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Sustainable Coffee: What’s In It For You?

June 26th, 2017

Owning a coffee shop puts you in a unique position to make decisions that affect the world beyond your front door. As consumers increasingly make their voices heard by purchasing with their conscience, they are apt to choose one coffee shop over another if they feel that shop shares their values—such as by carrying sustainable coffee(s). Thus when all else is equal, retailers can distinguish themselves by investing in causes that will ultimately affect their future.

Take the very real issue of coffee pricing versus coffee quality. When an abundance of low-grade coffee comes into the market and sells cheaply, the price for higher-quality beans also goes down. Farmers who have invested in growing and processing a quality crop don’t end up making enough money to cover their costs, forcing them to consider growing coffee at the cheapest means possible (and thus perpetuating poor quality) or to start growing a different product altogether. Not to mention that if the consumer is consistently exposed to cheap, bitter coffee they will either expect to always pay a pittance, or decide to drink something else.

It’s even conceivable that if low-grade coffee were to dominate the market year after year, enough farmers would quit growing specialty coffee that, there will no longer be a supply of specialty-graded, sustainable coffees.

Thankfully certifying bodies like USDA Organic, Bird Friendly, Rainforest Alliance, FairTrade International—as well as the Direct Trade model—are helping farmers get a fairer price and for producing specialty coffee (though just how much it helps is up for debate) while also incentivizing environmental protections for the next generation of coffee farmers and the ecosystems around them.

Nonetheless, it’s helping to some degree. If you are already selling a certified coffee, make sure your customers know about it. It could be the one thing they consider when deciding where to spend their money.

 Contact us to learn more about how you can maximize your coffee business. 

Seven Easy Coffee Shop Marketing Ideas

June 16th, 2017

Coffee shop marketing doesn’t require a lot of time or money.

Get creative, and include your staff in the process to help them take ownership of your marketing efforts:

  1. Drink specials can get customers out of their comfort zone and onto something they’ll want to keep coming back for. Specials can rotate daily, weekly or monthly. They can celebrate holidays, seasons or community events. Use a chalkboard or dry erase board to prominently displays your special(s). Consider offering a coffee-drink special, smoothie special and a sandwich special if you serve lunch.
  2. Bundling, because everyone loves a deal. By selling products that go together as a package—and with a package discount—you’ll move more product. Try offering a mocha-and-muffin combo for 25 to 50 cents below the original price.
  3. Punch cards and business cards: so simple yet so effective. Overachievers and bargain hunters of the world will stop at nothing to get that free drink. “Buy 9 and get your 10th drink free” is a typical and worthwhile offer. Business cards can serve a similar purpose. Print a “buy one get one free” offer on the back of the card and give them to out regularly. I had one given to me by a cafe owner, after which it sat in my wallet for months. But every time I saw it I thought, “I need to check that place out.” Finally I did, and I’ve been meeting a friend there once a week ever since. Business cards can also act as an “I’m sorry” coupon to give to customers who may have had a complaint.
  4. Sampling: who doesn’t love a free bite or sip of something new? How would you feel if you just spent $3.00 on a new flavor of smoothie, and then wished you hadn’t? Sampling eliminates this risk for your customers and may even expand their palettes. It also gives you the opportunity to get immediate feedback. Be sure to encourage honest opinions of your creations. Sample often and entice the positive reviewers to make a purchase.
  5. Displays and celebratory products will get everyone in the mood. Creative offerings of roasted coffee, grab-and-go snacks, mugs, etc. will pique interest and increase sales. Seasonal or holiday themes make the decorating easy—such as with bright foliage in the fall or holiday lights in December—along with the always-expected pumpkin or peppermint lattes, respectively. But you can take your creativity further with an obscure holiday like Bastille Day. Put up A French flag, serve French vanilla lattes or French roast coffee, and offer croissants or “let them eat” cake.
  6. Your neighbors should be easier than anyone else to win over. Offer area businesses a 10% discount or hand out coupons that offer them a reason to visit.
  7. Love thy vendor. Intermix Beverage is here to help you with monthly specials that give you the opportunity to showcase a product at a discount without loosing any margin. And we are always happy to offer recipe ideas for drink specials.


