Hot drinks focus: Hot drinks really get you going!

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It's no secret that the traditional pub is a British institution. What's more, along with talking about the weather and being able to queue politely,...

It's no secret that the traditional pub is a British institution. What's more, along with talking about the weather and being able to queue politely, we Brits are known for loving nothing more than a chat over a nice cup of tea.

With this in mind it seems clear that hot drinks and pubs should go together seamlessly. Yet many publicans are yet to wake up and smell the potential profits.

This year's Publican Market Report found that 40 per cent of publicans agree that tea and coffee are increasingly important to trade. By selling hot drinks alongside the usual offerings, licensees can add a string to their bow while taking advantage of the high profit margin that comes with hot drinks.

Play to your strengths

Competing with the high-street coffee chains isn't easy. However, one way of driving sales is to play on what your pub can offer that coffee shops can't. Ben Bartlett, food development manager at Scotland & Newcastle, says that pubs can offer a unique experience.

"Pubs have many advantages over coffee shops, the most obvious being convenience, space and parking," he says. "They already have an 'authentic' atmosphere, friendly staff and comfortable seating and if done correctly can sell better priced and better tasting coffee. They're also open in the evenings when a lot of speciality coffee shops aren't."

He also advises that using internet connections can be a good way of encouraging customers into your pub to boost day trade. "With more pubs offering wi-fi, they are ideal for people wanting to take time out to relax or business people looking for an informal environment in which to work or meet clients or colleagues," he says.

By presenting hot drinks as part of a bespoke menu, pubs can show customers that they are serious about them. But it is important not to over-complicate the menu. With some staff training to show they know what they are talking about, employees can sound informed, without appearing condescending.

"Customers want to be able to chose from a range of coffees so extending your basic offer is important," explains Elaine Higginson, managing director at United Coffee. "Provide a variety - cappuccinos, lattes, espressos - rather than just 'coffee' and make sure you communicate your offer clearly. Show you are serious about coffee by detailing origins and tasting notes and don't forget to consider low-fat and soya options."

But this doesn't just apply to coffee. Andrea Stopher at Twinings says the same goes for your tea menu. She advises: "Whatever you do, be sure your staff understand and try all the teas you are promoting, this is especially important for speciality teas to help them make recommendations."

Profit potential

Given the profit potential of hot drinks, Scottish & Newcastle Pub Company is focusing its efforts on helping licensees grow their coffee business. To that end it has created a dedicated guide which it will be making available to all its lessees in the Autumn.

Ben Bartlett, S&N's food development manager, shares some of the company's discoveries from the guide that can help boost sales. "To sell extras on top of coffee, make sure you offer items that appeal and make it obvious," he says.

"Men tend to choose savoury snacks to have with their coffee so offer paninis and savoury wraps as well as cakes and biscuits, which women like. Men are also more likely to order 'an extra shot' to make their coffee stronger, so price and clearly display an extra shot option.

"Women are more likely to treat themselves to different coffees, so ensure you have tempting specials like chocolate or hazelnut flavours. But women are also more health-conscious than men generally, so make sure you offer low-calorie sweeteners and low-fat milk as well as healthy food options."

Wetherspoons has become one of the biggest coffee retailers in the UK, and is now selling coffee at 49p in the mornings to draw the morning trade away from high street coffee giants like Starbucks and Costa.

This is an indicator that the general public is willing to go to outlets other than standard high street coffee shops to get their caffeine fix. So publicans shouldn't be afraid of venturing into unknown territory, as there is a lot of money to be made.

That said, customers are more coffee-savvy than ever, and they know what they want in a hot drink. The fact that people can tell their flat whites from their lattes can be intimidating for publicans, but by offering a premium and bespoke service that suits your customers, the rewards can be high.

"Be sure to keep beans as fresh as possible by only grinding what you need," says Rob Briggs, managing director at Rombouts Coffee GB. "Coffee beans go stale in two to three days if left in a grinder hopper, and even quicker - less than a day - if they have been ground."

This month Rombouts has launched a premium range of filter coffees, which is available in 500g foil packs to ensure the coffee is as fresh as possible. Rombouts also offers a popular range of one-cup filter coffees, to maximise freshness.

As well as fresh coffee, always use fresh filtered water, and always make sure that the coffee you serve is the best it can be by getting some expert advice and training, according to Rob.

What's more, by getting creative with what is on offer, you can also increase your profit margin on each cup sold. Rob explains: "The average cost price of a standard cappuccino or latte is around 25p, and with the average selling price around £1.90 you can see how quickly your profits can add up."

Elaine Higginson at United Coffee agrees: "Coffee is undoubtedly one of the biggest profit drivers in the hospitality industry. It costs approximately 21p to make an Americano; with a selling price of £2 - that's a 90 per cent profit margin. By serving 25 cups of coffee a day you could generate annual profits of over £16,000; it's big business."

But like any other drinks you are serving, coffee should be prepared and served properly.

"To achieve full profit potential, the quality of the coffee has to be high and must remain consistent," Elaine says. "Serving good quality coffee is about the whole package, it's about the equipment, the coffee, the training, the after-sales support and even the water."

Tapping into tea

But it's not just a wide range of coffee that you can offer. Diffusion teas have grown in popularity in recent years too. And there are many sources of information to help maximise your service. For example, PG Tips has launched a new 'tea tips' website to help operators exploit the growing opportunities of the expanding tea market.

Claire Sullivan, marketing director at Unilever Foodsolutions, explains the website: "It not only offers hints and tips to help develop your tea offering, but also includes up-to-date trends and facts on the tea market as a whole."

It also has a profit calculator to help publicans work out how much money they could make by following the advice.

The quintessential British tradition of drinking tea offers an opportunity for publicans to market the beverage in a way that few cafés can replicate. What's more, pubs can play up the atmosphere in which they are serving to boost trade.

Unlike many cafés that churn out teas and coffees quickly with little thought, pubs can take the time to almost make the experience a ritual for the customer.

Andrea Stopher, senior customer marketing manager at Twinings, says publicans can turn the focus to the customer to offer them a more personal tea service.

"The quality of service is crucial, as tea is such a personal drink and is easily ruined by staff leaving tea to brew for too long or too little, equally by adding too much milk," she says. "Without exception it is essential to serve tea so that the customer has full control over the brewing process and can add milk and sugar to taste. Everyone has their own idea of the perfect cup, so giving the customer contro

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