Circle K Rolls Out New Coffee Equipment

Partners with Wilbur Curtis in effort to improve quality

IRVING, Texas & MONTEBELLO, Calif. -- After months of testing various brewing technologies, Circle K is bringing new coffee equipment to all of its 6,000 U.S. stores. The chain has partnered with Wilbur Curtis and selected the manufacturer's Gemini brewer with IntelliFresh in an effort to improve its coffee quality.

"The evaluation process was exhaustive and highly objective, and it included both quantitative and qualitative metrics," Trey Powell, director of national procurement U.S. for Couche-Tard/Circle K Stores told CSP Daily News.

Perfecting its coffee program became a crucial part of Circle K's ongoing foodservice initiative. "Coffee is the undisputed anchor of the a.m. daypart, but it's easy to get lost when rationalizing equipment selections against key operational considerations," Powell said.

"As a decentralized organization, we have the benefit of studying the results from our various independent business units. Over the years, our divisions have employed a variety of brewing technologies and dispensing platforms," he said.

This model enabled Circle K to gather insights on existing programs and make a decision on what would be best for the company as a whole.

Wilbur Curtis' Gemini brewer with IntelliFresh holds coffee at precise temperatures to minimize deterioration. The technology allows retailers to offer thermal-like results, but with digitally controlled temperature maintenance for improved quality, according to the company.

"What was impressive about Circle K was they rolled up their sleeves and did the work, they didn't take everybody's word for it. They spent the time and money and made the effort necessary to match results with their criteria," said Frank McCarter, vice president of national accounts for Wilbur Curtis, Montebello, Calif.

In the end, the IntelliFresh technology best fit Circle K's needs. "Most importantly, the Curtis platform enables our teams to deliver on the promise of truly premium Circle K coffee--brewed fresh and ready for guest customization," said Powell.

The technological advancement exists in the intelligent satellite server system, where a high-tech sensor automatically monitors coffee temperature. Low-wattage, smart warmers cycle on and off to gently maintain a precise temperature. This minimizes the deterioration of brewed coffee by slowing the process of pH and acidic separation usually brought on by temperature volatility. Also, these digital "instructions" move with the satellite to its remote serving stand, ensuring perfect serving temperature over time.

"Temperature variation is one of the biggest enemies of coffee. And it's not just cooling; allowing coffee to get too hot is equally damaging. Hot to cold and cold to hot variations in temperature tend to accelerate the deterioration process even more rapidly," said McCarter.

This system enhances the growing trend among retailers to offer a thermal-like system--vs. glass carafes--and greatly reduces the operational and consistency hurdles that come with it.

"Most roasters will say the most effective way to deliver coffee is off heat, a thermal-type setting," said McCarter. "In our channel, this new system eliminates the glaring executional challenges of thermal service and provides a much easier platform, and greater consistency for brewing and holding quality coffee."

The Curtis Gemini with IntelliFresh takes both inconsistency and human error out of the equation. "You have thermal-like results without the operational issues," said McCarter.

The system is also designed to be more scale resistant to avoid down time in hard-water areas.

For Circle K, the decision went beyond the technology. "Too often, manufacturers limit their focus to just selling more equipment, but we consider Curtis to be an integral part of our coffee selling team," said Powell. "It's a true partnership, not just a simple buying relationship."

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