The Culture Club Cafe culture is increasingly big business in the UK but it’s a fastmoving sector and operators in the independent sector need to keep abreast of new innovations and trends. Grace Keenan, foodservice marketing manager for Kerry Beverage, says: “Operators who tap into the latest beverage and flavour trends will thrive when they give consumers a diverse and varied offering.”

Simon Remmer, sales director of Rombouts UK, agrees: “It used to be that much of the coffee served in the UK was just burnt tasting, brown water; purely a vessel for the morning caffeine with sugar and milk a must. “What we have noticed over the past 10 years and more noticeably, the last five, is that customers are asking us more about the coffees; where they come from, how they are processed, how we roast them, etc.”

A big driver is access to information. Be it online or more recently via social media, there has never been so much information readily available to coffee drinkers to help (or hinder) their choice. Simply type in #coffee to Instagram and there are well over 48 million posts! Another change is in brewing knowledge and methods. Five years ago, for instance, weighing coffee in and out for espresso was relativity unheard of – now it’s common practice amongst many speciality coffee shops and appears to be gaining traction across the industry.

Get the ambience right Atmosphere, ambience and interaction are among the top five factors that encourage repeat visits to coffee shops, so appealing to core consumer motivators could be the key to driving customer loyalty. A comfortable environment is stated as an important factor by two thirds of consumers Over half (58%) of consumers use the space to people watch 1 in 5 use the space to relax. When it comes to serving hot beverages it’s important to take heed that bad tasting coffee, poor service and lack of cleanliness were the top three biggest consumer turn-offs. Miles Dawson, director of sales, Brita Professional, says: “In the future, the physical design is set to change to create more interaction between barista and the consumer – counters and bars will become lower and technology will transform customer engagement.”

Savour the flavour Capitalising on consumers’ desire to try new flavours is important. Blended ice drinks are becoming increasingly popular and are now perceived to be staple items for operators to serve. The subtle tastes of coffee and sweet flavours of frappés make them popular with younger consumers who are discouraged by the bitter taste of coffee. Creating different hot beverage menus for the four seasons and varied key dates in the calendar can aid operators in attracting consumers. Adapting hot drink menus can be as simple as introducing speciality beverages that incorporate the flavours and tastes that are particularly associated with the time of year. With the highest spend in speciality tea from the beginning of December until the New Year, customers are happier to spend more on tea that is considered indulgent and a treat during this festive occasion. Says Isabelle Haynes, Tetley senior brand manager – out of home: “As the temperature drops and Christmas shoppers look for an excuse to escape the cold, serving a variety of tea blends that evoke the tastes and scents of the season can create an overall festive feel that consumers know and love.” Tetley’s envelope range provides the perfect array of festive flavours from warming blends such as Raspberry and Pomegranate and a zesty warming Lemon and Ginger. Festive link deals such as a Christmas cake or mince pie alongside a steaming cup of tea or coffee are also sure to drive footfall.

Coffee shop treats Italian-style gelaterias and USinspired waffle cafes are enjoying a boom in popularity and are a great source of ideas for attracting customers who are hungry for something fresh and new. According to Movenpick, 30% of UK adults would also be interested in trying more sophisticated toppings on their ice cream such as coffee. The Italian dessert ‘affogato’ is perfect to enhance an operator’s coffee and dessert offering. Affogatos are simply a scoop of ice cream drenched in espresso, traditionally vanilla is used but you can take to the next level by using caramelita or even Swiss chocolate. Celebrity chef Ben Bartlett says: “Alongside gelato, a gourmet waffle menu will pull in the same discerning customers. Waffles are a great energy boost to fuel the day ahead, as well as being a comforting treat as an alternative to cakes and muffins. “Batter ingredients are inexpensive so the margin is high, and they become a premium tempting treat when served with lavish, luscious toppings, from whipped cream and fresh fruit to syrups, meringue and chocolate.” Don’t forget the growing trend for savoury waffles, served hot and topped with cheese, meats, roast vegetables, spicy sauces or creamy dressings. However, data from Coffee Track indicated that cake is the most desired food when visiting a coffee shop. “Gluten-free started as a trend but is now a core part of our business,” says Nigel Taylor, MD of The Handmade Cake Company. “We need to ensure that as current trends such as natural sugar or vegan start to grow, that we have a high quality offering for our customer base to choose from to ensure that we can thrive alongside a buoyant coffee market.” The Handmade Cake Company offers a wide range of cakes from the traditional Victoria Sponge to more unusual offerings such as Pina Colada Cake, Earl Grey & Blackcurrant Cake, and a showstopping Pistachio & Rose Cake.

A bit on the side Complimentary treats are a great way to “delight” customers and differentiate your offer in the highly competitive cafe market too. Natasha Quinn, foodservice channel operations manager for Ferrero, who offer the Ferrero Rocher two pack format to allow consumers to indulge in the premium treat out-ofhome, says: “It’s not unusual for cafés to give customers a complimentary treat with their hot drink to enhance their experience. However in the world of artisan coffee there is increasing pressure to set yourself apart from the competition and that should include your confectionery.”

Time for tea Of course, not all café visitors want coffee – the purchase of tea out of home is rising in the UK, with 4 billion cups of tea consumed, up 1.6% year on year. While coffee shops have dominated the high streets in the past decade, Tetley’s ‘Future of Tea’ report predicts that, by 2026, Tea Total Bars will pop up across the out of home market. The Office for National Statistics recently reported a trend in a younger generation of consumers who are less likely to consume alcohol and the pop-up tea bars will look to serve everything from traditional blends to tea-based mocktails in a variety of exotic flavours to drink, eat or inhale as desired. Tetley predict the intensifying needs of timepressured customers on the move will result in a growing market for products such as Day parting. A third of all tea is consumed at breakfast so make sure you have a strong blend on your morning menu. In the afternoon, caffeine-free options such as peppermint or camomile might be preferable for customers looking to wind down. tea shots. Providing an intense burst of tea-on-the-go, tea sprays, tablets and strips look set to be on the market within the next decade. The much-loved cuppa may also be swapped out for tea jellies, sorbets and syrups in an array of exotic tastes and flavours.