As a self-diagnosed coffeeholic, one of the important elements in my evaluation of a property is their coffee service, both within the guestroom and at any restaurant outlet. Given this beverage's significance in everyday life, it's a definite no-no for a hotel that cuts corners in its procurement and preparation of this brown elixir. Hardly a drug, though, coffee is not only big business but an aspect of our culture that continues to evolve.
To witness this evolution, look no further than guests' expectations for a property's in-room coffee and tea service. Within the past decade, we've seen a migration from metal foil sachets, to Keurig, Nespresso and a host of other machines capable of delivering a more flavorful and bespoke experience. Complementing this, most hotel restaurants offer barista levels of services with cappuccinos, lattes and espressos the norm along with a few custom creations in tune with the local market. Even basic by-the-gallon foodservice grinds like what you would find in a breakfast buffet are far better than they ever used to be.
Thinking of coffee as more than just a direct – and highly profitable – revenue stream, it's also a point of pride for a hotel as well as a prominent contributor to a great guest experience. After all, what hotel wants to be known for having a lousy brew? What hotels want their past guests to shine them in a negative light because their coffee service was subpar?
I've attended conferences where the coffee was so awful that delegates were slipping out to the Starbucks in the lobby. While being average in this regard may have negligible impact either way, bad beverage service will be immediately noticed and have harmful effect. Contrarily, offering something exceptional may be enough to turn that four-star review on Tripadvisor into a five.
Look at improving your coffee as just another way of building your reputation as the best property in your trading area. With so much at stake for this often-overlooked aspect of your food and beverage operations, here are ten new rules for coffee in your establishment.
- Recognize coffee is critical to your property's success in all its forms and at all your venues. No one cares if you don't have an incumbent coffee culture – your guests do and that's what's important.
- Taste the coffee in your restaurant and catering venues. If your local McCafé or Starbucks is better, you've got a problem.
- Coffee cannot be reheated – 30 minutes from the time it was brewed is all you have before the flavor profile is irreversible sullied.
- With a Keureg or Nespresso, you've got a way to give guests a great start to their day for about a hundred bucks a room. Yes, the coffee capsules have a markedly higher cost. Suck it up and find cost savings elsewhere.
- All your restaurant outlets should offer more than just coffee. Machinery to produce espresso-based drinks is inexpensive and, with proper training, easy to use.
- Clean all your coffee equipment daily at a minimum so that the repugnant soot never builds up. Check brewing temperatures as well, as this can increase the 'burnt' taste profile of the end product in addition to alter the sugars in milk.
- Experiment with different suppliers. Taste samples early in the day and ask your staff members for their opinion, too. Coffee selection and menu additions can be a good opportunity for team participation.
- While I don't drink decaffeinated products often, there has been a marked improvement in their processing. For this, you must ensure that your 'low test' matches 'high test' in quality.
- While you're evaluating your coffee service, broaden your search for differentiating your property by examining the aesthetics of the overall experience – mugs, cups, saucers, serving utensils, room décor, menu design and nearly anything else to boost the ambiance. See what your budget can spare for something out of the ordinary.
- Having sat through numerous budget, procurement and operational meetings, I've never heard a controller complain that too much was being spent on coffee!
(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in HOTELS Magazine on Tuesday, September 26, 2017)