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Perk up your profits by adding signature coffees, cappuccinos and espressos to your menu

Thanks to new blends and equipment innovations, it’s easier than ever to offer a creative and profitable coffee menu.



Innovations in coffee blends, flavors and equipment are keeping up with the demands from today’s coffee-crazed consumers.

 

According to market research by the National Coffee Association, coffee consumption jumped by five percentage points in 2013, with 83% of the U.S. adult population now drinking coffee. The report, NCA National Coffee Drinking Trends, also noted that daily consumption remained strong and steady at 63%, while those who drink coffee at least once per week was up slightly, to 75%.

Pizzerias need to take advantage of the coffee craze as more Americans look to score a high-quality cup of joe, not to mention more elaborate java-based beverages. Today’s consumers are now accustomed to ordering everything from cappuccinos and espressos to lattes and frappés at upscale coffee shops. Even McDonald’s jumped on the bandwagon, launching its McCafé menu back in 2009. And thanks to myriad new blends and equipment innovations, it’s easier than ever to offer a creative, well-thought-out coffee menu and set yourself apart from competitors while reaping impressive profit margins.

Manufacturers are seeking the freshest coffee possible and discovering new coffee territories for improved flavors.

“At the end of the day, coffee is extremely profitable; the cost of a cup can be about 10% to 15% of your sales price.”
—Steven Sutton, Devocion Coffee

 

The Java Jolt

Some pizzeria owners may overlook coffee as a potential revenue stream—or, worse, treat their coffee as an afterthought—but experts insist that pizza and coffee drinks make a natural pair. After all, in Italy, the birthplace of pizza, post-meal cappuccinos and espressos are often part of the dining experience. “Coffee and pizza go extremely well together,” says Steven Sutton, New York-based founder and CEO of Devocion Coffee. “When you offer a great cup of joe with flavors that pair well with your pizza and use quality coffee—even if it’s at a higher cost than what you’re used to—the profit margin is extremely high. You’ll get a return on your investment very quickly.”

If you don’t serve coffee, Sutton adds, your customer will go elsewhere to get a cup after a meal—so you’ll lose that extra revenue and the chance to provide a full dining experience. “At the end of the day, coffee is extremely profitable; the cost of a cup can be about 10% to 15% of your sales price,” he explains.

Katy Boyd Dutt, director of tactical marketing for Boyd Coffee Company in Portland, Oregon, agrees that coffee is one of the most profitable items in restaurants, next to iced tea. But be aware that customers are increasingly expecting top-quality coffees, even from foodservice outlets. “The bar continues to rise; you don’t have to be a coffee snob anymore to want and appreciate a good cup,” she notes. “Today’s consumers expect high-quality coffees wherever they go, not just from premium coffee shops.”

Boyd Dutt adds that there has also been increased consumption of gourmet coffee, especially by those in the Millennial age group (a demographic that is more likely to consume coffee outside the home than older consumers). “Enjoying espresso-based drinks like lattes and mochas are the norm for this generation, as well as iced coffees and frozen/blended coffee drinks, which are consumed in all dayparts,” she notes.

As far as consumer taste trends, Luigi Di Ruocco, vice president of Mr. Espresso in Oakland, California, agrees that product quality and integrity is very important today—a good thing for operators who select the best for their operations. “In terms of flavor, there has been a trend toward lighter roasts and more floral/exotic flavor profiles,” he says. “In my opinion, the trend will continue to balance out, with people enjoying coffees that span the entire roast spectrum, from light to dark.”

Sutton believes many consumers are also looking for more intense, flavorful coffees. Because tastes will differ, don’t be afraid to ask customers about their preferences. You might offer samples of different brews to employees and customers and ask for their feedback—then, as you would with any menu item, take notes of what’s selling best and tweak as necessary.

High-end espresso machines are ideal for pizzerias whose customers crave a variety of coffee drinks.

 

The Latest and Greatest

Coffee sales are no longer about stashing a drip coffeemaker on the counter “just in case.” But what kind of equipment you choose will be determined by how much training and detail you want to dedicate to your coffee program. “The coolest innovation that I’ve seen this year is the Rancilio XCelsius espresso machine, which allows us to do temperature profiling in our espresso blends; this has never been done before,” says Sutton. “This tool gives us the chance to highlight different notes within the same coffee blend at any given time.”

