Make the most of the self-service coffee bar

coffee cup
Photograph: Shutterstock

No matter how busy consumers get, it seems there’s always time for coffee. Convenience store retailers are perfectly poised to cater to this caffeine-craving population and to compete with higher-end coffee cafes and bakeries. According to Technomic’s 2018 Bakery and Coffee Café Consumer Trend Report, the most important factors when grabbing a cup of Joe are convenient location (60% of consumers say so) and fast service (57%). Overall value (43%) and low prices (39%) are also at the top of the list. These are all things convenience stores already have going for them. Now, it’s time to step up that self-serve coffee bar.

Create a coffee shop experience 

Competing with higher-end coffee cafes does not need to be difficult or expensive. It just takes a little creative marketing mentality to re-think the coffee bar. Should it be contemporary or kitschy—or something else? It’s all about creating an attractive, inviting and clean space where people will want to come. Retailers can tackle it by thinking of what it might be like to create a mini coffee shop within the store. For example, switch out a fading Formica countertop for some easy-to-maintain and attractive concrete or granite counters. Next, incorporate some fun signs or blackboards that display specials, funny quotes or anything else that will attract consumers to drop by for some java and inspire them to try something new. Run specials of the day with high quality coffee flavors, too.

In order to drive the younger set through the door, there are a few factors to consider. For starters, branch out beyond regular coffee and be transparent. For instance, in 2017, 7-Eleven reported it was introducing two Rainforest Alliance Certified™ coffees and making a commitment to sustainability. It highlighted this in signage to showcase the coffees’ nuances such as origin and roast.

It’s also important to make sure there’s a dedicated space that’s out of the way of heavy traffic. People need room to pour, stir and pack up. Other often-overlooked coffee bar elements include quality cups and lids, a nearby trash can and a variety of sweeteners, flavored syrups and creamer choices. While half and half and 2% milk are still viable options, don’t overlook dairy-free options such as soy and almond milk. Seasonal choices are also a good place to step up the experience—think pumpkin spice and peppermint for colder days and honey and lavender for the warmer months. Stash them in colorful baskets or cool tins.

Turn to technology

Finally, don’t skimp on technology. It may be time to trade in those big brewing pots for something a bit more 21st century. There is a vast array of equipment available today, from high-end bean-to-cup machines to convenient cold-brew machines.  Technomic’sFebruary 2019 Dispensed Beverage Report shows that 40% of convenience store customers were unfamiliar with cold brews, but were interested in trying them. Adding a coffee grinder for the seriously discerning customer can be an option, too. There are even tea and coffee combination brewers. Finally, do not neglect to make available ADA-compliant touchscreens and dispense touchpoints.  Manufactures such as BUNN have a full portfolio of equipment that addresses all these needs, in addition to using video technology for intuitive staff training and maintenance.  

When adding up all these new and innovative touches to the self-serve coffee bar, consumers will take note and think twice about waiting in line at their local cafe. They’ll also save time and money without having to sacrifice quality.   

Coffee is one of the most common beverage orders, so why not make the consumer’s experience a premium one? Elevate the coffee bar experience and ensure caffeine consumers keep coming back for more.

This post is sponsored by BUNN

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