How can pubs compete with high street coffee shops?

By Matilda Bourne

- Last updated on GMT

Some like it hot: why let coffee shops run everything in your town? It’s time to be the best with hot drinks as well as your cold range
Some like it hot: why let coffee shops run everything in your town? It’s time to be the best with hot drinks as well as your cold range

Related tags Coffee

From seasonal lattes to ethical coffee beans, this year it’s all about maximising your hot drinks and tapping into a growing market

For centuries Brits have been renowned as habitual tea drinkers. Morning, noon and evening – a cup of char was the linchpin of culture – until now. In the past 10 years, the UK’s daily coffee consumption has increased by 35%, from 70m cups a day to a staggering 95m – just 5m shy of our daily tea intake.

As a result, consumers are expecting far more from our public houses than a traditional filter coffee. British Beer & Pub Association policy director Andy Tighe says: “In response to increasing pressures, as well as changes in consumer behaviour, pubs continue to ­find innovative ways to ensure they remain attractive to customers.

“A wide range of hot beverages are now available in many pubs, especially great coffee, this has grown as pubs open earlier, provide breakfasts and an important place to meet.”

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The season-led trend

Pubs considered a ‘coffee destination’

Almost one in 10 customers (9%) rate coffee served in a pub as being better than that served by the likes of Pret A Manger, Costa Coffee or Starbucks according to new research.

The survey of 1,000 UK coffee drinkers by Allegra Strategies, on behalf of UCC Coffee in August 2019, found that 48% of customers would plump for their local as opposed to a high street chain for a morning brew if pubs opened earlier.

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But what exactly does the modern-day coffee consumer look like? According to the British Coffee Association, Java lovers cover a wide age range, with Millennials consuming 1.3 cups per day, Generation X just over two cups and Baby Boomers averaging 2.2 cups a day. Meaning variation may be the key to catching, and keeping, such a wide audience.

Cast an eye on coffee house giants like Starbucks and Costa Coffee, and you’ll see a menu combining both staple and, crucially, seasonal beverages. According to a World Coffee Portal survey of more than 3,000 UK coffee drinkers, 25% indicated “they are more willing to visit a co­ffee shop during the festive period” and over a fifth said they “would visit a co­ffee shop they would not usually frequent because of its festive beverage range”.

Speaking about the rise in trend led seasonal hot beverages, Lee Hyde, beverage innovation manager at Monin says: “When it comes to hot drinks menus, consumer needs are constantly evolving – it’s no longer just about­ offering basic hot chocolates, co­ffees and teas. Now, consumers expect to see on-trend flavours and premium ingredients across everything they consume. In this competitive marketplace, it’s important to seek out a point of di­fference by adapting menus with new and seasonal varieties.

“While, historically, summer and winter menus were key, it’s important to look beyond these seasons, o­ffering limited-edition drinks for specific events such as St Patrick’s Day, Easter, Valentine’s Day and sporting occasions to help maximise sales.”

Priced around 7p per serving and working alongside all co­ffee machines, flavoured syrups, like those from Monin, are a vital piece of equipment for any publican who wants to compete with the seasonal beverages available from high street chains.

Plus, with consumers saying they are also “willing to pay an average 13.5% premium for festive beverages compared to their standard co­ffee purchase”, seasonal drinks could be the key to attracting this year’s co­ffee drinker.

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An environmental investment

Coffee time

  • In the UK, we now drink approximately 95m cups of coffee per day
  • ­ The coffee industry creates over 210,000 UK jobs
  • ­ The gross value-added contribution from the UK coffee industry to the economy is estimated to be £9.1bn, while output contribution, including indirect and induced multiplier impacts, was £17.7bn in 2017
  • 80% of UK households buy instant coffee for in-home consumption, particularly those aged 65 and older
  • Ground coffee and single-serve coffee pods are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among
  • Millennials (aged 16-34) who account for 16% of all buyers
  • On the high street, café culture has also continued to boom, 80% of people who visit coffee shops do so at least once a week, while 16% of us visit on a daily basis
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Source: The British Coffee Association

According to research conducted by Brita Professional, 97% of co­ffee operators believe that sustainability credentials are important to their customers, and eight in 10 hot beverage businesses have introduced methods to reduce single-use plastics.

Coined as the ‘Blue Planet effect’, the modern-day consumer is increasingly aware of plastic waste and the moves that high street brands are making, in both their equipment and their end-products, in order to help the environment.

While a take-out customer may seem unlikely to some public houses, according to Abigail Forsyth, founder of KeepCup: “Customers are increasingly looking beyond the café for their caffeine hit.

“It’s becoming important for bars, pubs and restaurants to offer reusable cup solutions too – not only to keep up with this consumer demand but also be on the front foot in encouraging and facilitating behaviour change.”

Every year, 2.5bn coffee cups are used and thrown away in the UK alone. As a result, more coffee retailers are offering incentives and reward schemes for consumers that supply a reusable coffee cup for their drink. Popular café chain Pret leads the way by offering reusable cup customers a massive 50p discount on their drink, while Starbucks and Costa offer a 25p discount per beverage; although these discounts may be out of reach for some businesses, simple choices like ensuring any disposable coffee cups are biodegradable are fundamental in competing with the environmental efforts of high street chains and assuring customers that your business is making a conscious effort to reduce waste.

As well as reusable cups, an increasing amount of public houses and coffee shops are turning to unique, ethical coffee blends to add more personality to their hot beverages, and perhaps distance themselves from a confusing, corporate supply chain.

Shepherd Neame, in particular, achieved great success following the launch of its Coffee & Ale House concept in 2014. Pairing a bean-to-cup service with a unique Fairtrade coffee blend, made especially by firm Roasted, the brand was able to offer a coffee that was not only ethically sound, but also unique to its public houses.

Speaking about its success, Greg Wallis, operating manager at Shepherd Neame, states: “By working with Fairtrade firm Roasted, we are ensuring that not only do our customers receive a high-quality cup of coffee, but the coffee producers also receive a fair deal.”

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According to coffee roaster Perky Blenders, opting for a smaller, unique, coffee roaster for your bean-to-cup machine may even result in a higher quality of coffee in comparison to other high street brands, a spokesperson comments: “With the increase of consumers wanting, and willing to pay, more from their coffee, many pubs – especially chains, have overlooked their hot beverage offering and are stuck with less contemporary brands and equipment that do not live up to the expectations of the customers they are targeting.

“Some farms are too small to afford accreditations, but in all cases, with the coffee you buy and trust from a brand such as Perky Blenders the arrangement with the farm is often up to seven times the Fairtrade minimum and the quality of the beans that they source are rated at 85 (out of 100) and above, which is well above your average high street chain.”

Related topics Soft & Hot Drinks

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