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The lean toward a better bean

Coffee … no longer an afterthought in foodservice


Ronald McDonald made a shocking confession this year.
After finally admitting they've been serving up a sub-standard cup of
coffee, the fast food giant is offering a new premium-roasted blend.

Coffee … no longer an afterthought in foodservice

janfebcoffeeRonald McDonald made a shocking confession this year. After finally admitting they've been serving up a sub-standard cup of coffee, the fast food giant is offering a new premium-roasted blend.

And their motivations are ones the pizza industry simply cannot ignore.

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McDonald’s restaurants, and several of their fast-food counterparts, have increased their gourmet coffee offerings. The new McCafé gourmet coffee counter models, already embraced successfully overseas, are popping up in Montreal, Burlington, and soon, in New Brunswick. What this says is that the big players in foodservice are confident that gourmet coffee isn’t just another short-lived fad, but a long-term trend.

According to the 2005 Canadian Coffee Drinking study, coffee is the number one beverage choice of adult Canadians.  The study concluded that 65 per cent, or virtually two out of every three Canadians, drink coffee everyday. And according to Sandy McAlpine, president of the Coffee Association of Canada, over half of Canadians are reported as occasional consumers of upscale specialty coffees, namely lattes, cappuccinos, and espressos.

“Because we’re seeing carbonated soft drinks erode, coffee is the right business to be in,” advised McAlpine.

The question is: are pizza operators getting their fair share of the coffee sales? Are Canadian pizzeria operators serving up the same ol’ java, or are their specialty coffee offerings comparable to those of the likes of Tim Hortons and even Starbucks?

This is an important question, because restaurateurs are not just fighting for more coffee sales, they’re fighting for the loyalty of this huge customer base. The Coffee Drinking Study reports that almost 50 per cent of cups of coffee in Canada are sourced outside of the home. Coffee beverages purchased in drive-thrus are part of 11 per cent of the population’s out-of-home consumption. What it all brews up to is a big challenge for restaurant operators.

In every market segment of the pizza industry – quick service, casual and gourmet dining, even take and bake – a customer’s experience can be easily tainted by a bad cup of coffee. Like everything else on the menu, coffee is a reflection of one’s business. And like everything else, it should be a reflection of the customers’ tastes and lifestyles. For operators, maintaining a profitable coffee program means first sitting down with their supplier and deciding which is the best roast for their demographic. 

For example, operators catering to the more “environmentally enlightened” clientele – those leading a wellness-based lifestyle and asking for organic foods, whole grain crusts and vegetarian slices – should consider offering certified fair trade coffee.  Fair trade means the coffee is grown in traditional growing conditions, and the growers, typically disadvantaged farmers from developing countries, are paid fair and reasonable prices for their product.

If the customer base is typically familiar with gourmet pizza and wine pairing (see Canadian Pizza’s November 2005 issue, “Gourmet Trend”), this formal crowd is demanding a broad a range of specialty coffee and tea offerings. True blended espresso, café latte, cappuccino, and iced cappuccino can be offered alongside rich desserts or alone as an after meal treat.

If the customers aren’t likely the type to be found in a Starbucks lineup or a gourmet coffee house, most likely they’re just looking for a decent, consistent ‘cuppa Joe’ that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Consistency and quality in the roasting world can be easily obtained through proper brewing practices and machine maintenance.

If all this coffee talk is turning what was once an afterthought into a full-out daily grind, restaurateurs should consider a supplier that not only provides good-tasting coffee, but also the proper training, regular machine maintenance and fast service when things go wrong.

beansConsider looking to the Office Coffee Service (OCS) industry for coffee supplies and service needs. OCS operators have established routes and clients they serve on a daily basis. Small and large sized offices and manufacturing facilities are equipped with coffee machines in a variety of styles and sizes, and delivered supplies when needed. OCS operators would respond to the specific requirements put forward by the restaurateur.

Brian Martell of the Heritage Coffee Company, a full service coffee roaster and supplier, said an OCS infrastructure is exactly what independent foodservice operations need. Because the major roasters, by their very nature and size, require a certain minimum drop to be able to make their deliveries possible, many of them are leaving the direct service market (namely, foodservice). 

OCS, on the other hand, is predominately interested in service. “In fact, the industry should be called ocS to emphazise the real nature of the business,” said Martell.

The company that services and supplies the machine is as important as the machine itself. The best way to source equipment and meet suppliers is to attend industry trade shows. Look for tradeshows that feature coffee suppliers and concentrate on the restaurant, hospitality and foodservice industries.

The Canadian coffee industry has responded to growing rates in consumption by increasing the quality and quantity of equipment and product; quite frankly, because customers are starting to demand better coffee. 

McDonald’s knew Canadians just weren’t going to stand for their watered down brew anymore, so they changed it. And the collective sigh of relief from McDonald’s goers who were forced to source their coffee and their Mc-whatever from different locations, can attest to that.

Coffee has evolved from a North American staple drink to a gourmet beverage, suitable for any occasion, at any time of the day. And if operators decide to stop treating coffee as an afterthought, this high-profit, low-maintenance gourmet trend, could have them jiving all the way to the bank. •