The days of the breakroom coffee pot and a big can of ground coffee from the grocery store are history – or they should be. The reasons are many, but a primary factor behind this trend is the increasing numbers and influence of Millennials in the workforce. Coffee is just one element of the changes that this transition is bringing forward as companies reshape their cultures and work environments to align with a very different worker mindset.
As the baby boomer generation begins to retire, millennials will have more impact on the workplace. According to a Pew Research Center report, the number of Millennials eclipsed Gen-X workers in the U.S. in early 2015. They are expected to comprise 50 percent of the global workforce by 2020 (PWC, Millennials at work – Reshaping the workplace, 2011.) In forecasting where coffee in the office setting is going, taking a close look at Millennials is a worthwhile endeavor.
While previous generations anticipated a very structured work environment—full of cubicles and timed breaks at the water cooler—this new generation of workers is seeking an open, inviting environment with unique company cultures. As many companies recruit the best and the brightest of this incoming generation, it is becoming apparent that they also have to reimagine their culture to be more attractive to applicants. One aspect that this generational transition has created is a large demand for gourmet coffee services in the workplace.
For the Office Coffee Service (OCS) provider, understanding these cultural shifts is an important part of building and growing their business. It is imperative to not only provide the product variety and selections that are important to the team, but to also carefully manage and maintain the coffee station to ensure that it offers the required level of service. Millennials tend to have high expectations of the office coffee station. They place great value in the perfect cup of coffee and are not hesitant to go elsewhere for the products and services they expect. If an OCS provider can deliver on these expectations, they can reap the rewards: millennials are less concerned about price – a promising development for the OCS provider.
Millennials can have very strong opinions about and loyalty to different brews – and most are not shy about sharing their thoughts. For the OCS provider, this can be a veritable goldmine of information that can help cement the service contract.
One tool that has proven to be effective for improving the office coffee experience is a feedback portal. This is a customer-facing application that gives users the opportunity to provide input to the provider and help create a more customizable and satisfying coffee experience. From the perspective of the OCS provider, the portal helps keep an eye on inventory levels and product mix by encouraging constructive customer communication.
The office coffee station has become the employee’s own “mini café” that helps them re-energize and refocus. This space creates the community atmosphere that Millennials crave. Studies show that companies that implemented office coffee stations have increased productivity and department cohesion by up to 10 percent. (PWC, Millennials at work – Reshaping the workplace, 2011.)
Satisfied customers, and a well-stocked office coffee station, should be a winning and profitable combination for the operators. In fact, recent industry metrics have shown that OCS revenues have increased some 5.5 percent over the last year. With interest from customers on the rise and revenues increasing, managing the business with efficiency is a primary concern for operators looking to get the most from the market. Many are investing in vending and office coffee management systems that help them run their OCS efficiently.
As many OCS providers are also in the vending business, the integration of office coffee management into a comprehensive Vending Management System (VMS) makes good business sense. Tracking usage, managing inventory, and planning service routes are common elements to both business lines. Streamlining back office and warehouse operations, route planning, and inventory management can deliver a direct impact to the bottom line. And doing so with a comprehensive and easy-to-use system will help the operator keep their focus on the customers, not the technology.
Millennials are changing the workplace, and along with it, the relationship between coffee and the office environment. OCS operators are looking at a growing market with significant profit potential in the coming years. There’s a certainly a lot of potential here. But, as with any rapidly expanding market, the key is to be highly responsive to a sophisticated customer base, and use to the right systems, such as a vending management solution, to make the OCS as efficient, nimble, and customer-centric as possible.