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Gourmet coffee & catering, a natural for foodservice.

Gourmet coffee & catering, a natural for foodservice

Whether an important business meeting or a joyous personal occasion, in my mind a `catered event' is special. Just to sit down and eat a meal I didn't prepare and then to get up and walk away from dishes I don't have to wash is my idea of a good time.

In addition to being a pleasant experience for the people served a catered meal, it can be a profitable experience for the caterers. The whole evening is prepriced, preplanned, presold and prepaid, and when the client sits down to choose the menu, they usually want something "nice." What a natural setting to suggest gourmet coffee.

Gourmet coffee and catering is a natural combination, especially in large foodservice operations. Gourmet coffee adds a special touch whether the catered event is as simple as a morning coffee and pastry setup for an important morning business meeting or as complex as a five course formal dinner.

Gourmet coffee and catering is a natural combination aesthetically but also in profitability. Sure gourmet coffee costs more than regular institutional coffee, but the profit potential is greater too. When you combine this profitability with consumers growing perception that `gourmet' coffee is better than `regular' coffee, you have the happy combination of providing what the customer wants while adding more bottom line contribution to the foodservice operation.

More and more large foodservice operations are considering adding gourmet coffee to their product line because of increasing consumer demand and gourmet's profitability. Another reason is that incorporation of gourmet coffee into an existing catering operation provides an excellent test market. The product is presold, there is no financial risk, it adds an upscale image to the menu, and provides a concrete opportunity to track the sales before adding gourmet coffee into the main cafeteria.

The biggest handicap I have encountered in working with large foodservice accounts to incorporate gourmet coffee into their product line is gourmet coffee's mystique. It's as if they can't serve gourmet unless they buy all new brewers and grinders and hire employees dedicated to just taking care of the gourmet coffee--and this just simply isn't so. Gourmet means a good cup of coffee and a gourmet coffee program can be incorporated into any existing coffee program.

In the last few years, one of the most gratifying trends I have seen is the desire of large foodservice companies to incorporate gourmet coffee into their operations. I think that those of us in the industry have a responsibility to help by suggesting simple, reasonable, and inexpensive ways to accomplish this goal.

The quickest way to get a negative response on gourmet coffee from a large company is to suggest they spend money on new equipment to test it; the quickest way to get a positive response is to work with them to test the product before spending any additional funds. Large companies are similar to small companies in wanting to know something is going to work before spending money to make it work. Gourmet coffee in catering provides this opportunity.

The thing to remember when working with foodservice accounts is they make their money on profit margins and volume. Gourmet coffee provides a larger profit margin, and volume can be generated in a no-risk situation through existing catering operations. Gourmet coffee and catering is a natural combination for foodservice--everybody wins.

Shea Sturdivant is president of Coffee Roasters of New Orleans, Inc., a roasting firm specializing in flavored coffees. She provides consulting and educational services in sales and marketing to the coffee industry. She is affiliated with the Roastery Development Group, a consulting and educational firm, based in San Francisco and New Orleans.
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Author:Sturdivant, Shea
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:column
Date:May 1, 1990
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