Waitrose scraps tea and coffee free-for-all

Shoppers told they will have to buy something first

Updated: 
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Waitrose is scrapping a tea and coffee free-for-all which allowed members of its loyalty card scheme to enjoy a hot drink for nothing in its cafes even if they had bought nothing else.

The upmarket store says it is not a cost-saving exercise and it is merely reminding its myWaitrose card holders of the "etiquette" involved in its offer.

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Members of the scheme have been emailed to say that from February 9 that if they wish to enjoy a free tea or coffee in one of its cafes they must also purchase a "treat" such as "a sandwich, cake, biscuit or piece of fruit".

"This change will enable us to continue to offer our customers the enjoyable service they expect," the email said.

The change will not affect customers wanting to take away a hot drink from the cafes, or from other stores. It has already been trialled in some locations.

A spokeswoman said: "Most people understand that if they want to sit in the cafe and enjoy their hot drink they buy something to go with it."

The change is designed to be fair to those who might be coming in to the cafes to buy a meal or a snack - only to find their place may have been taken by a customer who was not paying.

But the spokeswoman brushed off the suggestion that the change was in response to reports that Waitrose was facing a middle-class backlash from customers upset that the stores were being invaded by less well-off shoppers.

It comes a day after the firm said it was to create 2,000 jobs this year amid plans to open seven new supermarkets and seven convenience stores from spring this year, on top of two already opened this month.

Waitrose has 336 shops in England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands including 60 convenience branches and another 29 at Welcome Break locations.

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