I have a small chain of convenience stores in the Pacific Northwest. Coffee sales are flat, if not down. How do I inject life (and sales) into this important hot beverage category?
Fair question, and one that should on the mind of all owners across every category in your stores. Depending where you are located in the country, coffee can be a substantial customer draw with opportunities to increase basket size beyond the cup of coffee itself.
It all starts with quality. And perception. And quality. Gone are the days of a mass roasted, uninspired tasting coffee that has been sitting in the pot for hours on end. Competition is fierc,e and our friends from Seattle have raised the bar category wide to a point of no return. Having a faceless and commercially developed coffee program is for yesterday’s convenience store customer with limited expectations.
Enter bean-to-cup, the freshest possible cup of coffee available. Literal coffee theatre with all of the sounds, aroma and taste you would expect from the finest coffee houses. How does it work? While there are several commercial bean-to-cup machines available, they all essentially operate in the same manner. Whole beans are fed from a hopper and are ground, brewed and dispensed with the touch of single button.
The benefits of bean-to-cup far outweigh its detractors. Consider your total coffee category costs. It includes purchasing processed (ground) coffee that you inventory, labor to make, replenish and clean the coffee service and the arduous task of throwing away coffee that has gone bad. Bean-to-cup is based on whole beans that are processed in real time by the customer. There is virtually no waste, and the labor model is far less costly over the long run with the opportunity to increase per cup margins along the way based on the overall quality of your program.
If you do decide to go bean-to-cup, by all means, go all in and not a combination of both worlds. There is a bit of a customer learning curve, but the adoption rate is very high when you are getting that fresh cup of coffee being brewed right before you. Be known for quality and experience in addition to convenient. Don’t forget about thinking about a destination brand for your new coffee oasis as well. With something relatively new like bean-to-cup, customer engagement is critical in order to craft the new customer experience narrative of coffee at your store.
As I have mused in previous writings, it is always better to offer your customer something uniquely from your business as opposed to the same thing they can get down the street.
In your corner,
Andrew Swedenborg is retail expert with more than 20 years of experience within the convenience and grocery industries. He has worked with numerous retailers in the branding, design and deployment of retail concepts nationally. If you have a question for Swede, you can email him at: [email protected]