Why pay attention to specialty beverage. According to the 2017 National Coffee Drinking Trends report, coffee consumption continues to dominate the beverage landscape; with 62 percent of Americans aged 18 and older drinking a coffee yesterday. In this segment, espresso-based beverages alone grew from 18 per cent to 24 per cent over the past year, which is the largest recorded one-year jump in espresso-based beverages in the history of their tracking.
It is apparent that espresso-based beverages have found their place in the market, and are here to stay. Therefore, as the market grows, it is important that c-stores implement a specialty beverage program that satisfies today’s consumers.
What to Look For With Your Equipment
In a world where customization is key, there is a vast array of hot-beverage equipment that can elevate your chain’s specialty coffee program. With super automatic coffee machines, your offerings can include anything from espressos and Americanos, to cappuccinos, mochas, lattes, and anything in between. Whereas in the past consumers were often finding these beverages only at high-end coffee shops, c-stores can offer consumers the beverages they crave, with each beverage completely customized to individual preferences.
Rather than waiting in long lines at specialty coffee shops, c-stores can offer these specialty beverages successfully in a self-serve format, reducing wait times. With touchscreen technology, making a drink is as simple as touching a button featuring your drink of choice. Additional screen features include the opportunity to develop screensavers that play on the machine when not in use and while drinks are being prepared, which many c-stores use for cross-selling opportunities. Some equipment boasts video capabilities as well, where many promote not only their brand, but add other messages that are important to your consumer base.
Taste is of utmost important to consumers when selecting coffee. Older generations rely on roast type to convey taste while younger adults rely on flavor, states Mintel’s 2017 coffee report. Today’s specialty beverage equipment allows for more than one type of roast, providing a wide variety to consumers. Additionally, many machines have the option to add a flavor station that can be paired with your machines, featuring up to six syrups. Offering more options to customize beverages will further differentiate your specialty coffee program. Popular flavors include vanilla, hazelnut, and caramel, just to name a few. Additionally, limited time offers such as pumpkin spice during the fall, and peppermint or gingerbread during the winter can attract attention and keep your menu fresh.
One segment that is popular with today’s consumer is not only hot specialty beverages, but also iced beverages. Many of today’s machines boast capabilities that enable you to serve customers consistent hot and cold foams, even at high capacities. The industry-leading machines allow for programming foam quality for each beverage offered – from thin to thick.
With the advancement of technology, connecting your coffee machine to the internet is no longer visionary thinking. Many models of beverage equipment allow access to each of your store’s machines through the Internet of Things (IoT). This capability shows information like how often your staff is cleaning the machines, which drinks sell best, and how the machine is operating each day. With heavy use of the machine, the system can also inform you about when maintenance is due so you can avoid downtime during busy times. Additionally, many systems will allow login to the system to change beverage prices on self-service machines centrally. IoT capabilities will both enhance and improve your operations.
How to Execute Your Specialty Beverage Program
Once your hot beverage equipment is in place, it is important to raise awareness to alert your local market of your offerings. It is important to differentiate your specialty beverage program – personalizing the experience for customers. One way is to develop a brand around your specialty beverages, with branding beginning from the outside of your stores and pumps, and carrying this look throughout the store. Furthermore, branding around the machine itself and a featured menu board creates an experience and destination within your stores, where customers will find themselves coming each day.
Additionally, running promotions once your program is established will further drive interest and sales. Through sampling, coupons, or discounted pricing, chains are making recommendations for customers and encouraging customers to try something new. You can also reach a wide consumer base with digital marketing efforts. According to PEW Research Center, seven in 10 Americans are using social media, so chains should take notice and take action. As social platforms grow, so does the need to capture your audience to connect with your brand.
Through creating a full customer experience in-store, customer outreach, and choosing advanced specialty beverage equipment, c-stores are now becoming a top destination for specialty coffee.
Amy Brown is the marketing manager at Franke Coffee Systems North America. Her experience includes providing insights to convenience store customers on elevating their specialty beverage programs. Visit coffee.franke.com for more information, or contact Amy directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.