Coffee Industry Trends: Convenience Beyond Convenience Stores

Crafting and operating a quality beverage program is difficult enough, but what about a busy café environment with retail customers who expect a unique experience? To meet the growing demand for café-quality beverages, store owners and managers are challenged to prioritize coffee quality and convenience for their discerning customer on-the-go.

The specialty coffee industry prides itself on craftsmanship over commodity, expanding customers’ options beyond generic dark-roast blends and into exotic light-roasted single origins with nuanced flavor notes. The expectation is that these hand-crafted (or artisanal) beverages require meticulous preparation to highlight their value to customers. This concept (in practice) is difficult to achieve; few cafes can hire solely coffee experts or can afford the time to train their staff on proper techniques to achieve their business goals. It can be especially problematic if the shop is short-staffed or particularly busy. Quality and convenience in the beverage program can be squeezed when we cannot control the operating environment, which can unfortunately cause the customer experience to suffer. 

Brew confidently with the Ascent Touch, a bean-to-cup brewer that meets the Specialty Coffee Association ‘Gold Cup’ standard.

Although some café owners resist automated coffee machines with the belief that they detract from quality, the reality is that most coffee drinkers use and prefer automatic drip and single-serve pods at-home because they want convenience and minimal fuss. The retail environments they visit will necessarily reflect a focus on coffee experiences with unobtrusive solutions, minimal waiting time, and expanded beverage options. Some commercial equipment (like our Ascent Touch bean-to-cup coffee machines) accomplishes these tasks automatically with the touch of a button, while others need to be manually managed and calibrated throughout the day. The benefit of a bean-to-cup or super automatic coffee machine is that the convenience of operation enables café owners to effectively manage coffee quality by the single-cup without sacrificing speed or consistency in their beverage programs. There are also options available at a larger scale; by using an Ascent Touch with four bean hoppers or an Xpress Touch 6 with milk fridges and flavored syrups, a single commercial automatic coffee machine can replicate entire drink menus across multiple high-quality coffees by the cup with or without milks, flavors, and either hot or iced. 

Brewed coffee is made by-the-cup on the Ascent Touch in less than 30 seconds at Black Fern Coffee in Bellingham, WA.

The solutions to demand for coffee quality and convenience are as unique as the environments in which they operate. One look at the evolving retail landscape demonstrates there is no “one size fits all” approach to our shared challenges. These questions and choices can inspire business leaders and managers to differentiate and leverage technologies in new ways to make their offerings stand apart from the competition and better adapt to consumers’ changing preferences.

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