Java Savvy

According to the Coffee Association of Canada, coffee is the most commonly consumed beverage among Canadians. In fact, in 2017, 71% of Canadians, aged 18 to 79, consumed more coffee than tap and bottled water, tea, alcohol, milk beverages, juice, pop and other drinks. That’s a lot of joe!

Despite the number of coffee shops – both chains and independents – full-serve restaurants can certainly get a big piece of the coffee consumption dollar with a little bit of java savvy.

To be clear, we’re not talking necessarily about lattes and espressos. If your establishment is mainly focused on food and your coffee comes from a brewing machine in a regular pot it’s still a great opportunity to tap into this lucrative niche and up your coffee game. Here are some ideas to keep the pots flowing and your bottom line growing:

Don’t cheap out

“For fractions of a penny per cup you can have a great tasting cup of coffee as opposed to something inferior,” says Alan Grabinski, Director of Sales, Foodservice, for Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee Inc.

Coffee drinkers are discerning and most look for a smooth cup with great flavour. You might even go so far as to say that, when it comes to breakfast and brunch menus, a low-quality acidic cup of coffee could impact a customer’s decision about whether to choose your restaurant over your competition. So, while it seems appealing to choose a lower-priced coffee, that may not actually be the best option.

Grabinski points out that while the price may be $20 more per case, when you break it down, “it’s fractions of a penny per cup.” That small price difference could mean a big difference in taste.

Promote the right taste profile for your diners

Speaking of taste, Grabinski points out that 75% of the market in Canada today prefers light to medium roast coffee. For the average, independent restaurant you can only serve one taste profile so it should be one that appeals to the largest percentage of the market. For that reason, he advises, “Don’t let the chef or owner’s own taste profile or preference be the final determining factor” when choosing the coffee you’re serving your customer “because if you’re somebody that loves dark roast and says ‘that’s what I want to serve,’ you’re only appealing to a small portion of the market.” 

Don't be afraid to compete with local roasters

“That's something we do all the time,” says Grabinski about Mother Parker’s, a privately-held, family owned business manufacturing and selling coffee, tea and some related beverages, with the bulk of their business in the foodservice industry. 

The best way for operators to compete with local roasters is by offering consistent quality, service and your restaurant’s great reputation. You've already got name recognition.

To pod or not to pod

Interested in competing with the local coffee shops with their espresso and latte combinations? You might want to consider a pod or capsule machine. These sleek, compact coffeemakers have become a regular sight at even some of the finest Michelin-starred restaurants. They're easy to clean and versatile, plus they are a fraction of the cost of fine espresso machines, which can run in the tens of thousands - not only for the equipment but also the staff training (think baristas) and maintenance.

Top tips to up your java savvy

Equipment service, maintenance and cleaning

A properly working coffee brewer that provides the right level of water to coffee ratio means a consistent cuppa with the right taste profile:

  • Check your machine daily to make sure it’s brewing a full pot – not too little or overflowing. 
  • Make sure your brewing temperature isn’t too hot or cold. Correct brewing temperature means the perfect extraction
    of flavours.
  • Wipe the spray head daily with a wet cloth to ensure it’s not getting clogged and no grains are getting into the filter.

Upselling coffee

Customers are there already. Don’t let the opportunity slip away. 

To your diners

  • “Would you like coffee or tea?” Reminding customers can be enough to prompt a coffee or tea sale. Upselling your coffee course is also a great way to upsell dessert with beverage for as much as a 20% lift in the dining tab.
  • Run a promotion like coffee with dessert specials.
  • Have takeout cups and offer coffee to go. Here's an added opportunity to brand your establishment and build good will.

To your waitstaff

  • Train your waitstaff not to think of themselves just as order takers. They can be your greatest ambassadors in promoting every course of the menu, but they need to be trained to be top salespeople.
  • Consider holding competitions for the server who upsells the most coffees and desserts in a week.
    The server who upsells the most gets a free meal or some other suitable incentive.
  • Make sure servers don't just offer beverages. They should be romancing the entire after-dinner menu, from coffees and desserts to after-dinner drinks.
  • Train waitstaff to use suggestive language to upsell coffees and desserts. Instead of "anyone for coffee or tea," consider "you really should try our special dessert of the day, and we've just put on a fresh pot of coffee."
  • With this type of java savvy, you're bound to keep your diners in their seats instead of heading to the local coffee shop.