“We’ll just go to Pret”. It’s something many of us have said before and there’s a reason for it. When we step into a well managed quick service store the one thing we know for certain is that we will pay a fair price (usually about a fiver) and receive food that will at the very least hit the spot and could become our favourite on-the-go lunch. I have always looked upon these stores with something like awe. Watching the staff, stood behind a glass box full of pastries and giant till screens eating up customers and spitting them out at an amazing rate.
Whether it’s a sandwich, some sushi, pasta or salads, there’s a place to cater for you. FAST.
However, what if you would like a speciality standard coffee with your lunch/breakfast? Then your chances of success decrease slightly. We have all seen these coffee’s. Textureless milk, generally an under-extracted shot and generic over-roasted beans.
The problem with speciality coffee and quick service outlets is that, as we all know, making speciality coffee takes time, effort and investment. It isn’t enough simply to get in some good coffee from a speciality roaster and some shiny equipment, a culture has to be grown and looked after and whether we like to admit it barista’s want to feel special. Without careful management this can alienate other members of staff (many of which wake up at 4am and have to make baguettes in a basement with no windows). Customers are generally on the move and expect speed and quality and if they don’t get it, there are 100 other places to go.
This isn’t to say the obstacles all come from one side. We have to source and roast the correct way bearing in mind a different customer profile to what we’re used to. We have to train in a different way, looking at consistency and quality at speed in depth. We have to be extra attentive with our account management. Smart and quick ways of communication must be used. All these things in order to create a coffee culture where there may have not been one before.
We’ve been working with Abokado, the healthy eating, quick service restaurant for around two years now and the experience has been great, both sides have learned new skills and an efficient way of working has been established. One of the ways we have tried to bridge the gap is by working with Abokado to identify some of their star staff members who can continue the speciality work done in our training room. These “champions” are crucial in bridging the gap between the two worlds. Another important step is to invest in genuine speciality equipment (and keep it clean!). This is an area where a larger, multi-site business can excel and Abokado have done just that, investing in custom La Marzocco FB80’s across the board. Great equipment, great knowledge and great coffee, you need all three to make great coffee!
Quality of product is an obvious necessity when it comes to being successful. Another major factor to be considered is the delivery of the product, especially when you consider the care and attention required. In a busy, quick service environment the way this delivery feels to the customer is vital. The key, and the thing were constantly trying to find is a way of guiding the customer through the transaction, almost without them knowing it, and getting their coffee to them quick and at a high quality that it becomes a no brainer to come back. To be part of the “we’ll just go to …..” conversation.