Shokolodnitsa (Russian: Шоколадница) is Russia’s largest chain of coffee shops. It is a mainstay in Moscow, with locations in many other geographically diverse Russian cities, such as Saint Petersburg to the northwest, Irkutsk in the heart of Siberia, and Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.
Coffee shops are a booming industry in Russia. Although not usually associated with Russia as much as tea, the coffee industry has recently exploded. In 2016, for example, 519 coffee shops opened in Moscow versus 230 in 2006. An increasingly diverse range of chains and independent shops can be found in most major Russian cities.
Shokolodnitsa represents a higher end café niche, as far as chained cafes go. The customer experience in most Shokolodnitsas is said to be comparable to an Italian atmosphere, with a comfortable and laid-back interior. Additionally, it is very much a place to stay, eat, and visit, with drinks only composing 43% of its sales.
The first Shokolodnitsa was founded in Moscow in 1964. The Kolobov family were patrons there. After the fall of the USSR the family became restraunteers and eventually bought the premises of that first Shokolodnitsa, eventually turning it into today’s chain. Alexander Kolobov, the chain’s managing owner, says that he agonized over whether or not to change the name (translated as “Chocolate Girl”), but obviously it remained.
In 2000, the company began an effort to expand its operations and bring its experience more into line with other European cafes. One of the principles that Kolobov keeps in mind is that location is everything – although the chain is now ubiquitous in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
In 2014, its parent company, known as Gallery Alex, purchased fellow Russian café Kofe Khaus. At the time, Shokolodnitsa was Russia’s largest coffee chain and Kofe Khaus was in second place. Thus, Gallery Alex now towers over Russia’s coffee scene. The two restaurants, however, are still operated separately and under their own branding.
Shokolodnitsa’s reviews are decent, but some find it to be overpriced and wanting in quality and service. Either way, its prevalence makes it likely that one will find oneself there during a visit to Moscow.
A short video about Shokolodnitsa.