AS operators strive to introduce as many income streams as possible amid tough trading conditions, hot beverages are seen as an attractive option by many.
The equipment can fit on or behind the bar, most suppliers offer staff training in how to operate the machine, and there are attractive margins to be made.
But with growing competition from high street coffee chains, getting the quality right is crucial if operators are to reap the benefits. Suppliers contacted by SLTN said the high standard of coffee served in many of the branded coffee shops means licensees need to up their game if they want to attract consumers into their bar.
“Pubs are increasingly doing breakfast deals and they have great premises, generally a lot better than coffee shops, so really it’s crazy not to have a good coffee machine,” said Sandro Formisano of catering equipment supplier New Concept.
“But if they [consumers] have a bad coffee they won’t come back so it’s actually better not to do coffee at all if you aren’t going to focus on quality.”
Chris York, sales director at Marco Beverage Systems UK, said operators can make greater margins on quality coffee than on beer, wine and spirits – but only if the offer and service are right.
“The standard of coffee served on the high street has improved dramatically in recent years, driven in the main by the major coffee shop chains,” he said.
“It is important that bars serving coffee and tea maintain those standards or risk disappointing their customers, who, by now, expect better.
“Inevitably that means investing in equipment and staff training.”
But before operators rush out and buy a coffee machine, there are a number of important factors to consider.
Is it best to buy new or second equipment? Can machines be leased? Is there enough space behind the bar for the machine? How much coffee does the bar expect to sell?
David Lawlor of Watermark, which markets Gaggia commercial coffee machines in the UK, said buying second-hand equipment can be a “lottery”.
“With second-hand, the operator pays less for the coffee machine on day one, but pays the service guy a lot more over the next few years,” he said.
“With the Gaggia LC/D the operator pays a little more on day one but much less in terms of servicing and repair, and has a machine that will last ten years or more.”
Shad Williams, of catering equipment supplier Alliance Online, said the style of coffee machine is another important consideration for operators.
“More traditional hot beverage machines are a great option for those looking to create the ‘wow’ factor,” said Shad.
“Such machines not only look attractive, the theatre of a barista-prepared hot beverage adds to the overall consumer experience and perception of quality.
“With such models it’s essential to invest in barista training to ensure coffees are consistently of a high standard – after all, the coffee market is extremely competitive and one poor beverage can send consumers elsewhere.”