The quality of the hot drinks served in your establishment is a major influencewhen it comes to customers deciding where to enjoy their breakfast, says Anne Bruce
You don't have to go far to find a drink in most urban centres in the UK. A choice of branded coffee shop operators, artisan bakeries, cafés, supermarket convenience stores with coffee machines and pubs jostle for space with restaurants and fast-food shops. Even if you narrow the options down to the outlets that are open at breakfast time, you still have a very well-lubricated market. So it already makes sense for operators to make sure that their breakfast beverages offer stands out and, as suppliers advise, to give customers a drinks ‘experience' over breakfast.
Data from CGA shows that the quality of drinks available is the number-one criterion for 28% of consumers having breakfast in a branded outlet, whereas it is the main concern for only 18% at any other mealtime.
So how do you ensure your drinks rise and shine above your competition? Offering a range of best-selling coffees is the starting point. Coffee, in its various guises, is by far the most popular drinks choice at breakfast out of home, according to Allegra Coffee Track Q1 2017, with only 7% preferring tea between 6am and 10am. The latte is the top seller, followed by the americano, cappuccino and flat white.
But there is a proviso. "In today's competitive coffee market, with ever-increasing consumer expectation, operators simply cannot afford to offer bad or mediocre coffee," says Andrew Jack, marketing director at Matthew Algie. "Customers expect the best and will know when it is anything less."
Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable and their demand for higher-quality coffee has increased, he adds. Operators should look at offering barista-made coffees in the morning and expanding their choice of premium blends.
Promotional mechanics, such as meal deals or link saves, are an easy way to drive up trip spend through your drinks and add value to the consumer experience. Jack suggests that when it comes to breakfast promotions, coffee is a great product to cross-sell: for example, offering a coffee and bacon roll deal.
Barry Kither, sales and marketing director at Lavazza, agrees that with increasing competition within the coffee industry and the rise of artisan coffee shops, consistent quality is key. One solution to providing barista-quality coffee without employing barista-qualified members of staff is capsules, he recommends. "This is the fastest-growing part of our business; a capsule-based solution allows businesses to provide a variety of serves at
consistent quality, cost-effectively."
Revenue can be driven by increased unit prices, as well as increased coffee consumption, as consumers are increasingly drawn towards a high-quality, out-of-home, hot-beverage experience, adds Kither.
Consumers are becoming coffee connoisseurs, so businesses need to make more of an effort to ensure their coffee quality is in line with what consumers expect.
Indeed, single-origin coffees make the coffee experience more interesting as well as making it different for consumers, says Nespresso B2B commercial manager Ian McDonald. He says: "The market is evolving and people are experimenting more. People like the experience of good coffee and like to give themselves a treat. As people get more interested in coffee, they go up the quality ladder."
Kathryn Oldershaw, marketing director for tableware company Utopia, says #coffee has been mentioned 70 million times on Instagram, showing how great the demand is for a well-presented drink. Beautifully served drinks can also help make your breakfast offering more premium, commanding a higher price tag in the process. She says: "If you are spending time and money on provenance and authenticity - as the artisan coffee movement demands that you do - it stands to reason that the way you serve your coffee reflects this."
Meanwhile, as breakfast blends into brunch, coffee choices can become more varied, according to Damon Wilson, commercial director at Kimbo UK: "When it comes to coffee, operators can cater both to the morning rush and the more relaxed customer by offering a diverse menu," he says.
"An espresso is perfect for the worker on the run, but someone who is enjoying a leisurely breakfast may prefer a coffee that matches their mood. We recently brought out the Cuccuma; a traditional coffee flip pot that uses gravity to draw hot water through a layer of coffee. It takes only minutes to brew, but there's no rushing gravity - it's an unhurried way to enjoy coffee."
Allegra data also reveals that 2% of consumers now look for soy or other plant-based beverages at breakfast: for example, a latte with almond or coconut milk. So it is worth thinking about the milk, as well as the coffee.
In the bag
Now is also an exciting time for breakfast teas, with 'premiumisation' the name of the game, says Marco Geraghty of Concept Blending, the organiser of the annual National Tea Day, which next takes place on 21 April 2018. And on the high street, chains such as Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts are upgrading to whole- leaf teabags, and good-quality tea start-ups and tea houses are starting to emerge.
Geraghty says: "What we hear from our partners is clear. They are seeing a huge trend towards selling premium items, both to their trade clients and consumers."
Luxury teas, herbal blends and premium tea are en vogue, and consumers expect interesting presentation, such as teapots with infusers. Quality over quantity may be one of the oldest mantras in the book, but it is certainly one to keep in mind when serving consumers tea, advises Geraghty.
Felicity Fowler, Jing Tea's head of hospitality for the UK and Europe, says: "With a tough outlook in hospitality due to food inflation rates, challenges of staff turnover and unpredictable guest occupancy, it's now more important than ever to create an exceptional tea menu that guests enjoy and are happy to pay for, and that attracts new customers to your venue."
Green and herbal teas are driving the move away from traditional black teas with milk, but you still need to retain traditional options. And a tea menu for Middle Eastern or Chinese customers might be very different, so make sure you can adapt to your clientele.
Another area of growth for fruit and herbal teas, and operators should enhance their customers' morning experience by offering a range of tea blends that stand apart from those they enjoy at home, with exciting flavours and food pairings on the menu, suggests Marshall Kingston, Tetley's senior brand manager for out of home.
Natalie Cross, out of home manager at Taylors of Harrogate, says old favourites are best at breakfast. She cites Allegra data, which shows that 71% of customers choose black tea with milk at breakfast. "While speciality teas are important, people like to wake up to the comfort of everyday black tea," she says. "Our best sellers would be black tea, followed by earl grey, then green, peppermint and camomile, then fruit and berry teas, and then decaff teas.
"Operators also need to take care when making tea," she says. "The water in a coffee machine is not at boiling point, and tea needs boiling water."
As well as getting menu choices right, caterers also need to consider the price point of their hot beverages. Kelley Walker, purchasing manager at Beacon, say there is a fine line to tread between delivering an impactful hot-drinks offering and driving profitability for the business, as its research suggests that 65% of drinkers said they wouldn't be willing to pay more than £2.99, even for a speciality drink.
At breakfast, customers are looking for a hot drink 'experience' to help ease them gently into the day ahead - not a nasty wake-up call for the wallet.
Concept Blending (National Tea Day)
Taylors of Harrogate