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Pleasing the away-from-home hot beverage customer

Eager to maximize their hot beverage sales and profits, restaurant operators are brushing up on vital details such as the most popular coffee roasts and condiments, proper tea-brewing temperatures and even the type of cups that are most comfortable for customers to hold.

Research on away-from-home trends underscores the importance of coffee. Forty-five percent of consumers’ daily beverage consumption away from home includes brewed coffee, behind only tap water (55 percent) and ahead of bottled water (41 percent), juice (34 percent) and carbonated soft drinks (33 percent), according to December 2013 research from Datassential’s Buzz Coffee & Tea Tracker reported in CSP Foodservice Handbook 2014.

Increasingly, the coffee they sip is classified as gourmet. In fact, 34 percent of American adults consume gourmet coffee beverages such as cappuccino, latte, café mocha and other espresso-based products daily, up from 31 percent in 2013, according to the National Coffee Association of the USA 2014 National Coffee Drinking Trends study.

The continuing expansion of fast-casual bakery-café brands featuring specialty coffee, coupled with the launch of lower-priced specialty coffee by limited-service restaurants with convenient drive-thrus, gives consumers more coffee options than ever before, but makes saturation in the coffee market inevitable, as Technomic Executive Vice President Darren Tristano observed in an article in the Technomic Blog in March.

"Same-store sales growth will ultimately hit a ceiling, and with consumer sensitivity to price increases, sales growth will become a greater uphill battle," wrote Tristano. Nevertheless, there is an opportunity. Tristano wrote that operators who invest in front-line staff and improve the consumer experience, including paying attention to fast, accurate service, cleanliness and value, will have "a huge advantage."

The ability to customize coffee orders by choosing types of roast and condiments is important to customers. Consumers found medium-roast coffee the most appealing (32 percent) followed by dark roast (29 percent) and French roast (23 percent) in the Datassential Buzz survey. The most popular condiments are creamer and sweetener, included in 66 percent and 48 percent of servings, respectively. The favorite flavors of creamer are vanilla/French vanilla, with nearly a third (29 percent) of consumers ranking it the most appealing, followed by hazelnut (20 percent) and caramel (19 percent).

Consumers also care a great deal about the insulating capability and sturdiness of hot beverage cups. Eighty-five percent say that they prefer to drink their beverage before it gets cold and 78 percent say that poor quality cups and lids are a major annoyance or even a “deal breaker” when it comes to patronizing an establishment, Datassential reports.

The ideal hot beverage cup is comfortable to hold without using a protective sleeve or double cupping, which tends to be cumbersome and potentially dangerous because of the risk of spills. In addition, they add cost and take up storage space for operators. The Thermo Grip Cup™ by LBP Manufacturing uses double-wall technology to protect hands and meet consumers’ comfort needs.

Don’t look now, but even in this coffee-loving society, consumers are getting excited about tea. The handwriting was on the wall when the nation’s largest specialty coffee chain acquired its own tea brand to participate in this growing business opportunity. As a result, wise restaurant operators are getting up to speed on serving premium tea as well.

It is important to note that certain varieties of tea require significantly hotter brewing water than coffee. According to the web site In Pursuit of Tea, the water temperature for optimal tea brewing depends on the variety, ranging from 165° F. for white teas to 205° F. for black teas to 212° F. for Pu-erh teas. The latter end of that range is significantly hotter than the 195° to 205° F. water that NCA recommends for brewing coffee. The Thermo Grip Cup allows customers to comfortably hold a cup of tea brewed at high temperatures without resorting to a sleeve or double cupping.

Finally, the Thermo Grip Cup is made with paper containing post-consumer fiber and will make eco-minded customers feel good about patronizing restaurants that use it.

This post is sponsored by LBP Manufacturing

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