THE pint is undoubtedly a staple drink of the pub, but as the trade has changed over the years so has its customers, bringing about a demand for hot beverages that’s higher than ever.
That’s the position of a number of hot beverage suppliers, who have suggested that on-trade operators who are prepared to put in the work with their tea and coffee offers can reap rewards at the tills.
Andrew Jack, head of marketing at coffee roaster and hot beverage supply firm Matthew Algie, reckons the UK has turned into a “nation of coffee lovers” – presenting an opportunity for publicans to get in on the action.
“The ever-increasing popularity of coffee demonstrates an opportunity for the on-trade to drive sales and increase margins by providing a high quality coffee offering,” said Jack.
While a coffee before closing time may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Jack suggested a hot beverage offer could provide a welcome boost to sales earlier in the day.
“The morning is the highest consumption period for coffee and breakfast is the fastest growing out of home consumption occasion,” he said.
“This presents on-trade operators with an opportunity to capitalise on these two consumer trends by offering great quality coffee and breakfast meals in the morning.”
Consumers are demanding higher quality coffee.
Although hot beverages present an opportunity for the on-trade, it’s still down to publicans to nail the execution and Jack reckons customer expectations are high – putting quality at a premium.
“Consumers have become more discerning and are demanding higher quality coffee from the on-trade,” he said. “It is therefore important for operators to serve a good quality cup of coffee and present a menu which offers a range of hot drinks as consumers are looking for more variety and an added value experience – something they cannot get at home.
“Pub operators can take advantage of this trend by offering barista-made coffees, widening the choice of blends to suit different palates and serving speciality coffees with seasonal flavours.”
To meet expectations, the best approach for licensees may be to not go it alone and Jack suggested operators seek advice from their supplier when choosing equipment and stock.
Coffee is unquestionably in demand in the on-trade, but it’s not the only hot drink operators can use to drive up sales.
Jack said that after “many years of coffee domination”, tea is making a “return to the spotlight”.
This was echoed by Allan Pirret, sales director at Novus Tea, who said the “untapped tea market” creates a sales opportunity for publicans.
But to make the most of the opportunity publicans may need to go beyond a bag in a mug, said Pirret.
“The tea market is shifting in favour of premium teas, healthier green teas and herbal infusions,” said Pirret.
“Premium tea has an increasingly cool image, which is great news for the pub and bar sector.
“Young people aged 25 to 34 are the biggest users of whole leaf teas – this group is driving the fast-growing sector, which is set to double in size over the next ten years.”
If publicans want to make sure they’re getting all they can from their tea range, Pirret said their offer must be “on a par with the very best artisan coffee”, which means being willing to spend on stock and supplies.
“It’s important to choose a market-leading, premium brand capable of delivering the quality, taste and support their customers will demand,” he said.
“Many publicans are guilty of not investing sufficiently in their hot beverage equipment.
“When serving tea, it’s a good idea to present the teapot to your customers with a tea timer alongside – this ensures the tea is always brewed to perfection.”
Once publicans have a strong hot beverage offer in place, there’s still the matter of selling it.
In this area staff are key, according to Pirret, who suggested those behind the bar should aim to have a barista’s level of knowledge.
“To help you promote your hot beverages, you’ll need to make sure your staff are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about your tea range,” said Pirret. “In the same way as a barista would know their coffee, in order to effectively up-sell and premiumise your tea offering, your staff need to understand origin, appreciate the different tastes and value the correct serving methods.”