Family Express’ Espresso Ambitions

New self-serve machines bring specialty coffee to chain’s 60 stores

LA PORTE, Ind. -- Family Express convenience stores are breaking into the upscale coffee business, not with a personnel-heavy barista program but with a remarkable new coffee maker that president and CEO Gus Olympidis calls the Lamborghini of espresso dispensers. This ain’t your granddad’s espresso machine.

Family Express convenience store coffee dispenser

Family Express officials gave CSP Daily News a first-hand look at the 60-store chain’s new espresso and latte initiative. The exclusive look is part of the September cover story of CSP magazine, which looks into the potential of specialty coffee and where the Valparaiso, Ind.-based retailer’s latest tactic fits into the bigger industry scheme.

Family Express’ high-end system grounds fresh gourmet beans, infuses Family Express-branded milk or other flavors and even creates hot foam. Customers place the cup (with or without ice), use a touchscreen to navigate menu options and press their selection. The machine goes to work to make the drink. A temporary “barista” will educate customers as they get used to working the device.

Olympidis said consumers—especially millennials and females—are moving in this direction, opting for higher-quality beverages over traditional drinks.

Recent data backs him up: In convenience stores, traditional dispensed beverages were down in units during the 12 months ending June 2014 by 6.05%, mirroring a similar drop two years earlier, according to Cedarhurst, N.Y.-based StudyLogic. Traditional dispensed beverages at c-stores did have a modest rise in 2013 at 2.39%.

Conversely, made-to-order coffee units rose consistently in that time period, up 8.05% in 2012, 15.22% in 2013 and 24.09% in 2014.

Below is a slideshow of how the system, branded “European Café,” works.


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