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Coffee Solutions for Convenience Stores

Coffee Solutions For Your Store

A few years ago I traveled up to Burlington, Vermont to purchase a new-to-me vehicle. Honestly the vehicle was in rough shape. The bumper was falling off, the trunk latch had rusted away, the muffler was on its way out, and I don’t know when the last time it had an oil change. However it was inspected, had a set of new snow tires and it was dirt cheap. Which, being a student fresh out of college, was extremely important. By the time the transaction had finished it was nearing 9:30pm and I had a 4 hour trip home. Driving down the interstate I realized that if I was going to make it home, I was going to need some caffeine.

As many of you know from my previous posts, I am a coffee connoisseur. I have been known to travel half-an-hour out of my way if it will result in a great cup of coffee, however it was late and at the time I was unfamiliar with the area. So I pulled off of exit 10 on I-89, and into the parking lot of a brightly light convenience store – hoping that their coffee hadn’t been on the burner for to long.

Coffee Bar Similar to Billings Mobile

Coffee Bar Similar to Billings Mobile

As I walked into the store I was instantly stunned by their enormous coffee selection. About a third of this store was dedicated to its fresh, self-service coffee selection. There were at least 24 different varieties of coffee available, in quality air pots that measure the remaining quantity, temperature and amount of time the coffee has been in the pot. Even though it was 10:00 PM I saw an attendant poring a fresh brew into one of the air pots ensuring that the coffee was fresh. This convenience store had established its self as not only a place for morning commuters, but as a place for evening drivers to get their caffeine as well.

While a coffee bar is technically an extension of, or in some cases, the introduction to, your foodservice selection. It is also one of the most vital aspects in your store. This is primarily because coffee is demographically universal and has high profit margins for your business. In addition, by providing a quality coffee experience you will draw more customer into your business, who will then spend additional money on other items while in the store. Having a plan to create (and execute) an excellent in-store coffee program will mean the difference between just making it and excelling in the convenience store industry.

The value self service of coffee can be seen in the profits. If the average customer spend $1.50 on a 14 once cup of coffee 5 times a week you will be making a net profit of $5.00 every week, $20.00 every month and $240 every year, per customer. In addition these numbers do not take into account additional purchase that will be made by your customer base. With margins of over %200 having good coffee is one of the best ways to boost your sales.

How to make the best coffee:

There are lots of options available to consumers when it comes to coffee selection. There are chain coffee stores (Dunkin Dounuts & Starbucks), fast food restaurants (McDonalds & Burger King)  speciality cafes (Locally – Espresso Bueno & Capital Grounds) and convenience stores. Because of this it is important that your store’s coffee stands out. The first way to do this is to make sure you are serving something that is at bare minimal palatable and at best – “heaven in a cup”. Obviously there is a large gap between these two targets so here are some hints to brew a better coffee.

Make sure your coffee machine is clean

Bunn Axiom Air Pot Twin CommercialObviously the machine should look clean on the outside, however make sure that your machine is clean on the inside as well. One of the most common problems is that the minerals in the water will adhere to the water lines causing the water to take on an order and taste that leaves a bad flavor in the coffee. Remember, coffee is 96 % water. Consult your machines operating manual for best practices for cleaning the machine.

Make sure you use the right amount of coffee

The majority of coffee served in America is portioned incorrectly. The National Coffee Association of America recommends 1 – 2 tablespoons per 6 ounces of water. This means that for a standard 60 ounce coffee pot you should be using between 10 and 20 tablespoons (2 to 4 ounces) of coffee grind to brew the best pot of coffee. This is especially important if you are measuring your own coffee. One option is to use a pre-portioned coffee pack that contain the exact amount of coffee needed to brew a single pot of coffee. This not only helps you have the correct coffee/water ratio, but also assists in keeping the area clean.

Make sure your coffee brewer is hot enough (just not to hot)

Your brewer should keep a consistent temperature of 195 – 205 degrees in order to achieve the best flavor extraction. Any colder and the coffee will taste flat and weak. Any hotter and the coffee will become bitter. Simply brew a pot of hot water and test the temperature. Most commercial machines have an easy to use dial in order to adjust brew temperature. If you are unable to adjust the temperature and it is drastically off, contact a service technician who should be able to make the adjustment for you

Make sure your coffee is fresh

In a simple, glass, coffee pot that is left on a burner, coffee will only last 30 minutes before starting to taste burnt, flat and weak. You can extend this time to two hours (max) by putting the coffee in an air pot. There are certain air pots that will actually measure all part of the coffee and alert you to when it is time to change out the coffee. While they are expensive, it takes the human error out of the equation and leaves you with the best coffee in the neighborhood.

How to make the best coffee bar:

Appearances are everything. Often times a customer will make the decision on whether they will return to your store in the first 8 seconds of their visit. Because of this, the first impression you make on your customer should be astounding. Here are some tips on spicing up your coffee bar area:

Keep the coffee bar clean

Keurig Coffee RackA good self-service coffee bar will have people preparing their drinks non-stop during the morning hours. With all this traffic, it is important to keep everything clean. Are the counters wiped down and spills cleaned up. Has the hole in the sugar jar become clogged? Has someone left a half filled cup of coffee on the counter? Sometimes the simplest tasks make the best impressions.

Keep the coffee supplies stocked

As you well know, there is more to coffee than just the coffee. There’s the milk, the half-and-half, the sugar, the splenda, the cups, the lids, the coffee sleeves, the stir sticks…[fill in the blank]. There are many additives that people use in their coffee. These additives are all part of the coffee experience for your customer. Take one away and you’ve just upset their morning routine. It is important to make sure that all of your coffee supplies are continually stocked and that you are never out. This means that you should be filling the sugar before it runs out, be making a new pot of coffee before its gone, refilling the cups before the last one has been taken. By ensuring your customers needs are met, you create a life long customer.

Keep the coffee area organized

Just because a coffee bar has been cleaned doesn’t make it well organized. Are the empty cups next to the coffee or on the other end of the counter? Do your customer have to wait in line to add the creamer? Are the coffee supplies easily accessible or spread all over. Any unnecessary work on the customers end will result in a poor customer experience. When organizing your coffee bar, think through the process from start to finish and make the flow as seamless as possible.

The Coffee Customer

Ultimately the customer is always right, and its important to connect with your customer base to find out what is working, what’s not working and what could work. They will be able to tell you whether the new creamer machine pores fast enough, or whether the coffee is to hot or to cold. Listen to them, get their feedback and value them.

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