2011

Flavored Coffee For a Sustainable Cafe Business

For new customers, coffee is as much a process as a product. That is why flavored coffee deserves a place at your bar. Flavored coffee is, perhaps, the most efficient and profitable way to build a new generation of coffee drinkers.

By the way, flavored coffee drinkers are not just any customer group; this demographic has super powers – with the ability to transform and sustain your business.

Flavored coffee drinkers are loyal

They will quickly identify your unique flavored coffee profile and adopt it as their own. It does not take much to explain “cinnamon hazelnut,” so this is a profile that sells itself, unlike more nuanced origin coffees.

Flavored coffee drinkers are curious
Once a flavored coffee drinker finds you, he will make a point of trying all of your flavored offerings – and he will look forward to new discoveries every day.

Flavored coffee drinkers are loud
When the connection between customer and flavor is made, sharing comes next. That translates to referral traffic and “followers.” If you want proof of this phenomenon, search Twitter for the term “Highlander Grogg.”

Flavored coffee drinkers are young
Ask your baristas about their first coffee experience. They will probably describe a flavored coffee such as cinnamon, peppermint, chocolate, vanilla, or hazelnut. If coffee is an acquired taste, flavored coffee is what makes your product accessible to a new generation.

Flavored coffee drinkers are health-conscious

Flavored syrups or creamers – even the sugar-free versions – do not cut it. If sugar and fat are the default flavor carriers on your bar, you are missing a huge audience. Flavored coffees are not presweetened and contain zero calories, zero fat, zero sugar, and zero carbs. Just like any brewed coffee, customers can drink it black or with soymilk, half & half, sugar, the pink stuff… it is up to them.

Launching Your Flavored Coffee Program


Understand that excellent single origin coffees can indeed share the bar with flavored coffees. After all, just because you serve a peppermint latte with whipped cream does not preclude you from serving a perfect six-ounce traditional cappuccino. It is all about quality, confidence and execution.

When you decide to offer flavored coffees to your customers, put quality first. Insist on the very best foundation. Do not accept inferior coffees as the base of your flavored coffee program. As we say at Inbru, better coffee makes better tasting flavored coffee. Find a roaster who respects and supports your business decision. If your roaster does not flavor coffee, consider products that let you flavor coffee in the brew basket or by the cup.

Flavored Coffee Best Practices

Avoid serving pre-ground flavored coffee to your customers. If you grind your “regular” coffee just before brewing, you should treat your flavored coffee customers with the same respect. Building your business is about creating consistently excellent sensory experiences beginning with a fanatical approach to quality.

Use a dedicated flavored coffee grinder. You do not want your French Roast tasting like French Vanilla. Like any grinder, a flavored coffee grinder should be cleaned and calibrated regularly.

Dedicate a brew basket and server for flavored coffees. As with all coffee accessories, brew baskets and airpots should be rinsed between brews and cleaned daily.

Make it special. Consider elevating the flavored coffee experience with Brew By The Cup techniques such as pourover, Chemex and French press. Why limit customer options to “the flavor of the day?”

Manage your flavored coffee inventory for freshness. Your goal here is to maximize variety without compromising freshness and cash flow. You’ll want to offer a wide variety of flavors on rotation. Consider how much coffee you will use over a two-week period, the valuable shelf space it consumes and, of course, your inventory costs.

Flavored coffees make an excellent retail sales opportunity. Your customers will love all the new flavor choices. Seal the deal with a sale for home or office. Flavored coffee is among the most popular specialty food gift items – particularly during holidays.

Given the opportunity, many customers will “graduate” from flavored coffee to your non-flavored offerings; however, if you don’t have their attention when they make that switch, you risk losing them forever.

Serving flavored coffee is about creating new and exciting “points of entry” for your customers. Greet new guests with a wide, impressive, and healthy variety of coffee options, and they’ll make your shop their own.

Howard is the founder of Inbru Coffee Flavors, a new approach to flavoring coffee. He is co-founder of Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Company, a former roaster, barista, equipment technician and USBC-certified judge. He blogs for new coffee retailers at blog.inbru.com.

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