Meeting the Requirements of Hot Beverage Equipment
By Angela Altass
Canadian consumers like their coffee and other hot beverages and they have high expectations when it comes to quality, taste, price, and the availability of their favourites as well as new flavour and drink options.
“Today’s consumers indicate they want high quality, good tasting coffee for a good value,” says Amy Brown, brand manager, SEB Professional. “Consumers also want variety, speed, as well as minimal touchpoints, as we saw during the pandemic. According to Allegra Project Café Canada 2021, the vast majority of Canadian consumers (90.5 per cent) indicate they drink coffee and 74.7 per cent do so on a daily basis.”
Today’s hot beverage equipment not only has to meet growing consumer expectations, but also take into account the challenges c-store operators face: Labour shortages, trip erosion, waste, and more, says Brown.
“While many things changed during the pandemic, it remains important for operators to not lose focus on keeping up with the maintenance of their hot beverage equipment,” says Brown. “A lot of operators knew that their volume was down during the pandemic and as a result thought they could forgo certain aspects of maintenance. While some areas might be okay to delay given the reduced volume, one that is time bound is water filtration. If left unchanged, filters can actually begin to grow bacteria leading to potentially unhealthy situations. We don’t recommend forgoing any maintenance or don’t recommend that filters be used any longer than a year, regardless of how much water they’ve treated.”
SEB Professional recently launched some new coffee machine equipment, including the new WMF 5000 S+ Auto Clean, which serves espresso-based beverages, such as lattes, cappuccinos, and mochas. Their Curtis brand, which celebrates 80 years in 2022, offers the Curtis Genesis, which serves fresh bean-to-cup coffee and is suitable for small to medium-sized c-stores. Their Schaerer brand works well with large c-stores, utilizing telemetry services to help analyze trends across locations.
“Because single-serve machines dispense beverages with just a touch of a button via touchscreen, we saw demand during the pandemic,” states Brown. “Additionally, much of our equipment boasts an automated cleaning process.”
Consumer beverage equipment sales have been massive over the pandemic, states Daren Schwengler, president, Specialty Beverage Solutions (SBS).
“If convenience is going to capture these folks when they are out of the house, they need to ensure quality taste is there,” says Schwengler. “Consumers have had two years to perfect their drinks and know what they like. If some convenience stores still want to sell belly wash, they will not see increases in sales whatsoever.”
Specialty Beverage Solutions has seen increased demand for energy efficiency, better warranties and less initial outlay in cost, says Schwengler.
“SBS has developed relationships with financers to offer lease to own options as well as rental options on equipment,” says Schwengler. “We have some specialty coffee machines available now that come at a lower price point. The WMF 1100, for example, is a great unit for locations that are not super busy but still wish to capture the specialty coffee customer. We have found sales levels of coffee through our machines to be fairly even throughout the pandemic, but of late increases are happening. There is a ton of excitement in the air and we are getting 50+ inquiries per day. We feel that 2023 is going to be an epic year for convenience.”
Maintenance programs are important but convenience store operators need to watch out for shifty suppliers that are trying to make too much with maintenance agreements, states Schwengler.
“Listen to your supplier and if your supplier cannot comment or offer a maintenance program, they are the wrong supplier,” says Schwengler. “Maintenance needs to be relative to the throughput of the piece of equipment with frequency of maintenance depending on how busy it is.”
Technology always improves but the improvement is not always revolutionary, says Francesco Donnici, senior territory manager, Alfa Food Service.
“For convenience stores, we have automatic hot beverage machines, which are now more compact in size,” says Donnici. “Operators really should study the equipment and know how to use it and how to clean it. We explain to our customers how to clean them and if don’t do it, they end up having to call us for service. Make sure you make the time to properly maintain the equipment you are using.”
The pandemic affected c-store retailers’ ability to offer beverages, notes Judi Saliba, senior sales executive, national accounts, TFI Food Equipment Solutions.
“Depending on the jurisdiction, retailers weren’t allowed to offer self-serve beverages,” says Saliba. “Some shut the beverage offers down entirely, while others moved service to behind the cash counter, where possible.”
Franke Coffee Systems has brought out the A1000 FLEX machine, offering bean-to-cup and espresso based beverages in a single footprint.
“The beauty of equipment like Franke is that every serving is freshly ground, exactly as a barista would do, but with a consistency that no human can replicate,” says Saliba. “All foodservice equipment requires some degree of cleaning and maintenance to assure the integrity of the product it is serving and extend the field life of the appliance. The Franke A series units all offer automatic cleaning and the units can be programed to shut down if the daily cleaning isn’t done.”
Choosing robust equipment that is backed by factory authorized service that uses OEM parts will help keep hot beverage offerings on track, says Saliba.
“Consumers will vote with their wallets if the product isn’t of the highest quality,” she notes. “Offer the spectrum of choices they are looking for and follow the manufacturer’s directions for maintenance of the equipment to optimize quality and field life profitability.”
Hot beverage manufacturers work continuously at advancing their products with the ability to produce the perfect products and beverages through every brewing platform in the marketplace, says Jeff Suitor, president, Brokerhouse Distributors Inc.
“There are many hot beverage equipment choices today and significant attention needs to be considered regarding the specific application and demand requirements in which the equipment will ultimately be installed,” says Suitor.
As the economy recovers from the pandemic and demand for equipment increases, many hot beverage manufacturers are having challenges with current demand, supply chain delays, and commodity price increases, says Suitor.
“My advice to convenience retailers looking to get into the hot beverage category would be to consider the demographics around their location, the competitive landscape, and the anticipated traffic,” says Suitor. “With this intel, the next step would be to seek out the right commercial beverage machine that is intended for the application and environment the retailer will operate from.”
Hot beverage machines should be installed in a well merchandised location within the store and connected to a dedicated filtered water source, adds Suitor.
“Single-serve platforms have grown in the convenience channel and continue to be the preferred choice for retailers, given their attributes, cost, capabilities, and flexibility,” says Suitor. “Hot beverage equipment requires a good water source, electricity, quality products to onboard and a dedicated maintenance program influenced by volume expectations. Wherever the general public has access to a self-serve beverage offering, daily maintenance and sanitation procedures must be performed with extra attention to the equipment touchpoints.”