Cold coffee beverages give beverage menus a boost.
This article first appeared in the 1 June 2006 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. To find out more about R&I, visit its website www.foodservice411.com.
By Margaret Casey, Special to R&I
Coffee is red-hot, even when it's served cold.
"We're driven by the never-ending quest for the new flavor sensation or a new way people can indulge themselves," says Dave Ammons, vice president of marketing, franchised brands, for Manhattan Bagel, one of Golden, Colo.-based New World Restaurant Group brands. "Put those two things together and that's where you get the occasion to come up with a new drink."
The fast-casual bakery chain introduced its Manhattan Chillerz, a line of frozen smoothie beverage, several years ago. This year Manhattan Bagel has added a new twist by giving the drinks a java version in three flavors-coffee, mocha and caramel latte.
"It's driven somewhat by the coffee segment," Ammons says of the additions. "We've always had the option of serving our coffee over ice but we think that demand for a specialty coffee drink in our segment is high enough to require that we have a more serious program."
Cold coffee beverages are an attractive menu addition, partly for their popularity with customers, and also for the small demands they make on labor.
"The transition to the cold coffee beverage was easy for us," says Aric Nissen, vice president of brand marketing for International Dairy Queen Corp., parent of quick-service chain Dairy Queen. "We had the equipment and training expertise in how we prepare and blend a treat."
Nissen says Minneapolis-based Dairy Queen views its MooLatté line-combining coffee and soft-serve-as a "point of creamy difference" in what has become a sea of cold-coffee offerings.
"Starbucks really deserves a lot of the credit for creating coffee as an affordable luxury," Nissen says. "And we found that adding our soft-serve ice cream was a way to create a cold blended coffee drink in an indulgent format."
In the past, Dairy Queen used coffee-flavored syrup in cold beverages. With MooLatté, the chain not only made the switch to using real coffee but also invests in a Colombian coffee blend for use specifically for the beverage.
"We needed to establish some credentials," Nissen says of the move. "We didn't want to just latch onto the trend. We were confident in our role as a treat purveyor but we needed to do a better job on the coffee, even if our customers didn't realize it or gave us credit for it."
When Manhattan Bagel introduced its coffee-flavored Chillerz, it took a similar approach, Ammons says.
"Everyone is always trying to overlap into someone else's territory," he says. "We needed to upgrade the quality to make sure we understood what people want in these drinks and also to decide how we could fit into that.
"We looked to a dairy-based product because it was the right way for us to do it while capturing the taste buds of the driving forces in the coffee category."
Ammons points out that operations without Dairy Queen's advantages (in equipment, training and brand identity) have to be realistic when launching these specialty drinks.
"We want to make sure we're doing it the right way for us because we're not a smoothie company and it's not going to be 80% of our product mix," he says. "We just have to make sure we're creating something easy to make that will support good margins because it's going to be a smaller part of our business."
At Gelateria, a Boston dessert restaurant that specializes in gelato, cold coffee drinks are a way to extend the menu without taking focus from the bread-and-butter of its core offerings. Gelateria uses an imported coffee from Italy as a base for the drinks, and instead of using a blender to create them, opts for a simpler route.
"We use our martini shakers with a few scoops of ice cream, our regular espresso and some sugar," explains Gaetano DeMartino, bartender for Gelateria. "All the flavor from the cream and coffee doesn't go away as the ice melts."
Cold coffee drinks are appearing at operations across the country. A sampling of offerings:
Cappuccino Blast: Coffee, ice and a variety of ice cream flavors including cookies and cream, Rocky Road, mocha and turtle and topped with whipped cream and cinnamon. Baskin-Robbins, multiple locations
Caribou Coolers: Coffee; ice; caramel, chocolate or vanilla syrup; whipped cream and "sweet gooey drizzle" on top. Caribou Coffee, multiple locations
MochaLatta Chill and CarameLatte Chill: Coffee, milk, chocolate or caramel, served over ice or blended and topped with whipped cream. Cinnabon, multiple locations
MooLatté: Colombian coffee; soft-serve ice cream; and flavored syrups including hazelnut, French vanilla, caramel; topped with whipped cream and cookie pieces. Dairy Queen, multiple locations
Iced Tuxedo: White and dark chocolate layered over espresso, milk and ice. Java City, multiple locations
Chillerz: Coffee, milk, ice, syrups such as caramel and mocha and topped with whipped cream and drizzled chocolate or caramel. Manhattan Bagel, multiple locations
Mocha Freddo: Espresso, milk, ice, sweetener and Dutch cocoa. Peet's Coffee & Tea, multiple locations
Espresso Shake: Espresso ice cream, milk and espresso shot. Tully's Coffee, multiple locations
Coffee With a Kick
The cold coffee trend isn't limited to the nonalcoholic beverages.
At The Brickyard Bar and Grill at the Holiday Inn in Long Island, N.Y., Joanne Sullivan sought a way to capture the flavor profile while creating a new signature drink to rev up the operation's alcoholic offerings.
"I call it a 'brew with a buzz,'" Sullivan, Brickyard general manager, explains. "Our Long Island Iced Coffee is just like a Long Island Iced Tea but with all coffee flavors."
Using four different spirits, all of which are part of the bar's current inventory, Sullivan incorporates espresso flavoring, vodka, chocolate- and coffee-flavored liqueurs to create the drink and serves it over ice.
"The same guests who like that cold coffee flavor are the same ones who are ordering the Long Island Iced Coffee," she says. "[The cold-coffee taste] is catching on with people, so why not offer it in an alcoholic drink?"
Condensation was becoming a hot topic within the halls of Dunkin' Donuts.
With its iced coffee drinks gaining popularity with even its most impassioned hot coffee drinkers, the chain was met with some slight grumbling from its regular customers.
"Our customers were having condensation issues with our iced beverages," explains Laura Stanton, director of marketing for Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin' Donuts Inc. "So we developed sort of a beer cozy for those drinks."
The Cup Cooler, a reusable foam cover that slips over Dunkin' Donuts plastic tumblers, not only absorbs any condensation from the drink but also allows the product to hold its temperature for a longer period of time.
"We needed an on-the-go solution for our cold beverage," she says. "The Cup Cooler provides that solution for customers and is something unique to our brand.