Choice can heat up sales

Operators should ensure offer taps in to current trends

Barista pouring coffee
Training a team in preparing quality hot beverages can pay dividends, suppliers say.

MUCH like every other drinks category, hot beverages are all about choice and quality.

In fact, if operators really want to maximise sales and profits from the category – not to mention enhance the reputation of their venue – offering options beyond basic tea and coffee is essential.

According to suppliers and equipment firms, broader food and drinks trends have impacted on the hot beverages category – causing everything from iced coffee to herbal and green teas to different types of milk to be in demand.

Stuart Holmes, managing director of illycaffè UK, said it is “essential” for hospitality venues to offer variety – from a classic Italian espresso to products that tap into trends and growing areas of consumer interest, such as health and wellness.

“One area that we are seeing significant growth in consumer interest and innovation is cold brew,” he said.

“One of our newest products is illy Cold Brew, a 100% Arabica coffee cold brewed for 12 hours, which is naturally sweet, thirst-quenching and offers a uniquely refreshing taste.

“Overall, in the category, milk-based drinks still significantly outnumber black/coffee espresso-based sales so it’s important for hospitality businesses to offer a range of dairy alternatives.”

The importance of offering choice and quality when it comes to hot beverages was underlined by Paula Jones, managing director of Alba Beverage Company – the official foodservice distributor of Lavazza coffee in Scotland, who said it is now “expected in hospitality venues”.

“This has become more achievable with new technology from coffee machines to adjust bean strength or amount of milk foam,” said Jones.

“Quality training is crucial as staff are the first point of contact for customers.

“Coffee preparation remains a highly skilled profession and consumers’ expectation for this expertise continues to grow for baristas with traditional espresso machines.

“Operators can benefit by collaborating with their hot drinks supplier to enable them to work with the trends and tastes of their client base, thereby customising and marketing their offer on their menus. Tailored coffee cocktails, syrups and latte art can add the wow factor and promote hot beverage sales.”

Lynsey Harley, founder of Modern Standard Coffee, echoed the importance of promoting a venue’s coffee credentials.

“Selling is all about marketing, so write the story of your coffee, what blend you are serving, the tasting notes, and ensure your staff are skilled and confident, all these things can be achieved by working with your coffee supplier as it’s in everyone’s interests for locations to be serving lots of great tasting coffee,” said Harley.

Mark Wilson, founder of commercial coffee roaster and blender Blendly, said the popularity of coffee – particularly artisan blends – is growing.

“Another big Blendly notion is that we all like to make things personal to ourselves so for a hotel or restaurant to have its own unique blend makes customers more interested in that blend and how they came to make it – it adds to their provenance of ingredients as all the beans are sustainably sourced and you can choose your level of roast, etc,” he said.

The importance of quality, choice and tailored options was underlined by Mike Hardman, marketing manager at Alliance Online, who said customers are “more discerning than ever before”.

“Choice and personalised experiences are major food and drink trends at the moment and are even changing consumer expectations of the hospitality industry, so your hot beverage menu should be customisable to cater to all kinds of tastes, preferences, and dietary requirements,” he said.

“Have plenty of options for vegan milks and syrups, including nut and soya-free options for allergy sufferers. In addition to providing a variety of black, herbal and fruit teas, you should consider having a few different roasts to choose from to give coffee drinkers more autonomy too.

“Your coffee-making equipment should be able to handle a wide range of different drink orders by achieving different temperatures, providing both steamed and frothed milk, and so on.

“Generally, the more it can do, the more you’ll get out of it for your customers.

“The most important thing you can do is be realistic. If you simply don’t have the space, staff or footfall to justify an expensive or fancy machine, it could be better for your business to stick to pods or filter coffee and do those well.”