Brewing Success: The Growing Importance of Hot Beverages in Convenience Store
By Meline Beach
The hot beverage category in convenience stores is a significant revenue driver for many retailers. This category includes coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and other hot specialty drinks, such as lattes and cappuccinos – the most popular in the world being coffee, consumed by millions of people every day.
Gateway Gas Bar in Manitoba serves two different kinds of Orient Express coffee, medium House blend and medium Columbian. Their in-store coffee counter features a BUNN hot beverage machine, owned and serviced by Van Houtte, which serves coffee, hot chocolate, and French Vanilla and hazelnut specialty beverages.
“We always have two pots of coffee ready to be dispensed,” says Denise von Schon, general manager of Gateway Gas Bar, who believes that a flattering-looking coffee counter with a small variety of condiments is what draws customers to the store for their next cup. “Real cream is important, as are flavour options like flavoured creams and flavour shots.”
Von Schon also recommends having small baked goods like muffins and pastries at the counter for customers to grab with their coffee.
In a recent webinar on Consumer Trends and Behaviours, hosted by the Coffee Association of Canada, Margot Swindall, director of business development for Technomic, stated that out-of-home coffee consumption is better now than pre-pandemic times as younger consumers gravitate to c-stores for coffee.
Gen Z consumers, who leverage social media for entertainment and information, have learned about the coffee culture on TikTok, and are comfortable with self-serve coffee service at local convenience stores.
Social media and marketing play an important role in the growth of the hot beverage category. Many c-stores offer loyalty programs and other incentives, promoted through Facebook and Instagram, to attract customers. For example, some stores offer free coffee with the purchase of a certain number of drinks. Others offer discounts on hot beverages during certain times of the day. Marketing helps build customer loyalty and contributes to the growth of the category.
Tea is also a popular hot beverage. Many c-store retailers have recognized the opportunity to attract tea drinkers by offering a variety of tea blends and flavours, including herbal teas, green teas, and black teas. This has helped to attract a wider range of customers and has contributed to the growth of the hot beverage category.
An increase in focus on health and wellness is another important factor that is driving the growth of the hot beverage category. Swindall adds that a third of consumers want innovation centred around flavours, health benefits, seasonality, and customization. This includes alternative dairy condiments, sweeteners, and ingredients to boost overall health and wellness, like added protein.
In terms of trends, functional beverages that relieve stress, support digestion, and boost the immune system are on the horizon.
Hot beverage equipment manufacturers are key drivers of innovation in the category. Quality equipment can have a positive impact on sales. The key is to offer a consistently high standard to attract and build loyalty with hot beverage enthusiasts. In order to determine the appropriate setup for your self-serve coffee station, start with a machine that is set for full-quality coffee extraction, and measure the time from the press of the selection button to the time the machine recovers to make the next drink. The established drink pour time will help determine the number of machines needed to serve customers in an efficient manner.
To learn more about quality equipment in the hot beverage category, Convenience and Carwash Canada spoke with Harold Ooft, head of sales and service, Canada at Group SEB; Greg Alford, country manager, sales at Franke Coffee Systems; and Jay Beckett, marketing graphic designer at Bunn-O-Matic Corporation of Canada.
What hot beverage equipment do you offer the convenience, carwash and retail petroleum industry? Which brand/model is best suited for this channel?
SEB – Our three esteemed brands Wilbur Curtis, Schaerer and WMF, is an industry leader in customer coffee within the convenience and retail industry, particularly the Schaerer Coffee Art C in the Bean to Cup evolution for convenience coffee.
Franke – We have machines for two distinct solutions that are dedicated to convenience stores: Franke A800 Fresh Brew bean-to-cup hot coffee and iced coffee and Franke A1000 and A600 FoamMaster for espresso-based drinks, including barista quality latte, cappuccino, and mocha’, hot or iced, made with fresh milk.
Bunn – Bunn coffee systems have been among the most commonly found coffee systems in convenience stores in Canada for decades. The model best suited for this market is the Bunn Sure Immersion 312.
What are the features and benefits of this particular system for the convenience channel?
SEB – Our Coffee Art C has our customers covered with not only hot coffee but also an iced option as well. Just grab a cup of ice and let the Coffee Art C dispense your delicious next cup of iced coffee. For retailers, it allows them to expand brand recognition.
Franke – Every cup is ground fresh and brewed on demand in a self-service format, elevating coffee quality and eliminating coffee waste. Compared to traditional coffee brewers in a typical convenience store, the savings in coffee waste and coffee production labour pay for the systems in the first year. Franke CleanMaster is a fully automated clean-in-place system that delivers fast and easy cleaning, completely automated with just minutes of employee involvement.
Bunn – Sure Immersion combines a wide selection of appealing bean-to-cup drinks with a vibrant touchscreen experience. Customers can enjoy navigating to their favourite drink selection on the large touch screen, while also viewing uploaded promotional graphics and videos.
What kind of maintenance is required? What kind of customer support is available?
SEB – Cleaning is extremely simple with the Coffee Art C. A daily tablet and a push of a button keeps your machine clean and well-maintained for your next day’s business. Additionally, we only see approximately 0.65 service calls annually with this machine as it performs with the highest quality and durability day after day.
Franke – Daily maintenance, which is just automated cleaning, requires six minutes of employee involvement. In addition to Franke machine and supplies sales in Canada, preventative maintenance programs and all-inclusive service programs are supplied by Franke Master Distribution partners: DSL (BC to MB), TFI ON + Atlantic) and Bazinet (QC) and their 150+ service team of direct employees.
Bunn – Picture Prompted Cleaning displays high-resolution images on the 10-inch full-colour touchscreen to guide operators through each step of daily cleaning and weekly maintenance routines. Support can be found through Bunn’s industry-leading customer service team.
How do you help c-stores grow their business with this equipment?
SEB – This is just a snapshot of the full suite of solutions SEB Professional offers to our customers. Our purpose is to provide the highest quality products that will minimize waste and maximize efficiencies that contribute to a store’s profitability. We focus on the growth of a store’s coffee program so the retailer can focus on growing their bottom line.
Franke – Franke coffee systems have a market-proven, digital user interface that can be customized to present customer logos and marketing assets that enhance your messaging to each customer. With labour savings and waste elimination, the capital investment pays back in the first year and then delivers 30 per cent to 40 per cent increased profit in the following two to five years. To support a store’s peak arrival rates, we often see coffee stations with one espresso machine combined with two to four coffee machines to ensure they can serve their customers without creating line-ups.
Bunn – The 312 uses a single grinder for three different bean hoppers, and two internal powder hoppers enable café style beverages in addition to hot and iced coffee. The 17-inch touchscreen offers a larger display for user-uploaded promotional graphics and videos. A wide array of offerings and incredible ease-of-use make the 312 a top choice for c-stores seeking to grow their business and remain profitable.
Meline Beach is a Toronto-based communications practitioner and frequent contributor to Convenience and Carwash Canada. In addition to freelance writing, Meline provides communications and public relations support to businesses across Canada. She can be reached at
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.