Chick-fil-A joined the breakfast innovation bandwagon with a renewed commitment to offering better coffee. And the chicken chain took the initiative one step further by partnering with a network of specialty coffee farmers in Central America known as THRIVE.
The handpicked, proprietary coffee blend is available in restaurants nationwide, starting at $1.59 a cup. The move to improve beverages at breakfast is not surprising, says Matt Milletto, vice president of the American Barista & Coffee School in Portland, Oregon. “Restaurants in the quick-service environment are looking for ways differentiate and compete, and that can be done with specialty coffee,” he says.
Specialty coffee is important for the quick-serve space because it is a luxury that can be purchased by even the most price-sensitive customers, says Michael Jones, founder and CEO of THRIVE, which works with more than 100 foodservice partners. He adds that specialty-grade coffee is the fastest-growing segment within the coffee category.
“Coffee is one of those things where if you want to enjoy better quality, the cost for doing so is attainable for most people,” Jones says.
The Chick-fil-A partnership is good for THRIVE farmers, as they are able to sign their own provider contracts, helping to stabilize the price paid to farmers year over year, Jones says. This means payment is not tied to oft-volatile commodity markets.
As customers become more educated about better-quality beverages, they will come to appreciate the story behind the coffee they order, including background on THRIVE, Milletto says, and that could mean loyal, repeat customers and increased sales.
“Working with a group like THRIVE not only helps in offering a consistently higher-quality coffee, but it adds a little bit to the story on why that coffee is special,” he says.