandwich, but rather a grilled vegetable Mediterranean one.

The first branch of the Aroma chain outside Israel will open at the posh Soho area, on Houston Street, which is considered to be one of the most central and busiest streets in Manhattan. Last week, Hanoch Milevitski, manager of the New York branch, was still standing over a puddle of white paint that covered the floor, as he commanded the construction work at the huge coffee shop, which will extend over an area of 650 squared meters.

Within four years, the owners of Aroma hope to repeat its Israeli success, and dot the map of the US with dozens of coffee shops, to operate by franchise. In order to alleviate the bureaucratic procedures, Aroma – USA, controlled by Yariv Shefa, was established as a subsidiary of Aroma – Israel. In two-month time another branch will open in Toronto, Canada, and during the following year branches are expected to open also in California and Florida.

For the past four years, the owners of Aroma have conducted market research, taste tests and financial research to try and predict the chain’s integration in the American market and get it running with minimal mistakes. Ernst & Young was hired for the mission and began developing a strategy for local activity.

“We have examined not only the American coffee market, but also the drinking habits of the average American and the changes that have taken place in the consumption habits since Starbucks became the leading chain in the market,” says Milevitski. “We discovered that whereas once the average American was willing to pay a buck for a coffee cup, today he does not hesitate to spend four dollars on a cup of coffee, after Starbucks has educated him to do so.”

Mentioning Starbucks in one breadth with Aroma is not a new thing for the managers of the chain. Even before the first cappuccino was made with foam at the branch, there is talk in Aroma about the desire to grow, develop and give an appropriate answer to the huge Starbucks chain. The goal is to open 40 branches that will join the 72 Israeli branches in a few years.

The huge financial investment may turn the coffee shop tables around, should the American Aroma turn out to be a failure. The total investment in opening the first branch amounts to $1.6 million. The coveted location had its price, and the partners paid yearly rental fees of $300,000 for the flagship shop.

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