Coffee. It’s the hot, black beverage served at the end of the guest’s stay, sometimes with dessert. It’s dropped off right before the check. It’s ubiquitous, expected, and for many restaurateurs it’s a simple necessity. Coffee is profitable, routine and for far too many establishments, it doesn’t merit a second thought.
One of the fundamentals of the restaurant business is listening to customers. And listening doesn’t always take the form of verbal cues or the occasional comment card. Observing customer habits is key. It can also create an awareness of their habits while outside your establishement.
A vast majority of your patrons probably frequent coffee shops, often in your neighborhood. At these shops, independent or chain, they are offered a wide range of coffee and coffee drink choices, and are quite willing to pay a premium for them. So why would you offer a generic coffee, and why would you miss the opportunity for greater profits, and to register the all-important last impression? Often, the answer is simply convenience. The current system is easy, comfortable and gets few complaints. Your bussers, as valuable and competent as they might be, are not likely asked to toss salads, but are frequently given the duty of coffee production and service.
Irregular. Jim Munson, vice president of Dallis Coffee, New York, is on a campaign to abolish the phrase “regular or decaf” from the U.S. restaurant lexicon.
“In no other aspect of service is the word regular acceptable,” he explains. You wouldn’t dare refer to your drinks, appetizers, or desserts as “regular” while selling them to guests. Many of us remember that not long ago, customers were presented with two wine options: Chablis or Burgundy. These monikers made no reference to the great French wine regions; rather, they simply denoted white or red wine. Abandoning the term “regular” brings us one step closer to better coffee service.
Variety versus Quality. The challenge is to provide both variety and quality. The good news is that there is a simple way to better ensure quality while making it easy to offer a variety of coffees: the press pot or French press. The press pot is the preferred method among coffee aficionados and it’s dead easy to use. The pots come in a variety of sizes, from single to multiple servings.
Making Great Coffee for Guests. First, remember the four attributes of fine coffee: degree of roast, origin, freshness and brew strength.
• The degree of roast often comes down to personal preferenceand should be a strong consideration when assembling a variety of coffees. Buying your coffee from a quality, specialty purveyor is your best best for finding quality, small batch roasted beans.
• A range of coffee origins builds customer interest and creates a buzz. Coffee hails primarily from Eastern Africa, Central and South America, and South Asia, primarily Indonesia. While the origins haven’t changed, consumers have. They now select coffee by place of origin as well as roast. This is a good thing, because providers are seeking coffee from the best growers in a given country and region, taking an “every bean counts” approach, rather than buying large quantities destined to be blended with beans from a number of origins.
• Freshness is paramount with all food items. Customers know what stale coffee tastes like, just as they recognize stale bread. Buy only what you can reasonably sell in a short period, and keep your coffee in a dry, dark, cool place. Quality vendors will be happy to work with you frequently. Invest in top quality product rather than buying large quantites.
• Brew strength is vital, and perhaps the most common error restaurants make in coffee. An ounce of ground coffee for every 16 ounces of hot water is ideal. Brewing weak coffee erases the benefits of using quality coffee. Stretching coffee in search of large profits is a losing paradigm. Customers are most likely accustomed to paying a premium for quality coffee at their local cafe.
Your coffee program can take serious leaps in quality and prestige when you implement a few simple procedures. Above all, it will improve immeasurably once you give it the same consideration you bestow upon other aspects of food, drink and service at your restaurant. You’ll gain delighted customers, higher check averages, and a chance to make a great last impression. —Sean Ludford
Characteristics of World Coffees
Brazil: Number one in export volume. Mediumbodied, mild and sweet.
Colombia: Full-bodied, very aromatic, bright acidity and rich.
Costa Rica: Full-bodied, smooth with a good acidity.
Ethiopia: Medium body. Very punchy and expressive flavors being fruity, vinous, earthy and very complex with bright acid.
India: Medium-bodied, soft, semi-sweet, with low acidity.
Java (Indonesia): Medium-bodied, rich, relatively low acidity.
Kenya: Full-bodied, very wine-like with great acidity and complexity.
Sumatra: Perhaps the fullest, richest and most complex flavors.
Top 9 White Wines Under $8
When it comes to value wines for restaurants–memorable wines at easy-to-digest prices–who wants to spend more than they have to? Certainly not you, or your customers. Technological advances in wine production have spread to the four corners of the globe, and have raised the standards of quality and taste for most of the world’s wines. The happy corollary to this new state of affairs is that there is a lot of good wine out there and a correspondingly favorable downward pressure on price.
At the recent seventh annual Beverage Testing Institute’s World Value Wine Challenge, results confirmed these facts as we sought out the best-tasting wines under $20, in four price categories. Below is the list of top white wines under $8, with scores and prices. All prices are retail.—Jerald O’Kennard, The Beverage Testing Institute • 89 Fontana Candida (Italy), 2006 Frascati Superiore, Lazio IGT. $7.99.
• 88 Williamsburg (VA) 2006 “Governer’s White,” Virginia 2.5% rs. $7.50.
• 88 Prova Regia (Portugal) 2005 Arinto Bucelas. $7.99.
• 88 Coto De Hayas (Spain) 2006 Chardonnay, Campo de Borja. $7.99.
• 87 Arca Nova (Portugal) 2006 Vinho Verde, Vinho Verde. $8.
• 87 Feudo Arancio (Italy) 2006 Estate Produced Grillo. Sicilia Bianco IGT. $7.99.
• 87 La Playa (Chile) 2007 Estate Bottled, Chardonnay, Colchaqua Val ley. $7.
• 87 La Playa (Chile) 2007 Estate Bottled, Sauvignon Blanc, Colchaqua Valley. $7.
• 86 Villa Sonia (Italy) 2006 Pinot Grigio, Piave. $6.99.