In an exclusive survey of Top 50 Indie dealers, respondents ranked coffee-to-go as the second most important service for their forecourt store (after customer service), with 96% of dealers saying it was extremely or very important. Indeed such is its importance that it ranked ahead of a good convenience offer and food to go.

Sarah Coleman, project manager at HIM, which conducted the survey, says: "I guess coffee is an easy win as it doesn’t take up a lot of space or create lots of wastage as food to go might if you get it wrong.

"Drinks-to-go is a key mission for forecourt shoppers and strongly over-indexes versus convenience stores in general. Good coffee is a ’must-have’ for 3% of c-store shoppers versus 13% of forecourt shoppers and is also the main reason for visiting a forecourt store for 13% of shoppers. In addition, it is almost six times more likely to be bought on impulse in a forecourt store versus an average c-store."

Luckily there is a wide range of coffee solutions available to forecourt stores. Costa is obviously a massive player but won’t suit every site. Meanwhile, Nestlé Professional reports that it is in detailed negotiations with a number of Top 50 Indies about its Nescafé Azera solution and this is already present in a number of WH Smith Travel stores in service stations.

And eXpresso PLUS is present on more than 725 sites with its Lavazza, Nescafé and Thorntons offers. Marketing manager Charlotte Duhaney says the company has been promoting the importance of working with high- quality brands for years.

"Big brands often have loyal customers, highly recognisable branding and great customer service all these elements can influence a customer’s purchase decision. IGD Shopper Vista research revealed that 39% of shoppers see brand name as the top attribute when defining a product as high quality or not. Having a machine with a big brand can attract new customers and increase basket spend."

Colin Morrison, marketing director at Tchibo Coffee, points to a new trend where coffee machines are being taken out of their units and placed on top of the counter to give the area in-store a more coffee shop feel.

"Working with retail groups up and down the country, we are seeing there is a shift towards what we term ’café destinations’. Coffee to go has been booming for about 10 years but over the last couple of years there has been a move to more boldly lit destinations, where the coffee machine is taken out of the furniture unit and placed on top of the counter. It has more of a coffee shop look and feel as opposed to a simple vending machine, gives an area for the customer to prepare coffee their way, and really get involved in the coffee making process like never before."

Morrison estimates that around 15% of the coffee-to-go market comprises this type of set-up and he expects that figure to increase.

"We know from feedback that customers are getting tired of rectangular boxes where they just push a button. With exposed bean-to-cup machines, they can see their coffee being freshly ground in front of them, and it gives a more authentic coffee experience."

Tchibo’s Smokin’ Bean solution features a contemporary design with exposed brickwork, Edision light bulbs, chalk boards and rustic style wood. "These can be modular and offer a unique solution to any retailer looking to upgrade their coffee-to-go offer," he explains.

Morrison adds that no matter how fancy the coffee offer in your forecourt store is, there is still an element of maintenance required to keep it looking great and performing well.

"Aside from daily cleaning of the machine and surfaces, there are a number of things to consider to keep it looking appealing. First impressions count: the more impressive it looks, the more your customers will be drawn in and your sales will increase."

He says the coffee ancillaries should be kept full and not only because it looks more inviting. "It can be frustrating for a consumer to start making a coffee only to find out there is no sugar, syrup or lids left. Give them the best experience by ensuring everything is within easy reach."

Duhaney at eXpresso PLUS advises retailers to ensure staff wipe machine screens, drink selection touch-pads, the drink dispense area and other areas that are frequently touched with an anti-bacterial spray three-to-four times per day.

"We can provide anti-bacterial spray and disposable gloves as part of a cleaning kit provided to clients, it can also be purchased via eXpresso PLUS’ wholesale service. This leads to another point: use disposable gloves when performing machine maintenance tasks such as re-stocking ingredients, cups and condiments. Remember to dispose of the gloves directly after use. And, of course, regularly wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after performing any tasks."

When an eXpresso PLUS machine is first installed clients are assigned a ’Brand Guardian’. Duhaney says they are their ’go to’ point of contact and clients can count on them for ongoing support and advice.

personal training

Brand Guardians personally train teams on everything from machine performance to ordering pos marketing material. Also, Brand Guardians will conduct machine maintenance checks three-to-four times a year to ensure it always serves the ’perfect brew’.

On the subject of pos material, Duhaney says this is key in enticing customers both in and out of store to make a coffee-to-go purchase.

"Placing pos throughout the store is an important method to guide customers to your coffee machine. We offer a range of pos from hanging ceiling signs to giant cups."

Duhaney adds that HD media screens have become a machine essential. "It’s a prime place to advertise in-store coffee deals. Customers can also see exactly how many calories are in their drink and how much their calorie intake increases when they add sugar, milk, syrups and so on. Machines also flag allergens, so customers won’t accidentally consume an ingredient they’re allergic to."

Top tips for coffee-to-go success

Choose a supplier who will work alongside you to maximise sales.
Ensure your supplier understands your customer base and can provide a service based on their needs.
Be sure the coffee is right for your customers.
Choose a product that delivers consistent quality coffee, building trust among new and regular customers.
Offer variety and personalisation to cater for different tastes.

Source: Nestlé Professional

La Cimbali’s new self-serve offer

La Cimbali’s new self-serve coffee-to-go concept allows forecourt operators to tap into the popular and lucrative coffee shop sector.
The concept features the La Cimbali S30/S20 suite of award-winning bean-to-cup machines, which benefit from numerous patented technologies that manage key aspects of the brew cycle to guarantee the quality of the finished drink.
An integrated telemetry system provides essential management information on key measurement parameters including consumption levels, machine performance and service needs, which is accessed via wifi and can be viewed remotely.
With user-friendly, fully customised touchscreens, these high-tech machines are easy to use and offer a full range of speciality coffees including lattes, cappuccinos, espresso and Americanos, plus hot chocolate.
The format has a dispensing area for cups and consumables plus under-counter storage space, all housed in a bespoke unit which is designed for each customer to guarantee the best use of the space available and is therefore ideal in retrofit applications.
"Consumers are becoming far more discerning these days, expecting better coffee quality and a wider range of drink options, so operators have to work that bit harder for the coffee spend," says Oliver Watt, channel specialist at La Cimbali.
"As well as increasing footfall, selling quality hot beverages is a great way to drive sales of additional product lines as invariably someone who stops by to pick up a coffee will also purchase a bakery item or other food items too."