With so many advances in beverage equipment technology, there's bound to be something that's your cup of tea. Anne Bruce reports
San Francisco and Hong Kong are two out-posts of the futuristic Cafe X chain, where coffee is made and served entirely by robot with no human interaction after being ordered via an app. One robot can make several drinks at once and each drink takes about 20 seconds. What's more, Cafe X's single-origin coffee from local roasters sells at half the price of nearby rival establishments.
Cafe X has no plans to come to the UK at the moment, but equipment suppliers are awake to the opportunities that 21st-century technology can offer foodservice operators, as showcased in their latest smart machinery.
Mobile technology is being introduced in the drinks arena as in many sectors of the catering market, from cooking equipment to washing machines, to provide a high-level view of operations, says Claire Harrison, marketing manager of Verde Coffee. Outlets that invest in this sort of connected equipment will be better placed for the future.
Verde's Visacrem espresso machine now allows users to see operational data such as coffee cycles, maintenance alerts and even key component wear from a mobile phone or tablet. A Vodafone global SIM card installed on the electronic board of each machine transmits all the information to a data platform.
Multi-site operators can manage their machines remotely, meaning they can see the result of local marketing campaigns, monitor coffee output against sales and identify consumer trends, as well as make sure their machines are in top working order.
"We are now seeing the launch of a new breed of super-tech machines, a blending of beauty, art and science in a fundamental redesign of coffee technology," says Angus McKenzie, general manager of Sanremo UK.
Modern baristas live in a digital community and are keen to seek new levels of tech to draw out flavours, he says.
A connoisseur's dream come true, but even in the mainstream there remains a trend for speciality, artisan coffee, says Simon Baggaley, Nescafé beverage solutions category manager at Nestlé Professional.
tlé research shows that consumers feel quality (33%) and taste (30%) are among the most important factors when it comes to on-the-go coffee, both of which are easily delivered with the right machine. Nearly half of people surveyed wish to customise their coffee, with 36% choosing a 'skinny' variant. The research was conducted by One Poll in collaboration with Nestlé Professional in May 2017.
Baggaley says that these advances in technology can improve the efficiency of a business and reduce overheads: "The latest generation of coffee machines mean barista-style drinks can now be achieved at the touch of a button. This is allowing multiple verticals within foodservice to capitalise on the coffee market without needing to continuously invest in staff or training costs."
Nescafé recently launched a whole bean-to-cup offering, which does americano, espresso and lungo with the speed, consistency and ease of soluble speciality drinks. "The concept represents a significant opportunity for operators," says Baggaley, "enabling them to provide premium, speciality coffee with the ease of a new-generation, automatic machine, meaning no barista, no expensive staff training and minimal cleaning."
A customised experience
This technology can streamline processes, increase efficiency and drive down costs. But it can also significantly improve the consumer experience, says Yossi Meshulam, chief executive and founder of Ripples.
Ripples' countertop printer enables operators to print messages and photos onto frothed drinks such as lattes, cappuccinos, milkshakes and cocktails. Meshulam says that the principles are very similar to a normal inkjet printer, but Ripples uses coffee extract for printing to produce 600dpi photo-quality images.
Each print uses a very tiny amount of coffee extract that doesn't affect the flavour of the drink. You place a drink under the Ripple machine, which prints in about 15 seconds. Consumers can either choose an image from the Ripples app or upload their own designs. Ripples also represents a huge opportunity for third-party advertising and marketing opportunities, according to Meshulam.
hines can definitely add theatre to the drinks offer, particularly in the case of premium hot chocolate, says Scott Duncan, sales director at Carpigiani UK. Carpigiani's Chocolady counter-top machine's circulating paddle stirs and tempers the chocolate mix - a process that can be seen through the transparent bowl, adding to the visual appeal.
Test the waters
Foodservice operators need to ensure their hot beverage menu is working harder to impress today's discerning customer, says Gary Norwood, business account manager at Brita Professional. With water comprising up to 98% of a hot drink, it plays a huge role when it comes to taste, he says. It can affect the flavour and dull the appearance.
Water filters reduce the carbonate hardness of water and eliminate any substances that can influence the taste, appearance and odour of tea and coffee. Using a water filter also helps to keep beverage equipment in peak condition by minimising the risk of limescale deposits.
"Often people think that soft water doesn't need a filter, but this isn't the case," says Norwood. Soft water still contains minerals that can have a substantial impact on the taste and appearance of hot beverages, he says.
ta recently released a water map of the UK, developed in partnership with the UK Tea Academy and Wogan Coffee. The map plots the water types of 11 major towns and cities across the UK to inform operators of their water type.
Amid increasing calls to reduce plastic packaging waste, Paul Proctor, managing director of EcoPure Waters, suggests using filtered tap water served in an elegant glass bottle as a cost-effective and environmental alternative.
Standalone mains water filter systems are available at less than £20 per week, he says. Operators can opt for a built-in system or a counter-top EcoPuro, which is ideal for lower volumes, for where space is limited or for use as additional standalone drinking water stations.
Eau de Vie, a supplier of fresh, filtered water systems, is seeing a marked interest from operators wanting to shake up their water offering, says marketing manager Adam Lenton: "Filtered tap dispensers can help restaurants, hotels and bars to stand out in the marketplace. This is providing operators with the opportunity to package up their water offering as a premium service worth paying for."
Eau de Vie's under-counter system can be used to create a 'personally branded' soft drinks range for an outlet, such as cordial flavours mixed with still or sparkling filtered water. The latest innovation from the company is a 'new-generation' multitap Quadra 4100, which provides instant boiling water and chilled still and sparkling water - all filtered and from a single tap, Lenton says.
Juice it up
Equipment technology for cold drinks is also marching on. Mark Veale, Santos brand manager for Nisbets, says that the new CN990 Santos Cold Press Juicer from Nisbets is the first counter-top commercial cold-press juicer on the market. While the benefits of traditional juicing are well documented, cold-press juicing is now widely seen as the best way to retain vitamins, nutrients, enzymes and minerals. It can also be done directly in front of the customer for maximum impact.
d Simon Aspin, commercial director of Hubbard Systems, says even the ice for cold drinks has moved into the 21st century. Superdice is a new ice cube from the ice machine maker that is crystal clear and longer lasting but also softer, making it ideal for blended drinks as it is gentler on blender blades.
The Scotsman superdice machines, available in the UK through Hubbard Systems, are capable of producing almost 130kg of ice per day, but fit into the industry standard 760mm-wide format and have a sliding door to fit in tight spots. The Scotsman EcoX range uses only natural refrigerants and complies fully with upcoming European Union F-gas regulations, Aspin adds.
With all this cutting-edge equipment on offer, the idea of chucking a tea bag in a mug and pouring on some tap water boiled in a kettle is starting to sound rather quaint.
Eau de Viewww.eaudevie.com
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