People in the UK drink a lot of tea and coffee out-of-home – you don’t need us to tell you that. As their interest has increased, so too have the number of outlets specialising in these beverages, if anything to the extent that on some high streets it is disproportionate. Ok, that may be an exaggeration, but you get what we’re saying.
This increase in tea and coffee outlets has threatened substandard offerings that were previously deemed satisfactory, because the more a person can have a product in different places, the higher probability there is of them having better or lesser experiences. People are becoming more aware of bad tea and crap coffee.
Whether this will get rid of the less-than-high-quality offerings on the high street is debatable, but it should encourage restaurants to appeal to customers beyond a main course. Today’s successful restaurants, even the most casual, are synonymous with a certain standard that has never been demanded of them before. The provenance of produce, how it is handled, and the experience it offers is carefully considered by current consumers when choosing where to eat. Restaurants that are approaching tea, coffee, hot chocolate and other hot beverages in this way can shout about it to set themselves apart and be compared with even the most artisan of coffee shops.
“We only use quality ingredients and they offer all the inspiration we need,” says Lynette de la Vega, founder of Abuelo in Covent Garden. “On the menu, we have what we personally like to drink and we prepare it that way as well. That means every item in our beverage offering has been carefully thought out.”
The trend for premiumisation is carrying across every single hot beverage, not just one.
“Our coffee is specialty coffee, single origin, and our tea selection is simple but includes a great black and green tea. We make fresh infusions, like our own fresh sticky chai mix, our ginger tea, and our mint, rose and agave tea,” says de la Vega. “These are all made fresh to order. That is how we like to drink them at home. Our hot chocolate is Callebaut chocolate, again focused on the best we can get, and you will taste the difference in the final result.”
De la Vega and her team may serve hot beverages inspired by how they like them at home, but we’re constantly hearing that operators should strive beyond this in order to encourage people to drink hot beverages out-of-home, and please them when they do.
“The hot drinks market continues to evolve and consumer expectation is growing with it,” says Zareen Deboo, foodservice channel operations manager for Ferrero UK & Ireland. “As with coffee, consumers are looking for something different and better compared to their at-home hot chocolate experience.”
For hot chocolate, the quality of the chocolate itself can differentiate the great from the poor, similar to beans for coffee and leaves for tea. Single origin coffee and loose-leaf tea are perceived by consumers as being of higher quality. However, if operators are using premium products in order to charge a higher price point, there’s more that they need to consider. The term ‘premium’ is used so widely now that the way that a drink is served, the range available, the customisation opportunities, the drink’s health benefits and even its sustainability credentials can all contribute.
“The addition of toppings and the use of different types of chocolate including white, milk and dark, allows for customisation – something consumers are often happy to pay a premium for,” says Callebaut UK and Ireland gourmet marketing manager Anna Sentance. “As well as ensuring there is a range of toppings, using real Belgian chocolate will give customers a lasting impression that will guarantee repeat sales.”
Think about the extra touches you can add to a hot drink – from the finish on a latte through to the addition of marshmallows on top of a hot chocolate and the vessel for tea. With the growth in hot beverage orders during winter time paired with the unavoidable Instagram culture, it’s important that these drinks look as premium as they taste.
“Simple festive lattes can be given the wow – or Instagram – factor with extravagant and festive toppings such as gingerbread men and edible gold sprinkles,” suggests Monin UK beverage innovation manager Lee Hyde. “An elaborate garnish or topping not only grabs the attention of potential customers, but it also creates a great deal of infectious curiosity around a drink.”
The creativity, presentation and premiumisation of hot beverages should encourage operators to promote their offering in order to increase customer spend. However, this is not the only opportunity for restaurants. We are seeing the growth of tea and coffee on drinks menus thanks to many other forms that suit these types of establishments down to the ground.
Turn down the heat
This year, we have seen tea and coffee evolve incredibly, despite one of the hottest summers on record. While hot beverages are not typically associated with warm weather and operators can usually expect a mid-year dip in sales, new product development has led to tea and coffee being the drinks of the summer.
