Coffee: The high end

Espressos, Americanos, cappuccinos, lattes; these are the real moneymakers in foodservice these days.

The tremendous surge in specialty coffee sales has taught operators that buying and serving better quality hot beverages, from java to chai, black and green teas and herbal brews, pays big dividends. It starts with smart purchasing.

"There's only four or five cents worth of actual coffee in that cup, so don't skimp on quality," says coffee broker Ed Faubert, president of L.E. Faubert & Company. He advises buying 100 percent arabica beans rather than the poorer quality robusta, and beware of cheaper blends that are mostly robusta beans.

Much recent attention from sophisticated consumers has focused on organic crops (sales of which jumped 40 percent last year), Fair Trade coffees (which especially appeal to "green" customers) and geographic-specific beans (which, like fine wines, taste of their terroir). S&D Coffee, for example, just introduced its Buffalo & Spring coffee line, which includes certified Fair Trade and regionals like Guatemala Huehuetenango.

Many operators who have mastered the espresso machine are turning their attention to other hot beverages, like chai and teas. Virtually unknown a decade ago, spicy, sweet and milky chai is a sought-after coffee alternative these days. For operators, putting chai on the menu is a snap. Oregon Chai packages its eponymous beverage as a concentrate in 32-ounce, shelf-stable cartons; as mixes (just add water); and chai tea bags. Chai flavors include Original, Java, Kashmir Green and Vanilla. Seasonal variations such as Chai Cider and Chai Nog are available for the holidays. Oregon's latest intro is a sugar-free concentrated Chai.

"Serving good-quality hot tea has always presented a challenge to restaurants," says Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Association of the United States. Lately, however, Simrany is seeing a move toward premium teas in foodservice. He cites all the new upscale teabags on the market, including pyramid-shaped and see-through bags that let the leaves' pedigrees show. "The payback is tremendous," insists Simrany. There's not a tremendous increase in price, the teas cost just pennies more, because each bag only contains 2.2 grams of tea. "And they've already got the hot water and the tea cups."

For starters, Simrany suggests offering on-premise customers a few choices in a tea chest. "First, you've got to offer basic tea for the unsophisticated drinker, a mass-market brand like Tetley, Lipton or Bigelow," he advises. Fill out the chest with a few traditional varieties, such as Earl Grey or English Breakfast, a decaf and an herbal or two. To upgrade even further, a single-origin tea like Darjeeling or Assam will impress aficionados.

Twinings of London has been selling fine teas for 300 years. Now the venerable firm is introducing distinctively full-flavored, naturally caffeine-free herbal teas segmented according to the "mood states" they invoke. Relaxing blends in the "Unwind" section include Egyptian Camomile and Apple; African Honeybush, Mandarin and Orange; and Citrus, Cinnamon and Spices. The invigorating "Revive" selections include Cherry and Madagascan Cinnamon; Blackcurrant, Ginseng, and Tahitian Vanilla; and Lemon and Chinese Ginger.

"Anybody can sell tea for a buck, but if you're going to charge a couple of dollars more for a cup, that takes a little more effort," Simrany concludes.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
cold storage boxes

When working with a small footprint, the back of the house often gets squeezed in the interest of preserving precious seats. But as storage space contracts, these restaurant operators are getting resourceful with everything from shelves to ceiling height to inventory in ways that FSDs can apply, too.

“When we were first tasked with figuring out smaller footprints, when it came to interiors, it was like a bad riddle,” says Trinity Hall, SVP of development for Dallas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, which shrunk its prototype from 2,200 square feet to 1,800. “Let’s make it smaller and...

Managing Your Business
food symbols allergens

Bellevue School District in King County, Wash., has reduced the instances of life-threatening allergic reactions by 94% since 2013. Wendy Weyer, business manager for nutrition services, says that success stems from direct communication with the district’s 20,000 students.

Q: What was the first thing you did to start reducing allergic reactions?

A: More than five years ago, we changed our menu signage to provide information to students on what the common allergens were on all the foods that were served at every station. We use symbols such as an egg or a wheat stalk for younger...

Managing Your Business
business marketing concepts drawing

Sharp, smart marketing materials can make all the difference when it comes to drawing a big crowd for a menu launch or upcoming event. With more avenues to cover than ever and fewer resources to go around, operators offer their tips on making marketing work from start to finish.

Start with communication

Whether it’s an in-house marketing department, an outside agency or someone on staff wearing the marketing hat part-time, the right people need to be involved early and often. “Marketing doesn’t always have a seat at the table [like] it should in order to be truly effective,” says...

Menu Development
induction cooking nuts

Thanks to prolific fast casuals such as Chipotle, guests have come to expect a certain level of customization in their dining options. For almost 50% of Generation Zers, customization is a deciding factor when purchasing food, according Technomic’s 2016 Generational Consumer Trend Report . Taking customization even further, operations are handing over even more control to customers with both build-your-own and cook-your-own stations.

Elder Hall’s My Kitchen station at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., offers a daily rotating ingredient bar with items such as stir-fry,...

FSD Resources