Costa Coffee has been voted the best coffee chain by customers who rate its friendly staff and tidy stores more highly than its main rivals.

Costa beat Caffe Nero into second place and Starbucks and Coffee Republic, in third and fourth respectively, to the title, as a result of consultancy firm him!’s Coffee Chain Customer Tracking Programme. This asks customers to rate their experience after visiting a particular branch on topics such as quality of drinks, choice of food, time spent queuing, atmosphere and overall value for money.

Costa scored 9 out of 10 for friendliness of staff, and cleanliness of counter and tables, which helped it take the top spot from the previous year’s winner, Caffe Nero.

Will Vernon, Costa’s head of operational skills and brand standards, said he was delighted to have been voted best coffee chain of the year. “We pride ourselves on our customer service and the welcoming store experience we offer our customers.”

He said all Costa stores were accredited to strict brand standards and were frequently audited, focusing specifically on coffee excellence, cleanliness and store environment.

“Costa relaunched a new service excellence programme last year and had a big push specifically on speed of service so it is fantastic to receive this kind of recognition by our customers this year,” added Vernon.

him! aims to repeat the study in 2009, which aims to identify sales and profit opportunities for retailers and suppliers.