Good coffee can perk up pub profits

A focus on the fundamentals can lead to an inspired hot beverages offer

Concentrating on getting the basics of great-tasting coffee and hot drinks right can deliver increased revenue for pubs and bars, experts say

STRONG emphasis on the basics of making good tea and coffee can provide a lucrative income stream for pubs and bars.

That’s the message from producers and suppliers, who told SLTN that as the market for hot drinks continues to expand, licensees are well-placed to take a slice of the action. 

And key to capitalising on the thirst for tea and coffee is getting the basics right.

Marco Olmi, director of The Drury Tea & Coffee Company, said ensuring staff are equipped with the essentials for the most popular drinks, such as cappuccinos, lattes and Americanos, should be a licensee’s first thought.

“Firstly, make sure the range is comprehensive without being over-extensive,” he said. 

“Doing a compact range of hot drinks well is better than offering the full coffee shop menu badly.

“Secondly, ensure that your staff are adequately trained; if you have a lot of part-time or transient staff, make sure managers and assistant managers have enough skills to pass some knowledge on.”

While consumers have become much more knowledgeable about the origins and styles of the hot beverages they drink, it seems taste is still the top consideration.

“The most effective way to gain the best possible reputation and ensure repeat business is to serve a really good cup of coffee,” said Mark Veale, Santos coffee equipment brand manager for Nisbets.

Doing a compact range of hot drinks is better than offering the full coffee shop menu badly.

Neil Clark, co-founder of Hessian Coffee, agreed, saying that getting the fundamentals right should be the foremost goal for on-trade operators.

“Initially, it’s best to provide a limited range that you can prepare and serve really well,” he said.

“Once you’ve established your credentials with a ‘basic’ hot drinks menu, you can be a little more adventurous and extend your range with guest coffees and teas.”

The growing demand for quality coffee in pubs and bars has been well-documented, but some suppliers say many licensees have yet to fully realise its potential.

Findlay Leask, managing director of Aberdeen-based Caber Coffee, said “there’s never been a better time to add high quality hot drinks” to a pub’s offer.

“Margins on tea and coffee are huge in percentage terms,” he said.   

“Across all market sectors, we’re seeing an increase in enquiries from the licensed trade with more and more licensees being asked for alternatives to traditional non-alcoholic offers such as post-mix and juices.

“Devoting some counter space to a coffee machine could be an incredibly profitable idea.”

And as pub operators do invest in a hot beverages offer, Jenna Horsnell, UK marketing manager at Miko Coffee, which supplies coffee beans, espresso machines and training to the on-trade, said it “makes sound commercial sense” to create a business model to factor this in, “particularly when pubs have the traditionally quieter 9am to 12.30pm and 2.30pm to 5pm slots to fill”.

“A revenue stream which focuses on speciality coffee, the undoubtedly on-trend drink of the moment, is a sure-fire way to grow the customer base whilst boosting sales,” she said. “And, with typical profit margins from hot beverages running at 80-85%, a comprehensive offer should have great appeal to licensees.” 

While consumers are more knowledgeable about coffee, taste is still the top consideration.

The importance of training was supported, on the operator side, by David Bryce Howie, bar training manager for bars group Buzzworks Holdings.

He said barista training is standard as part of the induction programme for new staff at the company’s venues.

“Matthew Algie, our coffee partner, help us with this by allowing us to send baristas to their training academy to learn and master skills from some of the best in the country,” said Bryce Howie.

“Back at Buzzworks they can then pass on their newly developed skills and knowledge which results in a highly skilled barista team throughout the company.”

Operators looking to develop their hot beverage offer might also consider selling hot drinks in takeaway cups, according to Clare Moulson, marketing executive at Huhtamaki UK, who said sales of takeaway hot drinks “continue to accelerate”.

“Almost a quarter of consumers buy takeaway hot drinks two to three times a week or more,” she said.

“For a pub or bar, adopting the trends of the high street when it comes to takeaway drinks will inevitably lead to an increase in sales.”

Alongside coffee, operators have been urged not to forget about the importance of premium teas and hot chocolates.

Sales director of Novus Tea, Alan Pirret, said the market for leaf teas is booming.

“Premium tea sales are set to double over the next ten years (according to Mintel) and sales of healthier green and herbal teas have already doubled in the past two years,” he said.

“Leaf teas create a premium tea experience, transforming volumes. For the licensed trade, this can be helpful in producing revenue.”

And Scott Duncan, catering equipment firm Carpigiani UK’s sales director, said hot chocolate shouldn’t be overlooked as it appeals to a broad age range of customers.

“Even the strictest customer looks to indulge occasionally,” he said. 

“As a favourite with all ages, warm hot chocolate drinks with a difference will prove a popular choice.”