One of the bright spots in the restaurant industry is the morning daypart. Breakfast generates $42 billion in annual sales or 12 percent of the industry total, estimates Chicago market consultancy, Technomic.
Significantly, coffee is playing an increasingly important role in consumers’ breakfast purchasing decisions, according to the consultancy. Good coffee service can bump up a.m. traffic. One-third of consumers who drink coffee at breakfast say they are loyal to a brand or restaurant that serves their preferred coffee.
Of course, coffee, particularly specialty coffees like espresso, cappuccino and latte, is not just an early morning quaff. As such, it fits into the snacking trend, especially prevalent among Millennials. And despite rising bean and per-cup prices, coffee remains the proverbial “affordable indulgence.”
Presentation of coffee and tea service, as in most menu items, is key to increased sales (see below). It can be something as simple yet elegant as the individual-sized iron kettle used for hot tea service by P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. A different interpretation of presentation is driving success at the fastest-growing drive-thru coffee chain in the Pacific Northwest. All the baristas at the Seattle-based Baristas Coffee Company pull espressos in sexy costumes, including cheerleaders, nurses and even bumblebees. The eight-unit chain boasts the requisite top-quality, fresh-roasted beans, but it’s really the scantily attired baristas that keep the regulars returning.
Coffee with a chef’s touch
SBE Restaurant Group has made a quantum leap in coffee service by creating a coffee kitchen in its newest restaurant, Mercato di Vetro. Inspired by the markets of Italy, this two-story open-space eatery in West Hollywood, California, has dedicated stations: A pizza kitchen with wood-fired oven, a charcuterie, a salad station and the coffee kitchen.
“In the coffee kitchen, we do with coffee what chefs do with food,” says Jeremy Gursey, executive chef of fine coffee for SBE restaurants. Gursey worked with executive chef Danny Elmaleh on the coffee kitchen, from design, selection of state-of-the-art brewing equipment, barista training and menu development to selecting and roasting the coffee blends.
With a team of eight baristas, the coffee kitchen expertly executes espresso, macchiato and latte, but the real showstopper is the coffee siphon presentation. A barista wheels a cart to the guests’ table, fires up the burner and brews the coffee there. “We were first to do tableside extraction with a coffee siphon in a restaurant,” claims Gursey. The presentation is $20, but, he notes, it yields about four to five cups of coffee, making for a reasonable per-cup price. Plus, the dramatic production generates a wave of me-too sales.
The coffee chef uses a Rube Goldberg-type contraption called a Kyoto cold filter coffee machine. Water drips over ground coffee at such a slow pace, it takes a full eight hours to brew a batch of highly concentrated coffee. Gursey uses this essence in a number of specialty drinks, including Stained Milk. Here, the cold-filtered concentrate is frozen into coffee ice, crushed and topped with sweetened condensed milk and aerated foam, which allows the espresso to slowly melt and stain the rich velvety milk.