Where’s a wide variety of coffee and tea choices available to consumers today, in virtually every food service and convenience location. Starbucks continues to lead the charge with dozens of ready-to-go coffee and tea drinks, from its Caramel Macchiato to its Tazo Chai Tea Lattes. Even at Dunkin Donuts, customers have the choice of at least eight or nine different flavors of coffee, hot and cold, including coconut, raspberry and toasted almond.The Grand Café at the Hotel Monaco, San Francisco, offers server sales awards programs.
This wide range of options has created in customers the notion that their right to choice should also exist in all restaurants, managers and chefs agree. Philippe Lajaunie, president of the five-location Brasseries Les Halles, says, “American consumers are definitely more educated about what good coffee is than in the past. This is a result of Americans discovering and appreciating good food over the last 15 to 20 years, through travel, and much better products used by chefs. This has extended into the beverages they drink. Anything that brings people to quality is great. If you look at what Starbucks has done, it has done a great job at educating people about coffee, even explaining what coffee is.”
Guests have also become savvier about tea. “While coffee is still the bigger seller at our restaurant, tea is catching up,” says Amy Svendberg, general manager at the Grand Café at the Hotel Monaco in San Francisco. “Guests have a greater awareness about the health benefits, the decrease in caffeine in teas. And they’re much more knowledgeable about products. The Whole Foods stores, for example, carry so many teas and this has led to a more sophisticated clientele.”
With all of the options available to today’s consumers, what can full-service restaurants do to make their coffees and teas stand out in the crowd? In two words, better service. There are many ways that operators can increase sales and augment profits by upgrading the quality and presentation of these beverages, notably by making the experience special for their guests.
FULL FRENCH PRESS
“In increasing coffee sales, restaurateurs should try to give something a bit more, to add value in some way,” says Lajaunie. Les Halles restaurants two each in New York and Florida and one in Washington, DC add value with French press coffee service. “There’s ceremony around it, and people appreciate that. More importantly, it gives guests the joy of the ritual of having fresh coffee brewed in front of them,” he says. “And people don’t mind paying a bit more for it, to have that quality of service. We do the same with loose teas, brewing and serving them table-side in press pots as well.”
Lajaunie says Les Halles tried serving sugar cubes as an accompaniment to the service, “but people didn’t really relate to it, so we serve white and brown granular sugar.” Also adding value, he says, “We always give a bit of complementary chocolate on the side. It’s between biscotti and a brownie.” Les Halles uses both small and larger French press pots, depending on how many are being served. “The coffee used in French press is not as finely ground as espresso. We use Arabica from Africa because it’s strong but not bitter, and we get a lot of our coffee from New York-based Dallis Coffee.”
Latte and a selection
of its flavored syrups
Dallis provides coffee for many of New York’s top restaurants, and it also loans out French press pots to its customers as well, ranging in capacity from 10- to 48-ounces. Jim Munson, vice president of Dallis, says operators need to change their equipment to provide better coffee, and stop offering just one type. “This is the age of specialty coffee,” he says. “When a server asks, ‘Would you like regular or decaf?,’ that just dumb-downs coffee service and operators need to break through that by not using big electric brewers that make 10 or 12 cups at a time.” Dallis’ Fresh Impressions offers packets of one-ounce servings of coffee made for French presses, with the roast date on it. “Some operators have said it’s too hard to make, so I’m making it easier for them,” says Munson.
Using local suppliers is one way to ensure the freshness of your coffee service. The Fifth Floor in San Francisco, for example, helmed by Melissa Perello, takes their coffee seriously. “We use organic coffee and teas from Bay area purveyors, served tableside in press pots,” she says. Each coffee drink is ground to order, and the restaurant serves its local favorite, Blue Bottle Coffee, a small-batch roaster in Oakland.
TEAS GO UPSCALE
Restaurant operators can increase tea sales by offering more choices and upsell with specialty teas containing herbs, fruit peels and flowers. “People are expanding away from English Breakfast and Earl Grey. They’re trying new things and new teas,” says Sebastian Beckwith, with In Pursuit of Tea, in Brooklyn, NY. In Pursuit of Tea explores remote areas in China to supply fine loose teas to the U.S. market.
