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Like their counterparts in coffee shops and restaurants, operators in the business and industry segment of the onsite foodservice industry have incentives to create an appealing coffee program. In B&I, coffee is a recognized profit conduit and workplace productivity booster that draws a growing number of the workforce.
The percentage of Americans drinking coffee daily increased to 62 percent this year, up from 57 percent in 2016, according to the 2017 National Coffee Drinking Trends report by the National Coffee Association (NCA). And a full 40 percent of daily consumers get coffee prepared outside the home. Among the drivers of those consumption gains is the growing popularity of gourmet coffee varieties among most demographics, NCA says.
Another way coffee is changing dramatically is shown in the rise of single-cup brewers. These convenient devices, which brew one cup at a time using a sealed pod of ground coffee, are found in 33 percent of American households now, nearly a five-fold increase in ownership since 2012, NCA says. It is likely that they are making inroads in workplace coffee service as well. A single-cup brewer makes it easy to offer a wide array of coffee blends, roasts, and flavors by stocking various pods. It can even be used to make iced coffee.
To take advantage of this opportunity, B&I operators are keeping up with such trends as single-origin beans and hot and cold specialty coffees, including iced coffee and cold brew.
The B&I accounts of Flik Hospitality Group, an onsite management company based in Rye Brook, N.Y., often feature specialty coffee programs highlighting coffees from prominent local or national roasters in addition to Flik’s in-house Real Coffee brand, which uses sustainably grown, custom-roasted beans.
“There is almost not an operation today with a new buildout that is not considering high-end espresso options, as well as built-to-order filter coffee with single-origin coffees,” says Scott Davis, chief executive of Flik.
Also partnering with top coffee brands are some B&I accounts of Metz Culinary Management, an onsite management company based in Dallas, Pa. However, coffee preferences differ among the strata of B&I operations, notes Jim Dickson, senior vice president, education and corporate dining division for Metz.
In corporate headquarters settings, there is often a national coffee brand featuring the specialty coffee drinks that are popular in coffee houses. “But in a manufacturing facility, our guest is typically looking for an inexpensive cup of coffee, maybe more of a brand that our distributors carry,” Dickson says. The latter patrons tend to be significantly more price sensitive than the white-collar crowd. “They are not necessarily willing to pay $3 or $4 for a cappuccino,” says Dickson.
A good coffee program can also benefit a company by encouraging employees to sip in-house rather than leave the premises for a morning coffee break or an afternoon espresso pick me up. Davis notes that productivity studies have shown that anywhere from 40 minutes to one and a half hours of work time may be lost when an associate leaves the workplace for food or beverage.
Cold brew, one of the variants of chilled coffee popular in coffee shops, is gaining momentum in Flik’s B&I operations. “Virtually everybody is using cold brew coffee now,” says Davis.
In the café of a high-tech corporate campus in California’s Silicon Valley, associates enjoy presentations by local guest coffee roasters, coffee-and-food pairing classes, alternative brewing methods and house-made cold brew.
“People are getting way more specific about what they like,” says Ani Baghoomian, chef-manager of Bon Appetit Management Co., an onsite firm based in Palo Alto, Calif. “They used to just ask for a cup of coffee. Now they want a bean from Guatemala.”
Tastings at the café feature local roasters presenting unique coffees and food pairings such as dark chocolate. The café also offers espresso-based drinks, hand-prepared chemex and siphon coffees, a “quick cup” of drip java made from unique single-origin beans from around the world and two types of cold brew: one steeped overnight, the other prepared by a slow-drip method.
“Coffee is a huge deal,” says Baghoomian. “A tremendous portion of the public drinks it to get going in the morning. What has changed lately is that people are much more interested in learning about what they’re drinking.”
“More and more people are coming to us because we have a [coffee] knowledge base,” adds Baghoomian. “They like that we are able to answer their questions.”
Given the advantages of a having a competitive coffee program, the B&I segment is likely to see continuing improvement in offerings and service. No operator can afford to underestimate this fast-evolving and lucrative business opportunity.
 National Coffee Drinking Trends 2017, National Coffee Association of the U.S.A.