How important is it for pubs to offer specialist coffee?

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Caffeine fix: one operator compared specialist coffee to the rise of craft beer
Caffeine fix: one operator compared specialist coffee to the rise of craft beer

Related tags Coffee

With figures showing that two pubs have closed for every coffee shop that has opened in the past five years, industry experts and operators shared their thoughts on how pubs can draw coffee lovers into pubs for a caffeine fix.

Between November 2013 and November 2018, 2,158 coffee shops were opened by chain operators and independent owners, according to analysis by the retail intelligence firm Local Data Company.

An estimated 95m cups of coffee a day were drunk by UK residents in 2018 – a 30% increase from the figure 10 years prior.

Research conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) for the British Coffee Association (BCA) shows how much consumers value a caffeine hit – with 10% of coffee consumed in a shop or bar, compared to at work or at home.

Customers also have higher expectations and broader preferences when looking to order at venues, according to one licensee. 

Like craft beer

Licensee Simon Malik, who operates the Sportsman pub in Hassocks, West Sussex, explained that offering a high standard of coffee is necessary to welcome a variety of customers to the destination site.

He said: “As a country pub we do need to attract customers because we do not have passing trade. We see the rise in the popularity of specialist coffee as being akin to the rise in craft beers. Being able to offer good coffee as well as good beer widens our potential audience and also extends the time our customers come in.  

The attention to detail in this area allows Malik’s customers greater flexibility because it gives non-drinkers another option, he added.

“We want to be attractive to customers as an alternative venue to the high street coffee shops. We are able to offer free parking and an out-of-town location, which also means that the high street coffee shops are not direct competitors,” Malik explained. 

Tips from Robert Robinson, co-founder of Notes Coffee

1. “Blended drinks are popular, but so too are coffees simply poured over ice. We like to give our iced latte a little texture by lightly steaming the milk before pouring over ice, and topping with a double espresso. If pub operators can get a stick blender then an ice-cream-based coffee shake is a great option too.”

2. “Milk still makes up most of the drink, so get the best you can. We use organic unhomogenised Guernsey milk. If that is not available, go for an organic whole milk as standard, with a low-fat option too.”

3. “But not everyone loves milk! The move to non-dairy options is not going away, so pub operators need to make sure they have high-quality non-dairy options – Bonsoy, Oatly, and Rude Health all produce good barista-friendly options. And if possible, it is great to offer a high-quality black filter coffee too.”

Diverse offerings 

Coffee is just one part of the increased offering that pubs need to be successful amid difficult factors, said a Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) spokesperson.

They said: “Pubs are operating in a fiercely competitive environment, and many now look at how they can diversify their offering to attract more footfall.

“For some pubs, this may be offering coffee and tea during the day – others might put on a pub quiz or karaoke night.

“As more local amenities close throughout our villages and high streets, pubs are increasingly filling the gaps to try and keep the local community thriving.”

Customers are more informed about what makes a good cup of coffee than ever and as The Morning Advertiser​ reported last year,​ there is money to be made from using such knowledge.

“Pub operators should never skimp on training,” said Robert Robinson, co-founder of Notes Coffee.

“Latte art is not a luxury, it is essential to show their customers that the quality of the coffee in their cup is a cut above the rest. The operator’s roasting partner should offer training,” he added.

Related topics Soft & Hot Drinks

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