Beverages: A little jolt

Espresso-based drinks deliver lucrative margins and satisfy customers.

Published in FSD Update

After months of deliberation, Brandon Durio, executive chef for the Cherry Creek School District, in Colorado, piloted a coffee program in one high school. “We wanted to focus on the basics and retrain students’ palates to know what real espresso drinks are supposed to taste like,” Durio explains. He’s now able to offer students Americanos, cappuccinos, iced or hot lattes and mochas, all under 60 calories.

“Espresso-based beverages have a higher price point and a higher margin than drip-based coffee, so they’re an absolute must on a café’s menu,” adds Michael Wuest, marketing manager for the University of Missouri Campus Dining Services, in Columbia, where espresso-based drinks like Pumpkin Spice and Raspberry Vanilla Cream lattes are offered in three of the school’s self-branded coffee shops.

Both operations purchase local products. Cherry Creek works with Coda brand coffee, which delivers fresh on demand, and Rocky Mountain Spice Co., which helped the district make a low-calorie cocoa powder for mochas. Mizzou’s cafés use Kaldi’s coffee, a St. Louis-based company with ownership ties to the university, and The Roasterie, a Kansas City-based company.

Variety and promotions

“Coffee, like wine or beer, is a highly individualized experience, and the beans themselves can deliver a huge variance in flavor and expression,” says Kevin Aubrey, marketing manager for dining services at the University of Rochester (UR), in New York. “We try to serve that by offering numerous ways to cater to the taste of our customers.”

This extends beyond the beans themselves—be sure to offer variety in caffeine levels, milk and flavors. Using simple recipes and high-quality ingredients is paramount, adds Rachel Ciccaglione, location supervisor at UR, who uses a combination of chocolate sauces and syrups to boost flavor in lattes, like mocha, vanilla and salted caramel. “[Espresso drinks] are very popular in the late afternoon, [when] our customers tend to look for that pick-me-up in a latte or cappuccino, rather than a brewed coffee.”

Seasonality is also important. Durio offers seasonal options like white chocolate in February for Valentine’s Day and Irish Cream in March, and Ciccaglione offers specialties like eggnog and gingerbread lattes in December.

Competition

Durio considers QSRs that serve specialty coffee his competition: “Starbucks’ Caramel Macchiato has three times the calories than any of our espresso drinks, and McDonalds offers a $1 coffee, so we offer our Americano straight up for the same price. The students love it because of the convenience and the great product served right at their school.” 

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
organic fruits veggies

From WhiteWave Away from Home.

Organic food has gone mainstream in recent years. And consumers of all ages believe organic food is not just healthier—but tastier—than conventional counterparts, according to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report.

No demographic group, however, values organic offerings as highly as those aged 18 to 34.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of millennials, compared to 44% overall, say they’re more likely to purchase and willing to pay at least slightly more for menu items with organic claims, according to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy...

Industry News & Opinion

Chefs at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., participated in plant-based food training earlier this month as part of an effort to introduce more vegetarian, vegan and allergen-free dishes on campus, The Daily Evergreen Reports.

Over two days, chefs worked in pairs with plant-based ingredients to create new dishes such as vegan pizza, cauliflower fried rice and vegetable wellington.

Washington State’s dining services said it hopes to expand the presence of plant-based dishes throughout all campus dining halls as student demand rises, noting that items with animal...

Ideas and Innovation
trail mix

We’ve added fueling stations in our units for our workers who didn’t have time to eat or just need a snack. We have areas set up with trail mix, crackers, cookies and water. It helps us avoid people feeling or getting ill, especially when we get closer to exam periods and student workers are studying and not taking the time to eat.

Ideas and Innovation
reusable coffee cup thermos

We were inspired by a book titled “Influence” to start a sustainable cup program called My Cup. All 15,000 new students receive a reusable cup with their name on it, which they can use at the dining halls. Personalizing helps them invest in the program and actually use it.

FSD Resources