While most attendees of the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York hit the show floor in search of a (sample-sized) cup of coffee, some made a beeline for one of the first information sessions of the day to learn how a good cup of coffee can invigorate their business. Sherri Johns, president and founder of WholeCup Coffee Consulting and managing director of Ultimate Barista Challenge, hosted “Hot Trends in Coffee” to share new coffee concepts and reasons why restaurants should make it a priority to serve great coffee.
For many diners, coffee is “their last and lasting impression of meal,” Johns said. Ordering a cup alongside dessert is the norm for many Americans, and restaurants should not underestimate the importance of offering coffee that gets just as much attention as the food they serve. Some discerning coffee-drinkers, sometimes called “desserters,” will have dinner at one establishment and migrate elsewhere for dessert, simply because the coffee at their dinner location was not up to par. For “a table of four, dessert, coffee, you’re probably losing … $15 or $20 a person,” Johns said.
Even more important than the money restaurants may lose when customers skip out on ordering coffee is the money they can gain by offering gourmet coffee that inspires customers to keep coming back. BUNN estimates that an eatery that buys its coffee for $14 per pound and sells 100 cups per day at $1.95 each with a cost of goods sold of $0.54 per cup and 50 free refills for every 100 cups sold will see a profit of about $44,484 after one year.
To take a restaurant’s coffee from an afterthought to a moneymaker can be as simple as following a few simple rules:
It’s all about beans. Always use whole beans, and make sure to grind them just before brewing to ensure the best flavor. When restaurants prefill filters with ground coffee and store them on top of the coffee maker — or let brewed coffee sit on a heat source — the coffee continues to “cook,” meaning that the flavor will be anything but fresh.
Get the best flavor with filtered water. Coffee is more than 98% water, so using filtered water is a must. When coffee doesn’t taste right, Johns said, “a lot of times it’s the water.” Make sure you change your water filter to keep water tasting fresh.
Do a taste test. Johns works with chefs to teach them how to read the palate and select coffees for their menu, but points out that “you don’t have to be a coffee specialist or a barista to understand good coffee. Given two cups on the table, anyone can pick out the better quality.” When choosing coffee for your restaurant, always taste the product to make sure it’s something you enjoy drinking. Chances are, your customers will agree.
Let your menu be your guide. If your restaurant offers only one type of coffee, look at your menu to determine what type of coffee you should choose. If you do a big business in breakfast, select something light and bright, while an establishment that sees most of its coffee sales in the evening may want something deeper and fruitier to pair with rich desserts.
Offer the coffee experience. For restaurants that offer more than one variety of coffee, consider placing them in a special section of the menu with descriptions of the taste and origin of each type. Or let customers know which coffee complements which dessert item by listing pairings on the dessert menu. Table-side brewing also can be a nice touch. A French press looks elegant on the table, and lets customers participate in the coffee-brewing experience.