There’s nothing quite so satisfying as a hot coffee or tea – until the days start getting longer, the temperature creeps up, and customers start desperately craving a cool, refreshing drink.
From restaurants to hotels, offices, coffee shops, and even gyms, beverage menus play an important role. A varied and well-planned selection can increase sales and customer satisfaction, as well as helping a brand stand out from its competitors.
And cold offerings have been growing in popularity over recent years. Cold brew, nitro brew, sparkling tea, and kombucha are but a few examples of speciality beverages that are à la mode. Alice Evans from Canton Tea, London, tells us more about how businesses can take advantage of this.
Understanding What Customers Want
A traditional coffee shop menu might have featured a long list of hot coffees and a handful of teas, but cold drinks were often represented only with bottled water – sparkling or still. Yet today’s consumers are more demanding. They’re accustomed to delicious beverages, sustainably sourced and made with high-quality ingredients. They care about whether their drinks are “healthy” and “natural”, as well as their presentation.
And, perhaps most importantly of all, they expect no less of their cold drinks than of their hot chocolates and cappuccinos.
A lot of elements need to be considered when designing a beverage menu: local palates, price points, branding, and ingredient availability. Yet one thing remains clear; the standards have to be high.
Alice says, “If you have a speciality coffee shop where people are expecting quite creative, high-end options… you can go crazy… Cold brew teas are great because you get a really aromatic, soft infusion and you’ve got a great variety of flavours to choose from.
“[But] if you’re sort doing an afternoon tea or you’re more of a community café, where you have children and people who want something a little bit more sweet and fruity, you could do an iced tea with fruit. Sparkling, again, a really good choice.
“Sparkling teas are great for bars because it’s a nice alternative for people, if someone would like something like a Prosecco alternative or Champagne alternative but they’re not drinking alcohol. Something like a sparkling honey, orchid oolong have amazing fruity notes that really make a lovely replacement for something like a sparkling wine.”
RTD: Time-Saver or Profit-Drainer?
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to find cold beverage offerings today. Businesses have the option to source ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages that are high quality and made from healthy ingredients.
However, she also points out that they have their disadvantages: lower profit margins and the ongoing problem of plastic usage and pollution. “They are not environmentally friendly as you’re using a lot of plastic, cans, or glass bottles,” she says.
According to the World Economic Forum, around 322 million tons of plastic were produced in 2015. In 2017, the UK produced 11 million tons of plastic waste, of which only two-thirds were recycled.
Alice also explains that businesses may find RTD options lacking. “You’re limited with bottled products because there’s only a certain number of brands and a certain number of recipes,” she says.
For those looking to differentiate themselves, this can be a particularly big issue. “If you are a speciality coffee shop, you’re probably going to be buying from the same brand [as your competitors],” she adds.
In-House Drinks: Higher Profits, More Variety
Alice recommends drinks made in-house. “That means that you can put your own spin on it and it’s a lot easier than people imagine to make these products,” she says. “You can combine different teas with various herbs and fruits and flowers, even vegetables… to make your own set of unique infusions.
“There are totally different options you can look at,” she continues. “Like sparkling cold brews, nitro teas, iced teas, matcha coolers… and the other benefit of it as well is that they are really healthy.”
Marco’s award-winning hot, cold, and sparkling water dispenser FRIIA allows businesses to create a wide range of fresh beverages with one single machine. It’s designed to help companies efficiently use space and energy, meaning that they don’t have to add extra equipment in order to put cold beverages on their menu.
“It’s a full package for cold summer drinks,” Alice says. Hotels and restaurants can also take advantage of the bigger version, the FRIIA Plus.
By using a water dispenser and creating in-house drinks, plastic usage can be reduced, beverages can be made fresher, and businesses can come up with their own unique recipes.
Alice also explains that in-house drinks tend to be healthier than bottled ones, which usually have added chemicals or sugars. “They are going to have preservatives in it to keep it shelf-stable, but with cold brew, it’s literally tea and water, no additives, no sugar,” she points out.
Besides being environmentally friendlier, healthier, and more diverse in nature, house-made drinks have another benefit: better profit margins.
A coffee shop or restaurant offering sparkling lemonades and a range of cold teas will find the costs of these speciality beverages to be relatively low – providing they have a water cooler and dispenser.
“It’s a much higher-margin product,” Alice stresses. “It’s literally the cost of the tea in the water for a cold brew.”
Yet conversely, being house-made, most consumers don’t see these as low-value products. “People perceive [in-house drinks] as a higher-value product and are willing to pay more,” she says.
With the right equipment and ingredients, serving cold beverages doesn’t have to be complicated. On the contrary: it’s a simple way to expand a menu, attract more customers, and reinforce a brand. And as we approach the summer months here in the northern hemisphere, there is no better time to reconsider the beverage menu.
Photo credit for all images: Canton Tea