Bryan Voltaggia, executive chef at Charlie Palmer Steak, in Washington, DC, uses specialty varietals, which impress guests because they’re unusual and fragrant. “Our teas are served in attractive hand-crafted silky tea sachets, which don’t transfer chemicals from the bag. We use Mighty Leaf, based out of California. Teas with fruit peels and herbs are growing in popularity,” says Voltaggia. His top sellers include the Chamomile Citrus, made with Egyptian chamomile flowers and citrus, and Organic Mint Melange, which includes organic peppermint from Morocco.
Voltaggia says that even though coffee and tea usually comes at the end, operators should try to catch guests’ attention early on in the meal. “Anything interactive and theatrical will attract guests’ attention. Try to get a tableside presentation going early in the evening. Other guests will see it and might be influenced to order the drink as well,” he suggests.
The Grand Café’s Svendberg says she hopes to make a splash with the “Flowering Teas” promotion with Numi Teas, which started this month. “These teas literally bloom in the water in the glass pots. The teas contain whole leaves, flowers and herbs and make a great presentation,” she says.
There are simple ways to add value without adding expense. For example, Scott Q. Campbell, owner/chef of SQC Restaurant in NYC, says, “Rather than throw away leftover tea and coffee, we make ice cubes with them and place them in our coffee and tea drinks. We do this year-round.”
Les Halles Brasseries’ tea press pot service and Profiteroles with chocolate sauce.
Also in NYC, the Silverleaf Tavern employs this same technique. Chef Kevin Reilly freezes coffee to make ice cubes “so that the integrity of the drink is not compromised if and when it starts to melt.”
Creating specialty coffee-based drinks is another way to attract more sales. SQC’s Campbell makes a popular drink he calls the Mocha Eclipse, which blends hot chocolate, espresso, whipped cream and foam from cappuccino. He says another good seller is the Espresso Frappé, in which he whips together espresso, whole milk, yogurt and sugar. “We do make a lot of espresso and cappuccino type of drinks, and we basically use French roast, because it’s strong, even ballsy,” he says. Campbell says he also likes to get creative with tea, and adds it to ice cream and dessert drinks, like his tea float.
Using flavored syrups is another great way to add value and enhance taste. “Consumer demand continues to drive the business of four core flavors: vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut and caramel,” says Mary Doyle, vice president of marketing for Monin flavored syrups. She also suggests generating excitement for coffee and teas with seasonal flavors. For fall, she recommends enhancing beverages with Monin Pumpkin Spice, Gingerbread and Peppermint.
Doyle has several tips for operators to increase sales of coffee and teas. These include showcasing a photo of a special beverage on the menu or with a table tent. She also recommends pairing a pastry item with a beverage, such as gingerbread pastries with a gingerbread drink. Garnishes reinforce value and add visual appeal, she says. Also, “charge appropriately,” she says, “by positioning the drink as a premium item.”
Adagio Teas’ clear-top specialty tea tins.
Torani says its top-selling flavored syrups are in the vanilla category. “America is crazy for its vanilla,” says Stacy Cooper Dent, a spokesperson for Torani. In that category, Torani sells Vanilla, French Vanilla and Vanilla Bean. Dent says a trend is emerging toward using sugar-free syrups, and recommends operators use these in drinks such as the sugar-free white chocolate espresso or mocha.
Dent says operators should use as many garnishes as they can in their drinks, to create extra value. “Shaved chocolate, crumbled peppermint, cocoa powder, chocolate sauces and sprinkles are some fun ways to do this,” she says.
SERVER TRAINING IS KEY
Arming servers with knowledge and training is certainly an important step in upselling. For instance, Nadine Brown, wine director at Charlie Palmer Steak, holds tea training classes for the staff. She educates them on the history of tea, the entire process the ingredients go through from the plant to the tea bag to get to the table, the proper service of the tea, and how the ingredients in their teas are different from other teas. “Since the tea is more expensive than many other teas, Nadine’s training also allows the staff to explain to customers why it’s worth the extra money. For example, customers can actually see the citrus peels in our Chamomile Citrus,” says executive chef Voltaggia.
Numi Teas’ “Flowering Teas” program.
SQC’s Campbell underscores the pivotal role servers play. “Servers are your sales force. The best way to make a good impression is to train them well. They can get proactive about serving coffee or tea and dessert. We put dessert spoons down as soon as entrees are done, and ask if we can get them coffee or cappuccino,” he says. “And it pays to make sure your tea and coffee service shines. It’s the best way for operators to make a lasting impression, because it’s usually the last thing customers have,” he says.
