With the latest COVID-19 surge now waning, spring on the horizon and customers returning to former routines after the better part of two years, it may be time for some convenience stores to consider a coffee bar refresh.
It should go without saying that a good coffee program starts with a quality cup of coffee — and that means fresh. Many retailers raising the bar on freshness by adding bean-to-cup coffee dispensers to allow customers to brew up fresh coffee on demand. Bean-to-cup may or may not be right for your market area, but make sure you’re offering a high-quality cup of coffee. If you’re using glass pots or thermal dispensers ensure coffee is scheduled to be refresh at the proper intervals and that employees are following through on the task. A stale cup of coffee means customers are less likely to make your store a destination for coffee in the future.
Customization is still key today when it comes to coffee. Add excitement to the hot dispensed segment with limited-time coffee flavors, seasonal brews, syrups, creamers, sugars and more. Make sure to use signage to let your customers know about your offering. If you feature coffee beans from specific countries of origin or specialty flavors, highlight that for shoppers.
Since the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, sanitation is something customers are looking for like never before. It’s crucial that the coffee bar area is sanitized regularly to help self-dispensing customers feel safe using the equipment. Make sure napkin dispensers are full and spills are handled quickly. A messy coffee area sends the wrong message about how much your c-store values cleanliness.
Consider your cups and coffee bar signage. Is it time for a new look? If your coffee area isn’t easily visible from the entryway, evaluate if new signage might help distinguish the area and add some excitement. If your store brand isn’t being displayed on your coffee cup, you’re missing a marketing opportunity.
Today, customers can open a mobile app, order a cup of coffee and have it ready for pickup in minutes or delivered to their front door. Customers flocked to these methods of coffee ordering during the pandemic and those habits are likely to continue. If you’re not offering this type of convenience, you’re likely to lose customers to the competition.
Other retailers are adding drive-throughs as well as in-app loyalty programs featuring coffee club points. Still others are adding barista programs and making espresso beverages made to order.
Not all c-stores are in a position to feature some of these programs, but evaluate what options are available to you and what the demand looks like for each in your market area. If you already offer foodservice delivery through a mobile app, can you add coffee to the delivery menu?
Even if bean-to-cup coffee machines, mobile ordering, a barista program, drive-through and an in-app loyalty program are all a long way off for your chain, stay on top of these trends and how they are evolving at other retailers, as they expected to grow in the years ahead.