Founded in London, England, by Italian brothers Sergio and Bruno Costa in 1971, Costa Coffee is the United Kingdom’s favorite coffee shop, having been awarded “Best Branded Coffee Shop Chain in the U.K. and Ireland” by Allegra Strategies for five years running. With more than 1,999 coffee shops in the U.K. and more than 1,168 shops in 29 overseas markets, Costa has diversified into both the at-home and gourmet self-serve markets. There are now more than 4,275 Costa Express self-serve machines. Costa is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Whitbread, the U.K.’s largest hotel and coffee shop operator.

Keeping back office operations running smoothly

Coffee is big business: there are 1.7 billion cups of coffee sold each year in the U.K., according to consultancy Allegra Strategies. Costa Coffee is the largest coffee shop chain in the U.K. and the second largest in the world. Not content to rest on its laurels, the company continues to grow at a brisk pace and expects to soon surpass 2,000 shops in the U.K. alone.

Behind the scenes of that impressive growth is the busy back office operations of Costa Coffee. Keeping operations at the head office running smoothly requires high availability and performance of Costa Coffee’s enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and other critical business systems. Keith Patterson, IT operations manager at Costa Coffee, and his team of seven analysts are responsible for all of Costa Coffee’s head office IT operations, service delivery, change management, and release management. Keith’s group also oversees the operations of the company’s corporate website.

With service level agreements to fulfill, Keith’s team needed deeper, more detailed performance data on the business systems it supports. “We couldn’t measure and track how our infrastructure was working other than whether or not we had any outages or major incidents over the past month,” says Keith. “If an application was using a lot of CPU, our infrastructure team didn’t have the data to understand what was causing it. We couldn’t see spikes in processing times or bottlenecks in the system.”

Taking a proactive approach to performance with New Relic

To gain the insight it needed, Costa Coffee turned to New Relic Browser, New Relic APM, New Relic Insights, and New Relic Synthetics for detailed data and analysis on application performance and user experience for its critical business systems. “New Relic is very straightforward to use,” says Keith. “With the SaaS model, it lets us export and interrogate large volumes of data without performance overhead on the servers we’re monitoring.”

With New Relic, Keith’s team now has the data that can allow it to be proactive in looking for potential performance issues and mitigating them before they impact the user experience. “With New Relic, I can see which areas of a system are working harder than others,” says Keith. “For example, if I have a group of users who are all posting journal entries into the ERP, New Relic shows me when there’s contention or table locking in those areas.” The IT operations team can then work with developers or software partners to focus on those areas to alleviate performance issues.

Keith also appreciates the insight into performance and usage of the Costa Coffee corporate website. “With New Relic Browser, we can see who is using the site, which areas they are using, what kind of experience they are getting, which browser they are using, page load times, throughput, and more,” says Keith. “It’s a real eye opener.” One of the ways Costa Coffee is using the data is to provide developers with information on website performance by browser, so that the code can be optimized to provide a consistently good experience regardless of the browser being used.

“With New Relic, I can report accurately on performance and availability with metrics that show our adherence to service level agreements. Plus, with the insight we get, we can be a lot more proactive in our approach to resolving issues before they can negatively impact performance.”

Keith Patterson IT Operations Manager, Costa Coffee

Using actionable insight to support company growth

When asked about the benefits of New Relic for Costa Coffee, Keith cites the greater confidence that he has that important business systems are performing well and the ability for his team to be far more proactive. “With New Relic, I can report accurately on performance and availability with metrics that show our adherence to service level agreements,” says Keith. “Plus, with the insight we get, we can be a lot more proactive in our approach to resolving issues before they can negatively impact performance.”

In fact, Keith plans to make real-time performance data available to the users of the company’s business systems. “We want to show New Relic dashboards on a plasma screen in the office,” says Keith. “Users will gain more visibility into how the applications they use are performing and we can take advantage of the opportunity to increase our interaction with them.”

As Costa Coffee continues with its expansion plans both in the U.K. and abroad, Keith sees software analysis taking an even more important role in the future. “With New Relic, we have the historical performance data we need to proactively and accurately plan for growth,” says Keith. “Whatever the business serves up, we’ll be ready to support.”