How to Brew Up Sales with Coffee

Coffee culture has exploded in the United States, and the importance of preparing and serving this in-demand beverage correctly cannot be underestimated. Gone are the days when even a dive diner could serve “mud.” With the dramatic rise in coffee’s popularity, customers have more refined tastes and requirements. We asked two coffee experts for their tips on brewing and serving up a cup of joe.

The Daily Grind

“Coffee starts with a great bean, so you want a good roaster,” says Mark Klebeck, co-founder of Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts in coffee-loving Seattle, WA. As a former professional roaster, he knows what he’s talking about.

Some establishments order whole-bean or vacuum-packed pre-ground coffee from their food supply house. Others partner with nearby roasters to provide freshly roasted beans with local cachet. The decision should be based on your budget, your concept and your clientele.

Ordering the right quantity is important because coffee is perishable. Determining the amount of coffee you need to have on hand to support daily operations (called par) is difficult when you’re new to the business. But a quick consult with your state restaurant association or roaster can get you started with decent estimates. Then program your POS system to track sales by day, time of day, and whether to-go or in-house. This helps you zone in on the amount of beans and coffee supplies like ceramic coffee mugs and paper coffee cups you need.

Fresh & Hot

Serving coffee past its prime will leave a bad taste in your customers’ mouths. Coffee needs to be fresh and hot.

In a café operation like Top Pot’s, a workhorse brewing system makes sense. “Our model has two large dispensers side by side so that when one runs out, the other is full. The holding tanks are insulated, which keeps the coffee fresh and hot,” Klebeck says.

Coffee is sensitive, so it needs to be stored correctly if not served immediately. Scott Conary, president and green coffee buyer for Carrboro Coffee Roasters in Carrboro, NC, says “the best possible solution is to brew the coffee into a pre-heated, insulated carafe that will maintain temperature for one to two hours without any additional heat, since that can alter the makeup of the coffee, changing the flavors usually for the worse.”

Speed up operations in a café by placing airpots and serving urns on the counter so customers can serve themselves.

In many restaurants, customers may not order java frequently throughout the day. Make it only by the pot, noting the time it’s brewed and setting a timer. After one hour, toss it and start another pot. Or serve coffee in French press pots, which enable you to grind and brew on demand, reducing waste.

Planning on serving espresso drinks? Besides needing espresso machines, don’t forget frothing pitchers, spice shakers and special serving cups.

Serving It Up

Speaking of serving, select serviceware that reflects your concept and customer, like sturdy coffee mugs, cute creamers or stainless steel hot water or tea pots.

Be sure to stock plenty of condiments for patrons with varying dietary requirements and preferences. Coffee creamer and sugar are the expected add-ins, but discerning guests expect more choices. Many people now avoid processed sugar, preferring raw sugar or substitutes, according to Klebeck. And customers want a variety of milk products: nonfat, 2% and whole milk, plus dairy substitutes like soy milk. For self-service stations, store dairy products in insulated carafes to keep them at a safe temperature.

Think this is a lot of work for a simple cup of something most diners order out of habit at the end of a meal?

“The biggest mistake we see made again and again is forgetting that coffee deserves the same respect as every other sourced and served item in the kitchen,” Conary says. “It will be among the last elements served and the diner’s final impression. That’s a very poor time to not follow through with an experience that matches the rest of the meal.”

Even if you’re a simple café, getting coffee right is key, he adds. “Coffee is a truly culinary experience, requiring skill and knowledge right up to the point of service, like every other element.”

Seattle-based Jamie Peha has more than 30 years of experience in the restaurant, beverage and culinary industry, and has worn many hats throughout her successful career. Find Jamie on Google+. Margot Carmichael Lester has been a freelance business writer in Carrboro, NC, for more than 30 years. Find Margot on Google+.

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