University of Hertfordshire

By the same authors

Traditional kopitiams or contemporary coffee shops? An exploration of coffee culture in a city-state, Singapore

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventJoint meeting of the Business History Conference and the European Business History Association - Miami, Miami, United States
Duration: 24 Jun 201527 Jun 2015


ConferenceJoint meeting of the Business History Conference and the European Business History Association
CountryUnited States


In Singapore, coffee has been a staple diet originating from her historical link to the Great British colony period. However, the demand for traditional coffee shops, also known as kopitiams, is declining partly due to the draw of the cool image projected by café culture created by big brand names such as Starbucks, or Costa. A few traditional kopitiams embraced this opportunity to revamp their shop image, and market their products based on their history and heritage, and the authenticity of coffee and snacks created in Singaporean style. The competition created by international and local coffee chains intensified the competition for independent kopitiams. This paper addresses the debate around the equality/inequality issue of business developments in the globalising world, by exploring the historical developments of a number of kopitiams that are well-known to Singaporeans. This study employs the literature of domestic and international expansion theory to frame the investigation. There are two methods of enquiry, the first is based on an initial review of companies’ websites, newspapers, trade journals, market research analysts’ reports and coffee associations’ newsletters to construct the current situation of coffee industry in Singapore. The second method involves interviewing the management of Ya Kun Kaya Toast (since 1944) and Killiney Kopitiam (since 1919), the two largest local coffee chains in Singapore which have expanded into China to the north and Australia to the south, to understand how their companies have adapted to change and competition. A number of independent kopitiams which have been operating since the 1950s will also be approached to elicit the reasons for them not taking the opportunity to develop into a chain business . The information gained from independent kopitiam owners and the local coffee chains are expected to further the knowledge of business history, and the equality/inequality issue evolving in the globalising world.

ID: 9297306