In years gone by, grabbing a coffee on the way to work was something only the Americans did. Now it’s commonplace here and many forecourts have got in on the act by offering hot drinks to go. However consumers are a discerning bunch and they demand quality and consistency. Luckily for you, there are many coffee machines available that offer just that.

Leon Mills, senior marketing manager at Tchibo Coffee International, reckons his company’s machines deliver in terms of consistency. "For the coffee consumer, the experience on site is important; they demand a consistently good cup of coffee and that’s the huge benefit of a bean-to-cup machine."

Tchibo has just updated its Coffea coffee machine range, which was originally launched in 2000. The two new machines - Coffea Select and Coffea Gourmet - offer 20 hot drinks as well as a reduced footprint.

"The latest machines, when compared to the originals, are one-third smaller," says Mills. "This means forecourt retailers can install a coffee machine that takes up just 1m x 800mm of space."

In addition, the new Coffea Gourmet uses fresh milk with fresh whole beans and chocolate powder. It’s a quality offer for which retailers can charge a premium. Meanwhile the Coffea Select delivers the same range of hot beverages but uses cappuccino topping instead of fresh milk.

The machines offer a wide range of options: espresso, espresso macchiato, Americano, cappuccino, mocha, caffe latte, white coffee, ristretto and doppio as well as hot chocolate.

Coffea Gourmet can been used with Tchibo’s three coffee brands: Tchibo whole bean blend; Piacetto Espresso, an authentic Italian coffee prepared in the traditional drum roasting method; and Vista, a premium fairtrade coffee selection. The Coffea Select is available with Tchibo and Vista only.

Mills comments: "The Tchibo and Piacetto are most popular but fairtrade Vista is growing. The challenge for the forecourt is that with Vista the beans cost more and if you’ve got lots of white van men as customers rather than businessmen, they might not be prepared to pay more."

Tchibo does not recommend prices. Mills says they all depend on your overheads, location and clientele. "It also depends on the size of the cup. You might offer an 8oz but that’s quite small when you consider that on the high street, coffee shops start with a 12oz cup. But margins are excellent, you’re talking 70%-plus," he says.

At Simply Coffee, managing director Jason McNally reckons he can give forecourt retailers a 65% margin on a coffee selling for just £1.

"Assuming 25 cups of coffee are sold per day (each at £1); retailers can see profit margins of between 65-70%, which equates to about £5,000 per annum per square metre. This can grow to in excess of £20,000 based on 100 cups per day. Simply Coffee’s best sites generate over £250,000 net profit - all from less than one metre of floor space."

McNally reckons one of his coffee units can increase profit without increasing costs as long as it is set up in the right place and with the right marketing support. "You need to place it near the till as consumers will grab a coffee, then a paper, and then a snack, even if it’s not what they had set out to buy," he says.

Simply Coffee can now be found at over 700 sites around the UK. McNally says they have increased in size and profitability because of their dedicated focus on simplicity and quality.

"We offer proper coffee whereas the vast majority of coffee-to-go solutions offer poor quality, soluble beverages. We focus on taste - we use only the finest Arabica beans to produce barista-style espresso-based coffee at the touch of a button," he says.

"By offering a quality, added-value product for customers, retailers are ensuring that the customer experience is enhanced. And our simple ’touch button’ technology means the units are simple for customers to use and for the retailer to maintain."

McNally adds that whereas some other suppliers offer either just the drinks or the machines, Simply Coffee provides a total solution. This includes the units and the consumables as well as bespoke branding for each location. The company’s staff work with the site managers to ensure maximum impact and awareness.

He reckons they provide a simpler pricing structure too. "We aim to offer excellent value for money for our consumers. Generally, the cost is over 50% cheaper than competitors at a recommended £1 per cup. Consumers who are driven by price are then buying two to three cups per day. Compared to other suppliers, we can still deliver higher than average margins and return on investment."

Meanwhile, Coffee Nation says its coffee is now available from 800 sites across the country.

The company says its model is simple - retailers provide one square metre of floor space then Coffee Nation provides and manages its self-service coffee machine and the revenue is shared.

"Retailers can then operate an independent coffee business, where only one member of store staff is needed to ensure surfaces are clean and ingredients stocked," explains Scott Martin, chief executive of Coffee Nation.

The company has expanded its concession range from its Classic model to include a low-volume machine - Compact - as well as the new 2G Touch, touchscreen machine.

Martin says the touchscreen interface takes "intelligent control of quality and consistency of drink dispensing". In addition the machine offers a new signature range of vanilla latte, caramel praline and chocolate caramel drinks.

Says Martin: "Coffee is a proven destination driver, because consumers are far more likely to drink on-the-go than eat. Coffee Nation is a convenient, quality and affordable alternative to the ’manned’ coffee bar. Forecourts can effectively run an independent coffee business in their stores through our machines and we take care of the management."

Finally, Westomatic Vending Services has launched two new self-service hot beverage vending solutions specifically for convenience and forecourt stores - the Prelude Coffee Tower and the Coffee2go Sigma. Both use freshly ground beans to create frothy cappuccinos, lattes and espressos. In addition, Westomatic’s tea brewer is said to make fresh leaf tea that tastes like it’s straight from the pot.

Mark Rhodes, marketing manager at Westomatic, comments: "Both solutions dispense 9oz or 12oz drinks, in paper cups with sip lids. Operators can charge as much as £1.80 per 12oz cup."

Both machines take up less than one square metre of floor space.

Prices for both options start at around £4,000 but Westomatic says discounts are available.


=== Three steps to coffee success ===

1. Ensure your coffee offer suits your customer base. Think who is your customer and what will they be expecting?

2. Select a machine to suit your site

3. Promote your coffee using point of sale and get your staff to remind customers that you offer fresh coffee

Source: Tchibo


=== Case study: Euro Garages ===

Euro Garages, number four in our Top 50 Indies, has 76 forecourts across the North West and Midlands.

Director Mohsin Issa says: "As one of the UK’s fastest-growing petrol forecourt operators, we have recognised the need to partner with key brands which enhance our offering to motorists and drive sales across our estate.

"We work with a number of carefully selected partners to provide customers with an added-value forecourt experience including Spar distributor James Hall & Co, fast food franchise Subway, bakery retailer Greggs and JJ Beanos, which supplies self-service coffee machines.

"Our strategy has always been to buy run down or derelict sites and invest in them to increase traffic. Teaming up with recognisable brands helps us to achieve that far quicker.

"Our partnership with JJ Beanos is a great example. The coffee culture is booming and it would be an opportunity missed if we didn’t take advantage of this growing trend.

"When a customer visits one of our sites, it’s important to be able to offer them a range of products alongside fuel. We operate almost 125,000sq ft of retail space and over 80% of our fuel customers shop at our stores. Many are in the middle of a long drive, or maybe stopping by on their lunch break - offering coffee and baked goods is an ideal way for us to provide the best possible customer experience."