There’s growing enthusiasm to dine out. Here’s one way to make your restaurant a destination.

Full-service restaurants have always had to work hard to get diners in the door. It’s a competitive segment that requires menuing items that consumers emotionally connect with in order to establish brand loyalty.

One area where restaurants can create that emotional connection is with a well thought out beverage menu that provides something diners can’t get off the shelf of a grocery store. “Varied coffee offerings can be a huge difference maker,” says Kristen Impastato, director of marketing with Segafredo Zanetti.

“Consumers are growing weary of the coffee they’ve been drinking at home,” Impastato says. “They’re craving elevated experiences, especially with coffee drinks, whether it’s espresso, cold brew, iced coffee, or some kind of unique latte.”

James J. King

One establishment that knows the power coffee can have is Eggsquisite Cafe, a five-unit breakfast and lunch brand in the Dallas area. With Texas fully lifting COVID-related capacity restrictions earlier than other states, owner and operator Meff Asani noticed diners coming back into his restaurant were especially attracted to his coffee offerings—something they’d been missing.

“Coffee has always been a key component of the restaurant experience, but I think that’s especially true now,” Asani says. “Diners really expect to be able to enjoy high-quality coffee along with their high-quality food. If you don’t have that, they’re going to go somewhere else.”

Asani has been in the foodservice industry for over 40 years, and he says he’s watched the expectation for quality coffee rise a great deal in that time. There’s even a term and timeline for just how educated coffee drinkers have become—Impastato cites the Allegra World Coffee Portal and refers to it as the “fifth wave of coffee” wherein the business of coffee is evolving with hyper-professionalism in order to remain in step with the growing number of coffee lovers attuned to different brands, beans, roast profiles, brewing methods, and flavors. While boutique coffee shops have become ubiquitous and helped introduce the science and art of coffee, restaurants can now scale that same specialty experience with the right beverage partner who understands coffee and operational excellence.

“Coffee is a unique category that consumers connect with at an emotional level,” says John Fitzgerald, away from home division vice president at Segafredo Zanetti. “Operators who commit to delivering on-trend coffee offerings executed to very high standards have an opportunity to build powerful relationships with their clientele, who will choose that establishment for its coffee in the same way they’d search out a restaurant for a favorite dish.”

Rising along with the educated, coffee-drinking consumer has been a craving for different types of coffee beverages. Cold brew has been the shining star of the coffee world over the past few years, and that trend is now exploding. Third-party delivery giant Grubhub listed cold brew as the fifth most popular order—food or beverage—through their platform in 2020. Following close behind as seventh most popular was the iced latte. Cold brew is also a favorite amongst forward-thinking operators, who value the fact that the drink can be used to create any number of menu items across different dayparts.

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“There’s so much versatility with cold brew,” Impastato says. “Cold brew can help create unique ice cream floats for those looking for something indulgent. We’ve also found operators are having a lot of success with nostalgic items, like different cereal-milk cold brews. But you can really make anything—cocktails, mocktails, or cold brew infused with functional ingredients like turmeric.”

As Impastato implies, coffee LTOs have especially commanded consumer attention. One specialty coffee beverage that became a core component of the menu at Main St. Bistro and Bakery—a multi-unit cafe, also in the Dallas area—is the ‘Freddo, a sweet cold espresso drink. Main St. Bistro and Bakery owner and operator Fabien Goury says the drink was designed with help from Segafredo Zanetti and has an extra bit of showmanship in that it is shaken like a cocktail and poured into a cup or glass. That flair adds value to the menu item, helping Goury and his team achieve a nice margin on the drink.

“This is often a new drink for people,” Goury says. “They ask us, ‘What’s a ‘Freddo’? And you explain it and make it for them, and they love the show of it all. It’s truly an experience. It’s something they know you’re working hard to make for them, and then the taste delivers, and, more often than not, they’re coming back and asking for another ‘Freddo.”

The drink is easily customizable with cold brew, ice cream, liquor, and other add-ons. It is similar to the shakerato, from Italy, and is yet another example of a beverage that has unique properties that will command diners’ attention.

Segafredo Zanetti

“We continue to see global trends influencing the category,” Fitzgerald says. “One example is a traditional drink like the shakerato becomes a platform for creative mixology that serves to delight and surprise guests.”

Experience-driven moments are what will help the full-service sector rebound in the way that Asani’s and Goury’s businesses already have. “We’re back to 100 percent of the sales that we were doing before the pandemic,” Asani says.

Asani adds that he’s grateful to be able to menu Segafredo Zanetti coffee and custom solutions that help make things like a cold brew program so easy to execute—it comes in a box that can be easily poured by employees with minimal training. The brand recently launched an innovative countertop dispensing solution for its operator partners to deliver nitro cold brew on tap—something that has grown nearly 300 percent over the past four years, according to Datassential—without needing nitrogen tanks or kegs.

“Our guests are the ones that determine what they drink,” Asani says. “And Segafredo Zanetti is the Cadillac of coffee. Sometimes, if somebody comes into my restaurant for the first time, I’ll offer them a cup of coffee on me, and that will bring them back, because they love the quality of it, they love the smell of it, and they appreciate what it’s like to drink a cup.”

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