Across operations of every segment and size, coffee is a sales cinch. Lake Region Healthcare, a 108-bed hospital in Fergus Falls, Minn., has one cafeteria—but it also has a separate coffee kiosk that draws not only hospital staff, but people from the community as well. In its first 15 days, the kiosk brought in nearly $7,000 of new revenue, says Foodservice Director Steven Pletta.
Meanwhile, Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital has nearly 900 beds and more than 7,000 employees. Its Starbucks kiosk, located in the lobby, stays open 24 hours and is among the busiest in the city. “It just goes back to location, location, location,” Pletta says.
According to FSD’s latest Beverage Census research, a quarter of noncommercial operators expect the most growth in specialty coffee in the next two years (second only to enhanced waters). With this common interest in mind, FoodService Director has rounded up recent examples of how operators are differentiating their coffee programs and boosting sales.
1. Try delivery
Two of coffee’s biggest players, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, are in the midst of pilot programs to test delivery of coffee drinks and other menu items. So providing on-site delivery within an office building, senior-living community or college campus could be a natural extension of service.
Partnering with third-party delivery services, such as Postmates and Tapingo, has helped some operators reach customers without bulking up their staffs. For example, as a marketing move during finals week, Uber in Philadelphia paired up with local cafe Saxby’s Coffee to drop off drinks and snacks to students at Temple, Drexel and University of Pennsylvania who requested the service through Uber’s app.
2. Show your work
With consumers demanding transparency on the menu, operators are extending full disclosure to beverages, too. At Yale University’s KBT Café, a kiosk in the lobby of the science building, coffee is roasted and ground in full view using equipment that fits on the countertop.
At his new fast-food concept Loco’l in Los Angeles’s Watts neighborhood, chef and Kogi BBQ food truck founder Roy Choi is promising trendy, high-quality coffee for $1 a cup, made possible by roasting the beans in-house.
3. Think small
Noncommercial operators have been masterful at converting small, do-nothing spaces into c-stores, micromarts and other grab-and-go operations. Why not coffee shops? Last April, Starbucks opened its first small-scale prototype in New York City, a purely grab-and-go concept without seats or bathrooms, propelled by mobile ordering and payment. And Eater.com reports that the tiny house movement has spread to businesses, with Story Coffee Co. opening a coffeehouse that squeezes 14 drink options into a petite space.
4. Give them a taste
As people become more educated about coffee, menuing a sampler can boost engagement and give them a reason to try something new. Starbucks does so at its Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle, while Story Coffee sells a $3 flight. Indaba Coffee in Spokane, Wash., takes a slightly different approach with its Deconstructed Latte—a coffee drink presented in three glasses; one with espresso, a second with steamed milk, and a third with the two combined.
5. Differentiate with flavor
More than one-third of noncommercial operators offer seasonal hot and cold specialty coffees, such as pumpkin spice during the fall. As the craft-coffee culture grows, everyone from baristas to bartenders to chefs are pushing the boundaries of flavor, crafting craveable signature drinks. Last month, Chicago restaurateur Stephanie Izard developed a custom coffee concoction to help Wyndham Grand hotels launch its Brew Parlor. The Asian-inspired cold-brew drink features Thai chili, star anise and other spices.
6. Add a fast lane
As customers queue up for lattes and blended coffee drinks, those who prefer their cuppa joe sans frills can skip the line and head straight to the “speed lane” inside Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters coffeehouses. The Spokane, Wash.-based chain’s separate line offers drip-coffee-only between 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.; customers simply leave about a dollar and pour it themselves.
7. Play up health
Health—that other buzzword always on consumers’ lips—conjures smoothies and juices. But research from May 2015 suggests coffee is a good source of antioxidants, in addition to its better-known health benefits. Just as operators use signage and easy-to-spot symbols to signal the health and diet properties of sandwiches, salads and other options available to guests, it also makes sense to boast about coffee’s health benefits to lure those body-con customers.
8. Consider cats
Senior living communities recently have been engaging residents with new formats culled from restaurants, including wine bars and sports bars. Another potential idea to steal: cat cafes. The concept of offering frappaccinos with a little feline cuddling on the side could play very well with residents and encourage them to linger and socialize in common dining spaces. B&I operators might consider the same to draw stressed-out workers away from their desks for a midday pet break with their coffee.