Though restaurant traffic has improved since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, an NPD Group study reports restaurant traffic is still down 4 percent compared to 2019 levels. While that number is recovering, a decrease of even just a few percentage points can still create financial strain for restaurants. As a result, brands must focus on making each visit count by increasing check size and driving incremental sales. One of the simplest and most effective ways for restaurants to do so is serving a strong beverage menu.
“Beverage programs have always helped restaurants drive incremental revenue,” says Chad Bowman, vice president of commercial foodservice sales at SEB Professional. “The margins for beverages are good for operators, and adding a coffee or iced coffee to the menu can help restaurants realize large sales increases.”
Coffee is a particularly strong driver for restaurants. Not only is coffee one of the highest margin items on a restaurant menu, but it also has a strong built-in consumer base. In its 2022 report, “National Coffee Drinking Trends,” The National Coffee Association noted 66 percent of Americans drank coffee in the past day, and Americans choose coffee more often than other beverages, including tap water. By using a few smart strategies, restaurant leaders can capitalize on coffee’s popularity to drive incremental sales.
First, Bowman says, operators should make their coffee programs stand out.
“Recently, the industry has seen subscription-based coffee programs take off,” Bowman says. “This has been a big win for the chains that have adopted these programs. But for both these chains and smaller brands looking to compete with subscriptions, LTOs allow restaurants to create buzz around their coffee programs, while driving traffic from coffee drinkers who want to try something new. Often, LTOs also allow restaurants to charge a premium, meaning brands can drive even higher margins.”
Second, Amy Brown, marketing manager of commercial foodservice at SEB Professional, recommends restaurants offer cold coffee beverages. Mintel Foodservice’s 2021 Coffee and Tea report notes that Gen Z diners are core consumers of cold coffee, and nearly half of Gen Z consumers purchased iced coffee away from home.
“Cold coffee drinks were trending before COVID, but cold coffee drink sales will only grow as Gen Z diners gain more spending power and consumers shift from buying regular hot brewed coffee to beverages that are harder to create at home,” Brown says.
Bowman agrees and doesn’t see cold coffee sales slowing anytime soon. “Cold brew coffee and iced coffee continue to see double-digit growth each year,” he says. “Cold coffees can also command a higher price point or an upcharge when paired with a combo meal that might typically include a hot coffee.”
Of course, no coffee program is complete—nor can it compete with other restaurant’s offerings or coffees prepared at home—without a high-quality product.
“At SEB Professional, we’ve seen firsthand how implementing a full-scale coffee program can not only boost incremental sales, but an operator’s core foodservice offerings,” Brown says. “With all three of our brands—WMF, Schaerer, and Curtis—we have seen that operators offering the freshest, high-quality coffees have the ability to quickly become a go-to beverage destination over their competitors. And with the right equipment from SEB Professional in place, operators can offer top-quality and consistency, no matter what their current labor situation looks like.”
For more information, visit the SEB Professional website.