Keep customers caffeinated with a range of beverages that capitalise on the growing love for breakfast out of home, says Anne Bruce
No-one wants to wake up to a lukewarm tea with scum on the top, a coffee that tastes of an unwashed machine, or a glass of watery orange juice that's been standing around all week.
Drinks matter in the morning - not just to grumpy consumers looking for a caffeine kickstart, but also to the operator who wants to capitalise on the current boom in breakfast as an eating out occasion.
M&C Allegra Foodservice's November 2015 figures show breakfast is the fastest-growing area of food to go, while purchasing group Beacon's figures show that customers are now breakfasting out on a monthly basis and are prepared to pay an average of £7.31 (2015). And breakfast is seeing year on year growth of 3.5%, making it the fastest-growing meal out of home.
So how do you make sure that your range of breakfast beverages delights the early morning customer?
Coffee supplier Lavazza UK's away from home sales and marketing director, Barry Kither, says that having a credible coffee is vital at breakfast - JD Wetherspoon and McDonald's immediately improved their coffee when they started targeting breakfast sales. Kither says research from Nielsen in 2015 showed that 75% of Brits now start the day with coffee and consumers are becoming more discerning.
So an operator should be on top of coffee trends coming across to the UK from Australia - flat whites are taking off in a trend led by the artisans. Kither says: "The overall trend is for shorter drinks. People don't really want a pint of milk with their coffee, unless it is a takeaway they are sipping on the train to work."
Cold coffee sales are also gathering momentum, he adds. And good filter coffee from a stated origin is seeing a boom, as the machinery for producing it is much improved.
Filter coffee is a great queue-buster, he says. "Operators have reported a 30% uplift in sales volumes selling it. With filter coffee, the only delay is gravity."
Customers are conditioned to ask for latte or cappuccino, so you need to have staff promoting filter options, he recommends.
There is a still a gap for a good breakfast served with good coffee. The big coffee chains such as Costa only have food preparation areas, not kitchens, so they are weak on breakfast, he says. Breakfast coffee offers a fantastic margin, he adds - it might be sold at as much as £6 a cup.
Kither adds: "When people ask me how can they tell if they are doing well at coffee, I say to check your food sales and see who is buying your food without a hot drink to accompany it. They may be going elsewhere for a coffee."
Ian McDonald, B2B commercial manager at Nespresso UK, says that there are now 2.2 billion cups of coffee consumed out of home in the UK each year. He says: "The hot beverage is a key component of breakfast and an extremely profitable opportunity for the catering and hospitality industry."
But sadly, in hotels, breakfast coffee is often seen as a 'cost' centre rather than a chance to shine, says Angus McKenzie, Kimbo UK managing director. Quality in coffee comes from training and a decent standard of base product, he says. Demonstrating to the customer the fresh process of preparation is key to adding value and driving sales.
Andrew Jack, head of marketing at tea and coffee company Matthew Algie, says breakfast is the highest consumption occasion for coffee. Filter coffee is often popular in the mornings, and large-capacity bulk-brew machines can be a good solution for high- volume sites. Espresso-based drinks are driving the market at the moment and provide good theatre for consumers.
Time for tea
While coffee remains the most popular hot beverage option, breakfast tea is a perennial best seller. Hotels should consider offering their guests a selection of high-quality loose teas as this will differentiate the breakfast offering from competitors, he recommends.
And Isabelle Haynes, Tetley senior brand manager - out of home, says that NPD Crest research shows breakfast and mid-morning are the most important occasions for tea drinking out of home, with this day part accounting for 42% of all tea consumption and one-third of all hot drinks at breakfast.
With 53% of consumers indicating they would spend more on a premium tea, caterers should offer a range of tea blends, she says. Breakfast is also an area of growth for fruit and herbal tea, with 28% of purchases occurring between 6am-9am.
And Ali Goode, shopper marketing manager at Twinings, says that some 38% of cups of tea are drunk in the morning (20% between 7-9am alone), so its vital that outlets can meet that demand. Consumers favour energising blends with strong flavours to get their caffeine hit at breakfast.
Anthony Bennett, founder of hospitality company Bennett Hay, comments: "Our thirst for increasingly sophisticated, specialty coffee shows no sign of being quenched. But tea, which had arguably lost ground as our national drink of choice, is making something of a comeback."
The secret is to serve high-quality, great tasting tea in lovely teaware. Organisations should offer herbal, green and fruit teas including jasmine, chamomile or lemongrass, as well as black tea classics such as English breakfast, Earl Grey and Darjeeling, he says.
Workplace cafes can maximise profits with seasonal offerings such as mint-infused teas, which deliver excellent margins.
Tetley Summer Berry
Now the summer months are here, hot 'grab and go' breakfast options are being replaced by juices and smoothies. Indeed, fruit juice is an important breakfast item and an area where poor provision can discourage repeat customers, says supplier Generation Juice.
Its new T300 touch-screen juice dispenser delivers chilled mixed juices, with one to nine different drink options from one to three juice products. The 32cm-wide machine can deliver 120 chilled litres per hour.
"Hotel brand integrity is compromised by fluctuating breakfast juice quality," says co-founder Simon Edwards.
And Dan Thomson, the founder of juice bar chain Supernatural, based in London underground stations, says that many morning customers opt for green juices or breakfast replacements. Half of daily revenue is generated between 7am and 10am.
Generation Juice T300 touch-screen juice dispenser
Meanwhile, lactose-free milks such as almond and rice are currently huge in the breakfast beverages market, says Fresh Direct's food development manager, Duncan Parsonage. But there is also sign of a move back to full-fat cows' milk. Ingredients like buttermilk and kefir are also on trend.
Parsonage says: "We are seeing more interest in vegetable-based green juices such as those fortified with kale and even seaweed. Beetroot is also popular."
Adam Hill, commercial product manager at Burco Commercial, says caterers also need to consider their equipment. He says commercial water boilers offer an adjustable temperature setting between 80Â°C and 98Â°C, perfect when making different speciality hot beverages.
"Modern bean-to-cup machines are responsible for the expansion of good-quality coffee into outlets where previously it was a no-go," says Justin Stockwell, managing director of Caffeine Limited, which distributes brands including Gaggia and Schaerer.
As the technology continues to develop, it's getting easier for operators to offer a more complex menu of good-quality coffees, including iced coffees and flavoured coffees at breakfast, even with unskilled staff, he says.
With suppliers reporting improvements in machinery, improvements in choice of blends, beans and brews, a more discerning consumer, and all the statistics that show that the breakfast market is booming, there are plenty of good reasons to take a look at your morning beverages menu.
The fact that there is rather more profit in a £2.95 single-origin coffee or matcha green tea than an 80p builders' tea should be a powerful incentive.
Packaging specialist Huhtamaki's new research suggests that of consumers who buy breakfast to go:
- They are most likely to buy from Starbucks (45%) and Caffè Nero (32%)
- 46% buy it two to three times a week
- 63% buy it Monday to Friday
- 79% also buy a drink
- 60% said they buy more food to go than they did three years ago.