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When the world’s largest coffee shop chain Starbucks announced its first cafe in Vietnam global and local players had already entered the market. These brands included the likes of Gloria Jean’s, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Highlands Coffee, Phuc Long, and Trung Nguyen.

Despite the presence of these brands, there was no trailblazer that could incentivize locals to consistently queue up to order a drink at a price point significantly higher than the country’s average daily fix. It’s only in recent times that we’ve seen the explosion of homegrown brands like Highlands Coffee and The Coffee House, as well as the rise of specialty coffee shops like [a] Coffee and The Workshop…and some newcomers like Cheese Coffee.

The Cheese Coffee entrance at their 190C Phan Van Tri, Binh Thanh District location.

Cheese Coffee is focused on building a powerful brand identity. One core component of this strategy has been to partner with Vietnam-based furniture company District Eight to produce a unique modern-industrial interior design. So, Vietcetera sat down with Cheese Coffee’s marketing manager Linh Tran to learn how this young coffee chain has been able to build a loyal design-conscious customer base, and why they chose District Eight to create their inspired interior design.

Cheese Coffee’s senior marketing manager, Linh Tran: “…building our brand indentity, we made a decision to collaborate with District Eight.”

What is the meaning behind the name “Cheese Coffee”?

Many customers ask if Cheese Coffee is named after a special beverage that combines cheese and coffee. We may introduce a blend of the two in the future. However, the name Cheese Coffee actually comes from the phrase “Say cheese!”—the widely used expression when people take photos. For us, it’s an expression used to remind our customers to enjoy their entire experience with us and cherish their wonderful Cheese Coffee memories.

How does your focus on catering to a younger demographic affect your approach to building your brand identity?

It’s a challenging mission for us to embrace the diversity of Vietnam’s younger generation. In general, I can confidently say they’re a creative and passionate group. We’re aiming to be the go-to spot for young creatives to come and connect with other like-minded individuals. We have been able to achieve that by elevating the customer experience, prioritizing location, and maintaining an atmosphere that promotes collaboration. Every time a seat is taken at our cafes, we’re confident that the customer has found a place that suits them. And we view a table with two people or more as the place where new relationships can grow or old relationships can deepen.

A space dedicated to Cheese Coffee’s younger demographic: “We’re aiming to be the go-to spot for young creatives to come and connect with other like-minded individuals.”

Can you describe the core concept of Cheese Coffee?

Our rustic yet bold concept is mostly inspired by a modern-industrial aesthetic. For us, that comprises of components like exposed brickwork, concrete floors, and visible pipes which hangs from our ceilings. The goal is to create a neutral space where everyone can feel welcome.

What initially prompted you to choose District Eight pieces for the interior design?

For the challenging task of building our brand identity, we made the decision to collaborate with District Eight. Based on their previous projects, we felt the brand was a strong partner to help us make our vision become a reality. To bring out a timeless feel from the modern-industrial design, we started with a minimalist concept focused around how we use our space. The concept has given us a sense of direction for all our locations—which you can see clearly at our Hong Bang location in District 5 as it has the most District Eight pieces.

District Eight’s Briggs and Kink chairs: “Every time a seat is taken at our cafes, we’re confident that the customer has found a place that suits them.”

Without District Eight’s vision and furniture pieces, we wouldn’t have been able to build the high-impact brand that we have today.

How do your customers react to the brand’s interior design? Which District Eight pieces would you consider highlights of the space?

The interior design is distinctive compared to other coffee shops in the market. It also should have a more premium feel. Some customers have even gone so far as to say that our spaces would be a hit in cities like Melbourne or San Francisco—places with strong coffee cultures regarded as having some of the world’s trendiest coffee shops. As for the furniture pieces, we prominently feature chairs from the Kink collection, Briggs school chairs, and Exeter tables. Each piece is raw and bold, helping to accentuate each space.

Handmade stools by Ho Chi Minh-based District Eight furniture: “Without District Eight’s vision and furniture pieces, we wouldn’t have been able to build the high-impact brand that we have today.”

What’s next for Cheese Coffee?

We’re on track to expand our network by launching 30 new cafes by the end of 2020. In order to keep up with the pace of rapid expansion, we’re also seeking new ways of building revenue. Right now we’re in the process revamping our menu in order to meet our the demands of our young, enthusiastic demographic.

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This post is also available in: Vietnamese