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Inside the Dutch bar/cafe market.

The Dutch see some beautiful days, at least a few each year. All is not gray or rainy. Still, it is true that this is a nation where a cup of hot coffee or tea is a comfort against the weather as much as a pleasure. This probably explains why the Dutch like teas and coffees of good character, full bodied, and assertive. They also like drinking together, as most humans do, and so there are nearly 42,000 bars, cares, restaurants, and hotels in the Netherlands, all of which serve tea and coffee.

Regarding coffee, a recent marketing survey shows that 51% of Dutch consumers are satisfied with the quality of the cup they get in a bar or care; 35% find the coffee merely acceptable; while 8% think the coffee quality is poor. The same research finds that while 71% of the coffee is sewed by the filter method, a surprising 31% of Dutch bar/care coffee volume is now in the espresso and cappuccino style. Decaffeinated coffees account for 5% of consumption, 1% is in the "koffie verkeered" tradition--half coffee, half warm milk (the percentages given, exceeding 100%, mirror overlapping preferences in drinks).

By converting consumption volume to cup equivalence, it can be said that 20 billion cups of coffee are drunk each year in the Netherlands. Following the same conversion, more than 2 billion cups are being taken in the hotel/restaurant/care market sector. In total turnover for coffee and tea together, tea holds 8% of sales.

On a ideal average, the figures suggest that every establishment in the horeca sector could be selling 130 cups of coffee per day. Coffee suppliers to the market say that for them an average bar/care will serve about 150 kilos of coffee in a year.

The Hei & Ikke Bar

To give life to the numbers, consider the case of one particular bar, the Hei & Ikke in the town of Oss. Whatever the bar name actually means, it is apparently a complicated word play that doesn't survive well from one language to another, but the Hei & Ikke is a success when it comes to coffee.

This is partly due to the openness of the bar's young owners, partly to a judicious combination of bar service coffee and equipment promoted to them by Ad Verhoeven, a Dutch importer and distributor. There can be no doubt that different bars can need different coffee service parameters, depending on type of cliental, their expectations and pocket money, the importance of coffee to the owners, amount of coffee traffic, whether it goes with food, and so on.

Verhoeven, who is himself in his early 30's and has created his own one-man company--Juurlink Verhoeven & Cie-is the Dutch importer and distributor of Bristot espresso coffee. He is also the Dutch representative for Cassadio grinders, as well as the Benelux importer and distributor for Sortech espresso making machines. It is with these products that he fashions bar service programs for his clients. and such companies as lllyCaffe, Faema, and Cimbali have been well-established for many years, while Segafredo Zanetti has even acquired a local roastery. Verhoeven admits his is a hard uphill struggle for place against such well seasoned marketers, but as he has only his own salary to pay, he can squeeze margins to offer good prices on coffees and machines that are certainly above average.

Some quick notes on what Verhoeven offers the Dutch market. Bristot is a well-known and esteemed espresso coffee from Italy's far north. It is produced by the Procaffe company in Belluno, under the supervision of Dr. Dominico Bristot. The Bristot bar espresso used by Verhoeven is a 100% Arabica blend with a fine Santos base. The Mrs. Rose coffee product is also of unusual quality for bar espresso, in fact it ranks as a gourmet selection; the blend is 83% in a specialized estate production of rare Santos, spiced with Blue Mountain and unspecified Guatemalas. This too, despite its name and imagery--a picturesque, very pink and British Victorian lady--is of Italian origin. Mrs. Rose is commercialized by the Piemme company of Verona.

As for the Casadio grinders, in Italy need no commentary as they are well-known as espresso bar grinders of top quality. The grinders are manufactured in Bologna. Casadio is a subsidiary of the ISA Group. Finally, the Sortech machines are yet another specialty and from Italy too. These are stainless steel professional espresso making machines--in steel to the extent that their sales slogan is "The Power of Steel." The machines bear the Allegro Espresso brand name.

Verhoeven has 38 bar/care establishments on a regular service basis. Some use Bristot coffee, some Mrs. Rose, some even use both. At the Hei & Ikke, Mrs. Rose is the bar espresso. A Mokabix Casadio grinder is used that features two group semi-automatic Sortech machine, each group with a double service head.

Verhoeven and the bar owners are highly pleased with the results of this combination. They say the Hei & Ikke has seen its coffee service volume double, reaching 20% of turnover. This is a full 33% more than what an average bar/care expects in coffee business.

According to the owners, the results are because people like the coffee menu concept--which includes five styles (espresso, cappuccino, au lait, creme, and "Mexican" or as laced with tequila). They also like hearing the coffee ground to order, according to their preference for espresso or regular. In other words, the quality of the coffee and the equipment medleys with thoughtful marketing at point of sale to give better than average results.

All of this makes for particularly good bar business because from the barman's point of view, the investment pays for itself in fairly short order. Verhoeven claims the Casadio grinder, for example, pays for itself in 18 months because the double grinding potential for regular or espresso in fact is creating the same doses for either short or long cups and is thereby saving about 12% in coffee usage behind the bar. He also points to the Sortech unit which features self cleaning heads along with the stainless steel concept for he finds to be a particularly clean running machine. He links it with a simple water softening unit and has gotten trouble free service.

Verhoeven himself is a firm believer that quality pays. He's an enthusiast for gourmet quality coffees and for the particular technologies that make them give their best. He's also a good Dutchman in that he has an eye on costs. He's been studying espresso coffees and service for more than a decade, first as a student at hotel/restaurant school, a year of his studies being Italy, then while working for one of the best known Italian roasters.
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Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:Pleasures of Italian bars and cafes.
Next Article:Coffee bars Pasqua-style hit the Big Apple.

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