Quick and Easy Steps for Maintaining Your Espresso Equipment

May 31st, 2017

In order to take advantage of that perfect espresso blend you just bought (or roasted), your espresso equipment—including brewing machine, grinder, and water filter—must be regularly maintained.

Following are the most basic tips for success. Contact us for more information on the right maintenance schedule for your equipment.

Espresso Machine:

  1. Backflush the espresso machine with Urnex Cafiza at the end of every day, no exceptions.
  2. Inspect o-rings and gaskets for cracks and wear. Replace regularly to prevent downtime.

Espresso Grinder:

  1. Clean the doser nightly.
  2. Wash the grinder hopper every week to eliminate oils that can turn rancid.  Make sure it is completely dry before pouring new beans in it.
  3. Replace grinder burrs once per year, or after grinding around 1,000 pounds of coffee.

Water Filtration and Softening:

  1. Make sure the espresso machine receives a soft water supply.
  2. Change water filters every six months, or at least once a year in low volume situations.

Our sister company, Espresso Services provides, quick, convenient coffee equipment service. Contact us to learn more.


Assure Speed and Consistency, and Attract New Coffee Shop Customers

May 24th, 2017

To operate a successful coffee shop, you have to balance five key performance indicators: marketing, customer service, product quality, consistency and speed of service.

That’s a lot of saucers in the air.

But the two factors that are the biggest keys profitability are consistency and speed of service.

Consistent Coffee Service

We often hear about coffee shops (mostly independent) that provide an inconsistent coffee quality and service experience. If the coffee rarely tastes the same—even if it’s not bad, per se—it shows that you’re a little loose on the details. It can throw off your whole image. Often that’s why people will frequent a chain store when the choice is available. This is true even in small communities where people would like to support locally owned businesses.

So, what’s the quickest route to consistency? Simple: equipment choices and training. Here are some examples of equipment that increase consistency and speed of service:

– A tall cup automatic espresso machine

– An automatic espresso grinder to control portions and reduce waste

– An automatic espresso tamper

– Portion cups to control flavoring syrup portions

– A scale to weigh beans for brewing

Despite their usefulness, it’s interesting that some folks resist using equipment that increases portion control. Is there an art to being a good barista? Sure, sort of. Our advice is that if you want to be an artist, go buy a paint brush. If you want to be a profitable food service entrepreneur, invest in equipment that provides portion control and train your staff regularly. This is what every successful coffee chain is doing—and they are a large source of competition.

The good news for independent shops is that operating like a chain doesn’t mean your shop has to look like one. It doesn’t matter if you have a small-town café or a modern urban shop. You can still benefit from these concepts to attract more customers, retain them, and increase profitability.

Remember that we offer free coffee brewing training at our facility. There’s always something to learn, and we have a lot of fun.

As always, if you have questions about equipment or brewing consistency, feel free to give us a call or send us a message.

Keeping Your Coffee Fresh

May 8th, 2017

As those of you who roast your own coffee already know, freshness is everything. Coffee tastes best one or two days after roasting if stored airtight, and remains near that peak for only a few days afterward, so be sure to rotate your fresh coffee supply so that all beans are used within 10-14 days of roasting.

Coffees like Lavazza remain fresh for a year because they are packaged using a gas washing and vacuum packaging process.

Here are some tips to improve the way coffee is handled:

Keep only the beans you need in the hopper; don’t fill it just because there is space.

The two main enemies of coffee freshness are oxygen and light. Store your beans in a dark, airtight container at room temperature.

Do not freeze or refrigerate beans either. That will introduce unwanted moisture and odors.

Finally, only grind as much espresso into the doser as you need. A full doser is a bad sign unless it is rush hour. Soon after grinding, coffee begins to lose its aroma and starts to become stale soon.