“Not everyone wants a hot drink, particularly when the weather is warmer,” says Novus Tea sales director Allan Pirret. “So, why not offer cold brew tea, this summer’s favourite ‘grown-up’ refreshment. Cold brew tea is sugar-free, but has a gentle, natural sweetness; it has no calories and contains all the well-known health benefits of tea; it’s excellent for quenching thirst and hydrating the body.”
With key target markets such as millennials looking for products that are better for them, and sugar getting a bit of a kick-in at the moment, alternatives such as cold brew coffee can provide operators with more of an appeal to customers, similar to fruit and herbal teas, where traditional soft drinks are failing.
While health is a huge driver, it is not the only influence on new tea and coffee serves. In fact, one of the biggest trends is arguably in spite of this. We ask you: is there a cocktail menu in the UK that doesn’t list an espresso martini in some way, shape or form? Just as coffee is being used in cocktails, tea is being fused with alcohol, such as G + Tea – a play on gin and tonic.
“At a time during which lines are becoming increasingly blurred between the offering of bars and that of coffee shops, where bars are serving more coffee and coffee shops are starting to provide more of an alcohol offering, with coffee-infused twists on classics, there has never been a better time for outlets to give more attention to the beverages – both hot and cold, alcoholic and non-alcoholic – that they are offering to consumers,” says Hyde.
Developments in coffee serves are allowing operators of all kinds to branch out – licence dependent. Alongside its flat whites and cortados, Abuelo uses coffee to provide a selection of coffee cocktails, including a spiked iced coffee, a gin and tonic with espresso, and, of course, an espresso martini. While this is an example of taking advantage to extend an offering, de la Vega stresses that the focus should still be on quality, whether the coffee is hot or cold.
“People are increasingly going towards coffee and will drink it in any form,” she says. “Espresso martinis are popular at the moment, but they are not all equal. We serve a fresh coffee cocktail from freshly-made espresso. What is popular and growing is drinking quality coffee and so it is good to extend and showcase this quality where we can.”
Like the growth of hot tea and coffee, the popularity of coffee cocktails means that there is a greater chance of drinkers experiencing espresso martinis of various qualities, some better than others. The range of styles and opportunities to sell them may be increasing, but even more so is the importance of a quality cuppa.
While an offering that is deemed as ‘quality’ has the ability to carry with it a higher price point, operators need to ensure that it can also be considered value-for-money. Is your hot beverage experience worth the money that a customer pays? To answer this with a positive ‘yes’, operators may want to think about how they can give more, in order to get more.
A product that is good value doesn’t mean cheap, but worthy of the price attached to it. Operators can make hot beverages better value-for-money by adding something special to them, whether that be a weekly special flavour or concoction, or as part of a deal with a breakfast pastry or sweet treat.
“Offering a deal will always encourage sales,” says a Refreshment Systems Ltd spokesperson. “‘Coffee and a cake’ or ‘coffee and a pastry’ for a set amount will make the customer feel they are getting a good deal. Use tried and tested flavours to make a special recipe for a ‘drink of the week’ theme.”
Offering a food item alongside a hot beverage has the potential to bring more of the tea and coffee occasion into restaurants. Lantmännen Unibake UK marketing manager Kate Sykes lists which hot drinks operators may want to pair up with pastries:
• Try pairing an all butter croissant with a flat white, mocha or a hot chocolate. In Europe, it is often considered even better to dip the flaky pastry into the hot drink
• A simple yet delicious duo is a pain au chocolat with a latte
• The sweetness of an apricot or apple crown is the perfect fruit pairing for on-trend matcha tea
• The maple pecan plait proves popular with an espresso or black coffee, or pair with a cold brew in the summer. The sweetness and nuttiness of the maple pecan pastry filling beautifully balances the slightly bitter, strong coffee flavour
• Cinnamon swirls and a hot chocolate or flat white combine indulgent creaminess with the aromatic spiced flavour of cinnamon
• Vanilla crème crowns provide a comforting creamy accompaniment to the bold flavours of a speciality black tea.