Finally, a great way to get servers involved in upselling your teas and coffees is with incentive programs. Operators including the Grand Café offer prizes for sales achievement. “We offer monthly programs where servers who sell the most in a certain area get prizes, such as a spa visit, bottle of wine or gift certificate. We’ll soon do an incentive program for our new ‘Flowering Tea’ promotion with Numi,” says Svendberg.
Hot chocolate is often thought of as a homespun, casual drink, consisting mainly of powdered cocoa or syrup and some hot milk. But some restaurants are kicking it up a few notches, elevating the beverage with tableside service and house-made ingredients.
At Charlie Palmer Steak in Washington DC, for example, executive chef Bryan Voltaggia offers table-side hot chocolate served on a silver platter. Servers bring out the platter with a tall glass filled with chunks of dark chocolate made in the kitchen. Hot milk is then poured over the chocolate, and a dish of house-made marshmallows is also provided, for floating on top of the drink.
Bar Minnow, a casual seafood eatery in Brooklyn, NY, also offers a special hot chocolate service, that it says is “a perfect treat for all ages.” Pastry chef/co-owner Vicki Bashy blends steamed milk with a house-made chocolate sauce from rich Belgian Belcolade chocolate. “Kids love floating the mini marshmallows in the creamy drink, while many adults prefer something a bit stronger,” she says.
And Hot Chocolate in Chicago, a café serving eclectic American fare, lives up to its namesake with a whole range of hot chocolate drinks and even offers a flight of “milkshake shots.” Chef Mindy Segal’s imaginative menu includes the Black and Tan, a rich drink of one-third hot fudge and two-thirds hot chocolate. Or guests can end their meal of Kobe beef skirt steak (a house favorite) with a flight of hot chocolate topped with house-made marshmallows. Hot chocolate is served “medium strength” or mixed with espresso. Chocolate’s even in the air at this café to underscore its theme, the place burns chocolate-scented candles. –EVS
COFFEE & TEA
There’s an almost endless variety of coffee and tea products available to restaurant operators today. Here are some of the latest:
and its newest flavor,
Organic India introduces its first line of Tulsi Teas (also called Holy Basil) to the U.S. market. The six new savory blends of organic tea are Original Tulsi, Tulsi Ginger, Tulsi Gotu Kola, Tulsi Chai, Tulsi Green Tea and Tulsi Darjeeling. Available in a variety of package sizes (box of 25 is most popular). Three of the teas in the collection contain some caffeine: green, chai and Darjeeling.
Catapult Coffee, based in North Andover, MA, launches four coffees in 12-ounce cans containing energizing herbal extracts. The portfolio of Arabica-bean coffees are Dragon Roast, Cinnamon Dragon, Vanilla Crane and Hazelnut Tiger. The herbal extracts contained in all four are the South American herb yerba mate, Angelica Sinensis (Chinese medicinal herb), and guarana seed powder.
Adagio Teas unveils a new line of a dozen teas in attractive, colorful, five-ounce tins with clear top packaging. Tea is susceptible to light, and so is usually covered, but the new collection is treated to block ultra-violet rays. The on-line gourmet tea store’s (adagio.com) new line includes Green Popcorn, a mix of Japanese green tea, popped rice and popcorn, and fragrant Jasmine Peach.
Monin has recently launched several flavored syrups ideal for coffee and tea drinks, including its Honey Sweetener, which adds just the right amount of honey to drinks. Made with real honey and filtered water, the sweetener has an 18-month shelf life. The specially-designed pump portions out one-half tablespoon each time, reducing waste. Just in time for warming fall drinks, Monin introduces Pumpkin Spice, which blends well with espresso for lattes and works just as easily for tea drinks, such as Monin’s Harvest Moon Tea, with hot black tea and hot milk. In addition, the Candied Orange flavor features sweet ripe orange essence, enhancing teas with a mildly tart citrus accent.
Froth Au Lait’s Professional Elite Milk Frother rapidly prepares up to 14 servings of rich froth and heated milk. It can be used to make cappuccinos, hot chocolate, chai teas and lattes. It uses patented technology that heats, whips and aerates milk into a meringue-like froth without steam and the froth lasts at least 30 minutes or more. –EVS