Espresso beans and grapes are not a prevalent snack combination, but the growing trend toward coffee and wine bars proves they are indeed palatable as beverage complements.

Coffee and wine bars are spreading nationwide, from Bean & Bottle in the lobby of the Sonoma Resort in California to the Great Lakes Coffee Shop in Michigan and select Starbucks around the nation.

These bars blur the lines between quick- and full-service operations, and venues that sell just one or the other have a chance to expand operations and capitalize on new drinkers, says Jason Haeger, a consultant and trainer for the specialty coffee industry.

“They can go side-by-side pretty well, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be sectioned off like it has been in the past,” he says.

Quick serves that offer snacks and meal replacements such as smoothies, coffee, and wine stand to prosper, says Linda Duke, as consumers cut back on dining out for full meals.

“Consumers are seeking out indulgences like coffee and wine during tough economic times to satisfy their pent-up demand for dining out,” Duke explains. Duke is a 23-year restaurant marketing veteran and chief executive of Duke Marketing, LLC.

Wine and coffee have a bevy of similarities, according to Haeger, that make them attractive to consumers. Both have hundreds of chemical compounds that affect the flavor, with wine averaging 200–400 compounds and coffee surpassing 800. Where a wine drinker swirls a glass to release a wine’s aroma, a coffee drinker senses aromas on different areas of the palate.

Both are complex, and the same grape or bean, respectively, can yield wildly different varietals.

Either way, “what you’re essentially selling is taste,” Haeger says. “And a coffee and wine bar together, it’s basically combining two things that have a lot in common already.”

By not limiting itself to one beverage or another, Duke says a wine and coffee bar also lends itself to being a diverse gathering place for consumers.

Showcasing both coffee and wine in the same space can help broaden the appeal across both existing markets, Haegar says.

“If you’re doing coffee right, you’re going to attract those who are already attracted to coffee,” he explains. “If you have wine available, there’s room for the bartender or barista actually to educate that consumer about wine, as well. … If they come into your establishment because you’re doing wine correctly, there’s room to expand the coffee market to them so they can broaden their enjoyment of the beverage world.”

In a restaurant, Haegar says an operator who offers table-side wine service can include table-side coffee service, describing coffee in terms of the growing process, espresso bean, and roast method, much like a sommelier would discuss the intricacies of a wine. Duke suggests restaurateurs provide their own specialty coffee beverages.

“I do think there are so many similarities between the two of them, especially because you can hit two different times of day in the same store,” Haegar says. “It does make it a really good, strong model for the future.”

By Sonya Chudgar

Beverage, Consumer Trends, Menu Innovations, News, Operations, Starbucks