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Waitrose to bring back free hot drinks for loyalty card members in bid to lure customers back

Waitrose is to restore the free coffee offer it controversially removed from its loyalty card members, in an attempt to halt the supermarket’s waning fortunes as customers tighten their belts.

The chain halted the offer during the early months of the pandemic but, after a trial earlier this year, is restoring the benefit for its myWaitrose cardholders across its stores next month.

The John Lewis Partnership-owned supermarket is restoring the perk after last month reporting declining sales, with shoppers looking to cheaper rivals during the cost-of-living crisis.

Its free coffee deal has had a chequered history since its introduction in 2013, with Waitrose in 2015 forced to remind members who wanted to drink their hot drink in one of the cafes of the “etiquette” of buying a snack first.

Long queues eventually pushed the supermarket in 2017 to insist customers make a purchase to get a drink, after the offer gained widespread popularity among students and non-spending visitors.

Under the revived offer, MyWaitrose cardholders must make a purchase and bring their own cup to claim a maximum of one hot drink daily. Americanos, lattes (from “grass-fed” cows), cappuccinos or just a humble cup of tea will be available when the offer relaunches across Waitrose’s 331 UK shops (excluding garages and service stations) from 7 November.

Waitrose said its loyalty card-holders would now also be getting a better free coffee, upgrading to premium coffee beans as it announced a new partnership with Caffè Nero.

Charlotte Di Cello, the commercial director for Waitrose, said: “Our customers loved the myWaitrose free coffee offer, so we’re really excited to bring it back, with premium beans from the Nero Roasting Company.”

Will Stratton-Morris, chief executive of Caffè Nero UK, which has 650 stores, said it “feels like a natural collaboration”, with customers of each company getting mutual discounts and benefits.

Waitrose last month reported sales falling 5% year on year in the first half to £3.6bn, with operating profit down by more than £90m to £432m.

According to data from Kantar, shoppers have been moving in droves to discount supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi, with the latter now having almost double Waitrose’s market share in the UK.

The high-end supermarket axed another popular deal for loyalty card holders in February this year, a free newspaper with a £10 spend. A spokesperson said there were no plans to restore that offer.

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