Selecting the Right Coffee Equipment for Your Restaurant

Finding the right coffee equipment for your restaurant is vital.
Finding the right coffee equipment for your restaurant is vital. Thinkstock

Try this strategy to choose the right coffee equipment

Consumers are growing in sophistication and demand greater varieties of taste in their dining experience—even when it comes to coffee. In fact, specialty coffee now represents 25 percent of all finished coffee purchased in the United States. In a full-service setting, coffee service has the potential to differentiate a restaurant and enhance the customer experience.

It’s obvious that brewing and serving this coffee requires equipment, but equipment comes at the end of what should be a thorough review process that looks at atmosphere, menu, and wait staff.

Atmosphere is the physical representation of a restaurant’s brand and encompasses the guest’s entire impression of the restaurant, including décor, lighting, and the presentation of food and beverages. Determining what the restaurant is trying to achieve in terms of guest experience will then drive menu options.

From the level of complexity and sophistication in the offerings to variety based on daypart, menus can vary greatly in full-service restaurants. No matter the situation, however, the coffee menu should align with the overall menu. For some restaurants, a quality brewed coffee is sufficient. Other fine dining establishments may have an entirely separate after-dinner menu with cocktails and specialty coffee-based drinks, such as cappuccinos or lattes.

Just taking into account the menu and the complexity of the beverages will dictate coffee equipment, but the role of the wait staff should also play a part. As mentioned above, if a restaurant is offering brewed coffee, the wait staff may serve and refill a customer’s coffee cup or deliver a carafe on the table. In this scenario, the expectation of the staff’s level of service, skill, and knowledge of the coffee is lower than if the restaurant serves specialty drinks handcrafted by a trained barista. The operational competency needed by the wait staff to execute the coffee menu accurately also factors into equipment selection.

Leaning on understanding gained in the previous categories—the restaurant’s atmosphere, menu, and expectations of the wait staff—the final step is selecting the equipment to fit the coffee service needs of the restaurant. To fulfill these needs successfully, there are several considerations for selecting the optimal equipment:

Menu: What types and sizes of coffee drinks will be offered?

Performance: Will there be tableside service?

Prominence: Will the machine(s) be visible to customers?

Staff: How will they be involved in the preparing and serving of coffee beverages?

Quantity: How many cups are expected to be served per daypart? Is redundant equipment desired?

Layout: Where will equipment be located? What space is available? Will there be a single brewing and serving station or multiple preparation stations for coffee?
Water: Has the water quality been tested? Is filtration currently in place?
Utilities: Is 110-volt and 220-volt power available?

As a restaurant owner works through this equipment review process, the need for a true beverage partner becomes more apparent. In this situation, a partner is someone who can work with the restaurant to develop and execute a beverage program versus simply selling a product or a piece of equipment.

Understanding the full picture, a beverage partner can make recommendations that fit the operation’s specific needs. For example, does the restaurateur want the aroma of ground beans and the sights and sounds of a traditional espresso machine as part of the restaurant’s ambiance? If the restaurant’s staff is not equipped to operate the machine to create a consistent, high quality beverage, the equipment partner can recommend espresso machines with automated grinding, brewing, steaming, and frothing milk options. These options take away the need for a specific skill set while utilizing the same traditional equipment that fits the restaurateur’s vision.

A beverage partner is also involved beyond the equipment purchase and set up. It can provide training for restaurant staff on both an initial and ongoing basis. Ongoing service is also critical to operational success—making sure the right procedures are in place and that the equipment is functioning as expected.

The partner can also add value through operational audits, in which they assess equipment, observe staff, and provide feedback. This in-depth type of review does not just look at execution and opportunities for operational improvement, but may also include discussing new beverage trends that the restaurant may be able to capitalize on. Furthermore, the right partner has connections throughout the industry that it can leverage on behalf of the restaurant.

Equipment solutions are a piece of the whole puzzle that will help a restaurant be on trend, more profitable and better serve its customers. Selecting the right equipment, however, should be an integral part of identifying the right partner to develop and grow a coffee beverage program and build the restaurant’s brand for long-term business success.

Tony D'Amico

Tony D’Amico is the vice president, equipment administration & service for S&D Coffee & Tea, the nation’s largest custom coffee roaster and supplier of iced tea to the foodservice industry. D’Amico heads the department responsible for equipment procurement, sales and refurbishment, in addition to working with manufacturers to develop new and unique equipment solutions based on emerging business trends.

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