The On-Demand Challenge: Reducing Waste While Giving Consumers What They Want

Photograph: Shutterstock

Generally, convenience store coffee programs perk along just dandy. But controlling waste and labor costs can be a challenge.  During the morning rush and other peak periods, retailers meet coffee demand with traditional batch brewers. Dispensing is fast, but employees still have to monitor the coffee stations and, for every 12 to 20 cups sold, hustle over to brew a fresh batch, discarding used grounds and loading the brewer with a new filter and more coffee.

Even during slow periods, customers demand a fresh cup of coffee, which means keeping a pot ready at all times. This often results in pouring un-purchased, stale brew down the drain. “Conservatively, a convenience store’s program’s waste from batch brewing is anywhere from 30% to 60%,” says Scott Mazzini, senior vice president, sales and product strategy at BUNN®.

Some convenience store chains leave the coffee pots empty during slow periods with a sign informing customers that want coffee that employees will brew a fresh pot on request. However, brewing can take four to six minutes or more—and customers aren’t likely to want to wait that long. What’s more, that effort may only garner one or two sales before the remainder has to be dumped—leading to more wasted product and labor. So how can retailers avoid this?

Bean-to-cup brewing

The solution, retailers are discovering, is to use bean-to-cup brewers like BUNN’s Sure Immersion® line. At the push of a button, these machines brew coffee on demand from freshly ground beans in just about one minute per cup. The flavor profile is similar to traditional batch brewers, Mazzini notes, and is consistent from cup to cup, any time of the day or night.

“All of the coffee put into the bean-to-cup machine is purchased by customers,” says Matthew Gray, BUNN product manager. With this system, there’s no wasted product.

Serving variety

Bean-to-cup brewers appeal to customers with the visual cue of the beans in the hopper, the aromatics of the beans being ground and the delicious smell of coffee brewing. Sure Immersion machines are equipped with 2- and 3-lb. hoppers for beans, and some models have three hoppers accommodating different whole-bean selections, so retailers can offer customers a choice of decaf, regular and premium or flavored coffees, for example.

For even more variety, some Sure Immersion models have hoppers for powder-based ingredients, such as milk, French vanilla creamer and chocolate flavors, a feature which extends the menu beyond just hot coffee. And, the brewer is easy to use: customers select a coffee type and cup size, then press start from a large touchscreen display.

Entertaining sales

Beyond offering a great cup of coffee, Gray says, “The tablet-style display has full video capability and is fully customizable,” perfect for “using the chain’s brand language and logos.” Convenience store retailers can display promotional videos on the tablet screen, describing the beans’ origins or enticing customers into add-on purchases such as a bagel or donut.

Labor saver

Compared to traditional batch brewers, bean-to-cup machines require very little hands-on attention from store staffers. “The operator can brew through a 3-lb. hopper of coffee beans before an employee has to go touch the machine,” says Gray.  And a 3-lb. hopper, depending on the cup size, will brew anywhere from 70-90 cups.

“Sure Immersion technology uses a paper-filter roll that doesn’t require labor to replace the filter roll until it dispenses 1,600 cups,” explains Mazzini. After brewing, the spent grounds are transported to an internal holding bin, but most retailers opt for through-counter disposal which empties the grounds into an undercounter waste container. “Retailers can go all day long without having to empty the bin,” says the BUNN SVP.  “It’s a real labor-saver.”

Batch Brewing

Bean-to-cup can be a useful addition to any batch brewing program. “Operators that have to serve dayparts with varying levels of demand can benefit from a combination of our Infusion Series® batch brewing platform for high-volume periods, and our bean-to-cup systems when traffic slows down,” recommends Mazzini.

“This in turn,” adds Gray, “allows the single cup systems to feature a top-selling coffee in slower dayparts like afternoon or evening without fear of waste. Slower selling coffees, like dark roast or decaf, can also benefit from this effect.”

Speedy service gets even faster

At this October’s NACS Show, BUNN will debut a bean-to-cup machine that cuts the brew time in half. Called Fast Cup, the machine takes about 30 seconds from the push of a button to fill a 20-22 oz. cup and requires no paper filter to replace. “There was a lot of pent-up demand from convenience-store retailers who wanted a high-speed bean-to-cup machine,” notes Mazzini.

The take-away, says Gray, is that “BUNN has a coffee-brewing scenario for every customer and situation. From batch brewers to a range of bean-to-cup machines—in tandem or standalone to fit the needs of the location.”

This post is sponsored by BUNN

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