Credit: Gisselle Guerra
Gone are the days when businesses can offer just black and white coffee and breakfast tea. “Customers expect tons of choices wherever they go. Small, medium, large, for here or to go, add-ons, sides, and most importantly, many different products,” says Patrick.
Different drinks allow businesses to attract new customers, cement the loyalty of their existing ones, and increase profit margins. “Having a diverse menu can give you an advantage when customers are selecting where to get their coffee or drinks,” Patrick continues. “The more options, the wider the net you are casting over customers.”
However, keep in mind that an overly ambitious beverage menu can backfire. “You do not want to overwhelm your baristas/prep-people with dozens of complicated drinks,” he says.
If staff members are unable to prepare the drinks efficiently and to a high quality, customers will soon notice – and so will the company accountant. “Time is money, and consistency in quality affects the customer’s decision to come back,” stresses Patrick.
Designing the Menu
So, how should businesses decide what to put on the menu?
Matt says, “The best way is to categorise your menu and decide the drinks per category that your system can support. For example, coffee, juice, shakes, tea, and smoothies can be the categories and then you can decide on a variety of drinks within each category.”
When selecting those drinks, it’s important to consider your customers’ tastes, the potential profit margins, and the investment in terms of ingredients, equipment and labour. Matt warns against having so many different drinks that you end up with “an inventory disaster” that causes issues for workflow and quality control.
Patrick asks, “Do you have storage for these ingredients? Will they stay fresh if you don’t use much? Can I use some ingredients for multiple drinks? The answers to these questions will help you determine whether it’s worth keeping a particular drink on your menu.”
To make this simpler, businesses can look for ingredients that function in several different drinks. Take mint, which can be served as a hot or cold tea, in refreshing lemonades, or even as a garnish. Cacao can be for mochas, hot chocolate, and smoothies.
Don’t forget to consider the life of your ingredients. Fresh berries, for example, will quickly spoil. A house-made berry syrup, on the other hand, will taste just as good for far longer and take up less space. You can also consider offering a “smoothie of the day” that will use up any fresh ingredients before they start to taste old or wilted.
A recipe can be tasty and have a reasonable price per unit, yet still undermine quality standards and profit margins if processes are poor.
Think through how new beverages will be prepared and how long it will take to do so. Consider the different situations that might affect this. Can teas be served at the same time as brewing a pour over coffee without the barista getting distracted? How many of each ingredient can be kept close to hand, and will that be enough during peak periods? What is the labor cost and how does this vary according to how busy the shop is?
“Choose recipes that are either easy for baristas to prepare or can be made in big batches to save your baristas prep time,” Patrick advises. For example, you can create a batch of syrup ahead of time and just add sparkling water and perhaps a garnish to create your sparkling lemonades and teas, ensuring quality, consistency, and quick service.
Credit: Gisselle Guerra
Remember that equipment goes hand in hand with processes. A drink that may not be viable with your existing equipment may suddenly become quick and easy to make with the right tools. On the other hand, too much equipment can be just as disastrous as too many ingredients. Staff can find themselves not just with insufficient room behind the bar but also getting confused about how to use all the different items. It’s important to invest in the right equipment rather than in everything on the market.
“The perfect machine nowadays can make things easier and still maintain quality in the cup,” Matt says. “This is now a core element to cut down cost and upgrade quality with easier workflow.”
Take the Marco SP9, an automated pour-over brewer. It gives managers and business owners the same control over the brew recipe, but is more precise and demands less attention from staff. It is as simple as dialling in the brew ration and pressing go, meaning staff members are then freed up to prepare other drinks. The result? Not only is the pour over of the highest quality and consistency, but the other drinks will also benefit from the barista’s undivided attention.
Patrick adds, “Similar to ingredients, you want to pick equipment that can help you with multiple products, e.g. a blender can handle dozens of smoothie or frozen drink recipes.”
The Marco FRIIA provides hot, cold and sparkling water from one font. This means it takes up very little space behind the bar while enabling the preparation of a wide range of drinks. Meanwhile, the Marco MIX 3 Button is a slim font that comes with an under-counter boiler that dispenses water to three different temperatures, making it easy to prepare different types of coffee and tea without having to adjust too many settings. The risk of errors or poor extraction is significantly reduced.
Remember to always consider the quality and precision of the equipment, as well as the technical support from the manufacturer. As Matt says, “a quality machine will always deliver the targeted result” – but a poorly made machine will never deliver the same level of quality.
Credit: Gisselle Guerra
No matter how good the menu design, equipment and processes, the quality of a drink rests on how well the staff have been trained. Do they remember the processes? Do they understand how to use the equipment? Can they distinguish the different ingredients by sight and know how to recognize when one is starting to go bad?
On top of that, can they convincingly describe the new beverages to customers, enabling them to up-sell and cross-sell?
The more knowledgeable and engaged staff are, the better they will prepare and market new products. This means that good training is crucial. It’s also important to remember that staff won’t be able to learn everything at once. For this reason, simplifying processes and introducing new drinks slowly will be beneficial.
Expanding a beverage menu can boost profit margins, bring in new customers, and strengthen a businesses’ brand. Key to success, however, is ensuring that neither quality nor efficiency fall as a result. Businesses need to pay close attention to menu design and ingredient choice, equipment selection, processes, and staff training. The effort that will pay off.