Even if you aren’t interested in purchasing high-end espresso machines, you can still offer fresh, top-quality coffees in a variety of flavors and blends. Howie Greenspan, owner and president of SCS Direct in Milford, Connecticut, notes that many restaurants are purchasing single-use, single-serve cups (like those used in Keurig machines) to streamline operations and generate added revenue—without having to make an entire coffee pot at a time or fuss with complicated equipment. “What makes this unique for restaurants is that the coffee is made very quickly and is always fresh, with no mess,” he explains. “Also, this allows a pizzeria to offer many different blends, because each is brewed to order. Restaurants have been able to create coffee menus with 20 or more varieties because of these types of cups, instead of having a different machine for each type.” He adds that some restaurants have even increased profits by selling these cups, emblazoned with their logos, for customers to purchase.

Boyd Dutt agrees that the single-cup format has been “a major game-changer for the coffee industry,” altering both the consumer and business landscapes. “As better-quality single-cup coffee and equipment options have come to market, foodservice operators are discovering that the single-cup option gives them greater flexibility and profitability,” she notes. “For example, a restaurant owner can now brew a single cup of decaf rather than a full pot during a slower daypart, which provides the freshest cup with the least amount of waste.” With these systems, if you initially have lower demand for coffee, you won’t end up tossing out unused portions.

Single-cup equipment has also evolved as the option becomes more popular among consumers and businesses alike. “For a pizzeria operator, we suggest the Bunn MCR My Cafe, a commercially rated system that brews single cups quickly,” Boyd Dutt says. “It requires less than 9” of counter space, and it’s available in pour-over style (no plumbing required) or a plumbed-in style.” She adds that popularity of the single-cup format is still growing, with single-cup sales now accounting for more than a quarter of every dollar Americans spend on coffee to drink at home; by 2018, market research group Mintel expects consumers to spend nearly as much on coffee pods as they do on bulk coffee.

In terms of flavor innovations, Sutton believes that, as the specialty coffee industry grows, operators are achieving bolder, more intense coffees without having to utilize dark roasts. “This is because we’re constantly getting closer to the source and discovering new coffee territories with better flavors,” he says. “I believe the trend to follow is that of the freshest green coffee possible—something that until now nobody has really promoted. At the end of the day, it’s as important as fresh-roasted coffee.”

“There has been a trend toward lighter roasts and more floral/exotic flavor profiles. In my opinion, the trend will continue to balance out, with people enjoying coffees that span the entire roast spectrum, from light to dark.”
—Luigi Di Ruocco, Mr. Espresso

 

Making the Sale

Of course, you can’t simply toss coffee on the menu and expect it to sell. Creative concoctions and smart marketing tactics will help build buzz about your new beverages. “Adding iced coffee and other gourmet coffee is a great way to sell this beverage after the breakfast daypart and appeal to younger consumers,” suggests Boyd Dutt. “Try promoting it with a discount as a happy hour treat in the afternoon. You can even create signature drinks with a few flavored syrups, such as raspberry and peach, which can also be used to flavor iced teas and sodas.”

And, as with any beverage, don’t overlook the possibility of food-coffee pairings. “As coffees become more like wine, consumers want to have the ability of pairing their coffees with food,” notes Sutton. “Each coffee should have different pairings and offer different gastronomical experiences.” For example, kick up your dessert menu by suggesting coffee drinks that can best complement each item—and don’t forget to prep your servers to go for the upsell after every meal. Di Ruocco notes that his coffee complements Italian specialties in San Francisco-based Pizzeria Delfina (pizzeriadelfina.com). “Pizzeria owners can market and promote their coffee first by focusing on execution,” he says. “My educated guess is that most pizzerias serve lousy espresso and coffee, so this is a great way to differentiate yourself. You can pair well-executed espresso and coffee drinks with well-executed and delicious desserts. So if you’re planning on spending time improving your espresso and coffee program, you might as well do the same with your dessert and pastry program.”

Ultimately, if you do choose to serve coffee, make sure it’s an addition that you consider as carefully as you would anything else on your menu. “Pizzerias should try to get coffees that enhance the overall food experience: high-end coffees that will provide a great finish to a great slice,” Sutton advises. “Whether it be cold-brew, drip or espresso-based coffees—macchiatos, cappuccinos, lattes, Americanos or espressos—coffee is the last thing a customer normally consumes during the meal. Don’t let a bad coffee destroy a good overall experience!”

Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor.

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