Expensive tastes

17/11/2015 - 07:01
Speciality hot and cold beverages can deliver a high percentage of a caterer’s profits, and in an environment in which quality counts, you need to make sure the equipment you use is the best you can afford. Kathy Bowry reports.

Colder days call for comforting hot drinks to pep up performance as customers seek comfort and diversity, whether in a coffee shop, on the go or at their desks. At the same time, thirst-slaking cold drinks still have their part to play, even in the depths of winter.

The common denominator in providing the best is to get the mix right and to deliver an exceptional taste experience to customers who have become more sophisticated in their beverage selection. In this instance, you really do get what you pay for, so no stinting on ingredients or equipment – being miserly on your outlay will not pay dividends in the end.

According to a report entitled ‘The Future of Coffee’ published this autumn by Allegra World Coffee Portal, the popularity of the coffee shop experience continues to climb. That is no surprise to trend watchers, nor is it that Allegra also identified that speciality coffee accounts for an estimated 15% of the total volume of the out-of-home coffee market and forecasts 13% year-on-year growth.

The speciality segment outperforms the total market, which itself is projected to grow at 10%, and hopping onto this bandwagon is almost like a licence to print money if you are a canny operator.

The report also states: “Speciality coffee venues are also experimenting with new beverages, including cold-brew [coffee] and speciality teas. In the future, streamlined bar environments and increased automation will facilitate greater service-orientation from baristas.”

Cold-brew coffee is produced by immersing coffee in cold water. The result is a strong coffee concentrate that, when diluted 50:50 with water, is said to be a sweeter, smoother and richer cold coffee drink. It can take at least 20 hours for the beans to release their optimum flavour.

Starbucks has now rolled out Small Batch Cold Brew in the UK, which it serves chilled over ice – and a premium price can, and is, being charged. At Starbucks’ site in Jubilee Street, Brighton, a large iced latte would set you back £2.95, while a similar-sized cold-brew version would see you fork out £3.90.

Cold brew seems to be the exception that breaks the rule in terms of laying out a ton of cash for the kit. Toddy Maker cold-brew brewers are available from Coffee Hit and retail at £105. This non-electrical bucket with a tap on the bottom will turn 2.3kg of coffee grounds into approximately 11L of extract when strained. However, there is no reason why any food-safe container and a supply of filter papers shouldn’t work just as well.

Getting back to more traditional brews, UCC Coffee UK & Ireland provides what it terms “the total coffee solution” with a range of bean-to-cup and traditional espresso machines from Eversys, Thermoplan, Victoria Arduino, Nuova Simonelli, Dalla Corte and Bunn.

Sean Pittaway, coffee specialist at UCC, says: “With a wealth of coffee machines on offer today including traditional, automatics, semi-automatic and filter machines, it can be difficult to know which is best for you and your customers.

“Traditional espresso machines are great for adding theatre and quality handcrafted drinks with an artisanal flair, but you need to invest in training your employees on how to use the machine and its features in order to serve an exceptional coffee.

“This includes understanding the correct brewing parameters and following the same coffee recipe every time.

“On the other hand, bean-to-cup machines consistently deliver a high-standard beverage at the touch of a button. These machines offer speed, guaranteeing authentic, barista-standard drinks – ideal for a wide range of operations particularly those with a high footfall.

“They offer the ‘romance’ of a traditional machine with numerous steam-wand options for milk-texturising and steaming to deliver theatre as part of the experience – for example, our Eversys e4 and e2 offer intuitive machinery and easy programming, which all adds up to consistent, quality coffee and steamed milk.”

Just over a year on from its launch, Melitta believes its new-generation Cafina XT6 is setting new standards in the mid-range class.

A spokesman says: “Under the motto ‘Coffee perfection in every cup’, the XT6 has been developed for hotel, restaurant and catering businesses dedicated to superior coffee quality but also seeking greater performance.

“The new machine can prepare up to 150 coffee specialties an hour and is expected to set new standards in the mid-range class.

“It’s got sleek design, distinctive functional areas and high-quality aluminium housing. Its front is ergonomically tilted towards the user, and its daylight LEDs illuminate the complete dispensing area to accentuate the machine’s coffee, milk and chocolate specialties.”

If it’s simply the hot water you need, then Marco Beverage Systems’ Ecoboiler range includes four-tap-dispense versions holding 5–30L, and two push-button options that hold 5 and 10L respectively. These plumb directly into the main water supply and can take up to 14floz cups. Marco also provides manual fill options in three sizes up to 27L, plus undercounter and wall-mounted versions as well.

Diane Ho, commercial product manager at Glen Dimplex Professional Appliances, says: “Consideration for the individual needs of the venue and the requirements of the proposed hot beverage menu leave caterers with the important decision of which specific equipment they feel is most suited to the operation of their establishment.

“Thought should be given to the expected capacity of the venue as well as the available counter space – a unit that is too large will be underused and will take up valuable space, while an appliance that is too small will limit service during the busy periods.

“Espresso machines, for example, are ideal for producing coffee-based drinks; however, they fail to produce water at the correct temperature for making the various different tea varieties that are becoming increasingly popular among customers – this is where a dedicated hot water boiler comes into its own.”

Eau de Vie’s latest product innovation, the multitap, provides instant filtered boiling and chilled water – still or sparkling – from a single convenient dispense tap, so there’s no need for multiple pieces of equipment.

“By installing a filtered water system, caterers can not only improve the quality of their water offering and increase profits, but they can also help to build a more sustainable future for their business and boost the bottom line through energy savings,” explains Eau de Vie’s David Smithson. “It is a win-win situation.”

Moving on to cold drinks, Robin Candy, Santos brand director for Nisbets, believes operators should look to offer a selection of refreshing fruit juices as part of their beverage menus that will satisfy the needs of even the most health-conscious.

“The Santos silent drinks blender is the ideal choice for caterers looking to offer a range of refreshing fruit juices and smoothies. LED lit controls and an LCD display make the unit easy to operate, and its’ unique blade coating allows easy crushing of frozen fruit and ice in seconds.

“A 2.4L bowl means that large quantities of fruit juice can be made in one go, saving valuable time for caterers, and the blender can store up to 30 pre-programmed recipes, so any member of kitchen staff can use this Santos model with minimal training and produce consistent results every time.”

Scott Duncan, sales director at Carpigiani UK, pitches the benefits of the company’s Spin range, which he says offers the perfect example because it can be used to create and serve slush, sherbert and other cold drinks in minutes, all with one 12L-capacity piece of equipment.

“Constantly creating new choices and updating soft beverage menus is important for caterers looking to ensure healthy profits from their drinks service.

“The appliances in the Spin range are hugely versatile, easy to use, and are available in models of one, two or three hoppers so caterers can choose the size best suited to their level of demand.”

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