Hot or cold, beverages are a big source of revenue. The trick, as ever, is to serve what your customers want.
Food needs to be accompanied by drink. Beverages can be hugely profitable and getting the right drinks equipment is all about matching it not only to the customers' expectations but also to the volumes being served. Espresso machines make wonderful coffee, for example, but a site that needs to serve dozens of customers in a few minutes will need something faster.
Coffee sales are booming. Despite the growth of espresso, coffee brewers and urns are still popular, because they are easy to operate, quick and economical. They both work the same way, by pouring hot water through a bed of ground coffee in a filter. Brewers make coffee in relatively small batches, usually 12 cups at a time, while urns can brew large batches - up to more than 500 cups. For large-volume requirements there are high-speed systems that can brew, hold and dispense 9,000 cups of coffee per hour.
Meanwhile, speciality coffee drinks are no longer the prerogative of specialist coffee shops - it's not unusual to see sophisticated espresso machines in pubs, leisure centres and clubs. The improvements in technology mean the latest push-button, bean-to-cup machines can produce excellent coffee, provided you have the time.
Carbonated drinks are among the most profitable items sold in any food service operation. There are two distinct systems of carbonated drinks dispensers available, postmix and premix, with various combinations of mix systems, propulsion systems and valves providing for differing applications and volumes.
In postmix systems, the syrup and carbonated water are mixed at the tap head. These systems are suited to sites where space is limited or the drinks volume is high. However, the equipment is more complicated than for a premix system, where the syrup and water are premixed.
Although premix systems take up more space, they tend to be less expensive and simpler to use.
All sorts of pressures have led to the rise of in-house bottled waters. Sustainability is certainly one of them, but the business potential, combined with the increasing demand for mineral water, have also played their part. Typically an on-site water-purifying system will treat mains water and give an almost limitless supply of bottled still and sparkling water. Add in a reusable designer bottle and the venue is making a style statement as well as significant profits.
Q In our factory canteen we currently use a filter coffee brewer but it's not coping with demand. Our customers just want old-fashioned coffee, so should we just buy a second unit or is there a better way?
A If you're using more than about 18kg of coffee a week, consider stepping up to a coffee urn. As well as producing more coffee, an urn can hold it fresh for longer than a brewer. Another benefit is that many coffee urns have adjustable controls, so the server can vary the strength of the drink.