Building a coffee culture

Family dining upgrades the experience with the help of better brews.
ihop coffee bar

Not long ago, a customer craving a latte while eating breakfast at a family-dining chain would potentially grab one at a Starbucks along the way. Recently, however, concepts such as IHOP and Original Pancake House are taking cues from the coffee cafes and the move into premium coffee by QSRs like Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s. These chains aren’t only trying to capture more dollars at breakfast, they want to build sales all day long.

“Family-dining concepts are exploring how they can get another daypart out of attracting people in the afternoon as well as the mornings,” says Peter Giuliano, senior director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. “And one thing that is very clear about people who want coffee in the afternoon is that they want fancy coffee. It’s not about the bottomless cup. It’s about something that they drink one cup of, and it’s special.”

The 2015 Coffee Drinking Trends Report by the National Coffee Association notes that specialty coffee’s market share now is over the halfway mark at 51 percent. “That’s a tipping point,” says Giuliano. “For the first time since the NCA has done this study, more than half of people think of coffee as a special experience.”

“We have always had our International House Roast,” says IHOP’s VP of marketing Kirk Thompson. “But [even with a specialty brew] there was still one step missing in our overall coffee experience,” he says. So IHOP launched its in-store coffee bars in January at three locations—West Virginia University, Los Angeles and Pasadena, Md. Diners can order specialty coffees made by baristas without sitting down to a meal.

Through its coffee bars, IHOP is looking to increase all-day traffic and enhance the coffee experience even more by “bundling the right food with it ... so that we can take care of all of the occasions to enjoy a coffee experience,” says Thompson. 

The Original Pancake House also is investing in upping its coffee game. Two Dallas/Fort Worth locations recently partnered with the Texas Coffee School, a barista training and education center, in an effort to “continue building differentiation for our guests,” says franchisee Jonathan Seyoum. The school consults on everything from design to training and has supplied baristas as well as coffee roasters, many of whom were grads.

The latest Dallas OPH, opened in December, includes a separate lounge that serves lattes and French press coffees. The lounge, furnished with couches and comfy chairs, helps manage the restaurant’s long wait times. “Guests can enjoy a very good cup of coffee as they wait,” Seyoum says. To add to the atmosphere, the lounge features artists, musicians and a massage therapist to make it an “interesting and memorable experience,” he says.

Such upgrades can be costly, but it’s been worth it, Seyoum says, because his franchise is looking at another two to three percent in sales.

“There is an equipment investment, a labor investment and an ingredient investment,” SCAA’s Giuliano explains. But it pays off, he says, because it eliminates that need to hit Starbucks before sitting down for pancakes. 

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