Hot drinks can benefit pubs whatever the weather

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Hot offer: coffee is the third most popular drink in pubs and tea is the sixth
Hot offer: coffee is the third most popular drink in pubs and tea is the sixth
No matter the time of day or year, the hot drinks category is a vital part of a pub’s offer and can prove a success during both busy and quiet times.

With the ‘Beast from the East’s re-cent visit, there’s no doubt operators will have seen a spike in hot drinks sales, showing just how important it is for pubs to stock a wide range of products for all occasions, including snow days.

MCA out-of-home data to June 2016, cited in the Tetley Tea Report 2017 ​, shows coffee as the third most popular drink in pubs, with tea the sixth.

The report’s findings maintain that tea has seen a significant 8.8% growth across all day parts in pubs. This trend is set to continue, as the breakfast occasion becomes increasingly important to on-trade operators, with JD Wetherspoon already launching its attack on the café sector by offering Tetley tea and Lavazza coffee for just 99p.

It also states that tapping into trends and understanding customer needs across different channels, occasions and day parts allows operators to tailor their tea offering, appealing to a much wider consumer demographic.

By offering beverage solutions that appeal to varying emotional and functional requirements, there is also an opportunity to attract new supporters into the category.

According to the report, the percentage of meal occasions that include coffee is declining across all day parts – a significant opportunity for the tea sector to capture sales from former consumers of its rival hot beverage.

So when do consumers drink the most and what can the trade do to ensure tea meets customer needs right around the clock? Breakfast is the most important day part when it comes to hot beverages and can drive additional revenue when consumed with food.

More than 18% of breakfast visits involve tea and this opportunity is being driven by consumers’ increasingly busy lifestyles.

Operators can offer a range of tea blends that stand apart from those that consumers may ordinarily enjoy at home, so enhancing the breakfast experience.

Energising and revitalising blends with citrus notes can boost sales as customers look for a zesty morning beverage to prepare them for the day ahead, the report advises.

In fact, on the subject of busy lifestyles, it adds that workers are no longer constrained by traditional norms and a structured lunchtime routine. They are clocking up more hours on the job and don’t have a full lunch hour to dedicate and enjoy. Pubs that offer on-the-go hot drink solutions can capture this audience by serving something to be taken back to a desk.

Consumers’ eating habits are constantly evolving as snacking becomes more prominent in their daily routine, with up to five smaller meals being eaten a day, according to the report.

This trend is being driven by Millennials, who prefer an unstructured routine and tend to graze instead. The snacking occasion is a key area of growth for tea too, with one in 12 occasions including tea.

Opportunities for growth

Tea is also capturing customers’ attention during their downtime, with 12% growth seen in individual tea occasions during weekends.


Compared to coffee, which is growing at just 2%, tea offers operators the opportunity to drive sales across all 48 hours.

At the weekend, consumers have more time to enjoy an indulgent beverage and are also willing to spend more money.

Looking ahead, operators should look out for three key opportunities in the tea market, according to Tetley’s The Future of Tea Report​.

The health trend sweeping the country is set to stick around, with future gazers predicting demand for functional food and drinks with clinical health benefits that will take the innovation of tea to the next level.

This is backed up by the owner of the New Club in Brighton, Cathie Smith, who has seen an impact from the health trend in her venue.

She says: “We are seeing an increase in customers wanting dairy-free milk, so we currently stock soya and oat milk, and are also considering stocking almond milk.”

The report also says that, by 2026, one third of Brits will actively track their health data, as their homes become embedded with advanced sensors, smart devices and wearable technology to monitor the state of their bodies and minds.

Thirdly, it says that the intensifying needs of the time-poor, health-seeking and convenience-hungry UK citizens of the future will result in a shake-up of the tea market as it is currently structured.

It predicts that tablets and strip teas will provide an intense burst of tea on the go. Alongside this, it says tea will take on a solid form as tea-flavoured products, such as jellies, sorbets, and syrups, meet consumer desires for indulgent tea products. It is likely these will be on menus in the not-too-distant future.

For coffee lovers, the Tia Maria Cocktail Futures Report​ forecasts that by the early 2020s, four new types of coffee cocktail drinkers will have emerged, using new digital technologies and a growing and adventurous desire for fresh experiences, rituals and taste combinations to redefine the drink and hospitality sector over the next decade.

Multisensory experiences

It also says the coffee and cocktail culture will explode over the next 10 years, bringing with it a new wave of multisensory experiences, as well as innovative recipes and techniques, enabled by major technological breakthroughs.

The future of coffee cocktail culture will bring together baristas, chefs, bartenders and technologists who will experiment with fresh serves that cater for a new breed of gastronomically attuned consumers.

Espresso martini

In fact, combining coffee and cocktails is something else that Brighton’s New Club does particularly well, demonstrating a great way that pubs and bars can integrate coffee into their offer. The New Club prides itself on its cocktails, offering ‘spiked’ shakes and coffee alongside dessert cocktails.

The New Club’s Smith says: “The Espresso Martini is a cocktail, best served cold, that requires an espresso machine to make it. We specialise in cocktails and coffee, although we do serve a range of beers and wines too.

“The Espresso Martini is a classic cocktail that so many bars serve. The key thing here is having staff who are trained to use an espresso machine and to make cocktails.

“As a business, we struggle to find staff who are able to run our bar as they need specialist skills, and I imagine pubs have the same problem, although the smaller the range of cocktails, the easier it is to train staff.”

Having the right equipment is the first stepping stone pubs need to up their game in the hot drinks stakes, according to Smith.

“Pubs should have a decent espresso machine – visible behind the bar would help – as well as advertising their hot drinks offer on an A-board outside to attract passing trade,” she adds.

However, choosing the right product and having a team that is well-versed in using this equipment is the secret behind a great hot-drinks offer.

Smith says: “Customers are quite picky, so having a quality brand helps, as well as staff who are trained as baristas so they can serve cappuccinos, lattes, etc.”

Joanna Chadwick, owner of Joanna’s Boutique Tea Room in Storrington, West Sussex, echoes Smith’s advice on team expertise.

She says: “You have to believe in your products and do a lot of staff training to ensure they know exactly how to serve the drinks.”

The tea room offers a range of quality food, flavoured teas, premium coffees and luxurious hot chocolates, but Chadwick highlights the importance of using the right ingredients to please the punters.

She adds: “For us, it is all about the products you use. Coffee shops and tea rooms spend a lot of money on the right coffee and it has to be a bean rather than finely ground.”

The Beast from the East may have been and gone, but licensees still need to keep their punters warm with a strong drinks offer.                    

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