Bringing barista coffee to your fine food shop in 9 steps

12 February 2024, 07:00 AM
  • Learn how to kit out your café, train your team and link up your foodservice and retail sales with expert guidance
Bringing barista coffee to your fine food shop in 9 steps

From crafting the perfect flat white to selecting the best beans and equipment for your kitchen, there are many elements to get right when running a café that serves quality coffee drinks. Industry experts share their dos and don’ts for getting your new coffee station up and running and boosting sales for in-home coffee brewing, no matter the size of your shop.

1. Find a layout that works

Whether you have a small section of your shop to use or a large café area, layout can make or break your set-up. “It’s important to consider the best layout for the space you have to allow for the most efficient workflow,” explains Will Kenney, commercial director at 200 Degrees Coffee Roasters. “When you’re setting up a coffee area, think of the efficiencies of a commercial kitchen, and design to reduce the amount of steps taken and the space required to produce each drink.”

Ask yourself practical questions, he advises, like: “Is the fridge close to the coffee machine? Where do you keep your cups?”

2. Choose your equipment wisely

“Invest in quality equipment which is fit for purpose,” Kenney says. “Buying a used coffee machine on eBay might seem tempting, but this should be avoided unless you know what you’re looking for.”

A commercial coffee machine is an investment, and it’s important to remember that it will need to be regularly serviced and maintained to be legally compliant with Pressure Systems Safety Regulations and capable of producing good-quality coffee.

3. Find your niche

“The UK is fortunate to have a diverse range of high-quality coffee roasters, each offering something unique,” says Will Martins, communications coordinator for the Specialty Coffee Association UK and creative director at Nizatto Agency

From his 10+ years of experience working with leading speciality food and drink brands in the coffee industry, he learned that the key is to find a brand that aligns with your shop’s values and theme. “For example, if your focus is on local produce, consider partnering with local roasters. If your shop emphasises ethical sourcing, look for roasters with direct ties to coffee farmers, who can provide engaging stories and marketing materials.”

You can also think about the specific interests or themes that will resonate with your customer base. “Whether it’s a connection to road cycling, automotive culture or jazz music, there’s likely a coffee roaster that aligns with these interests.” Don’t underestimate the impact that selecting a roaster that fits well with your shop’s theme could have. Martins says it “can create a more cohesive and appealing experience for your customers. The right roaster should not only provide quality coffee but also complement and enhance your shop’s unique identity.”

4. Get support from an established roastery

For those who are unsure of where to start, partnering with an established roastery can be the key to unlocking assistance with training, equipment selection and ongoing support. 

“This partnership ensures that retailers receive guidance tailored to their needs, from understanding the nuances of different coffee beans to selecting the right equipment for their volume of business,” says Jenny McDonough, head of training and talent at Owens Coffee.

5. Ready, set, train

If barista-style coffee is new to your shop, techniques like milk texturing and latte art are likely new to yourself and your team, too. “For anyone new to coffee, diving into the UK’s coffee scene is a fantastic way to learn,” says Martins. “I suggest visiting coffee events and trade shows, which can be found all year round across the UK. These are great for meeting roasters and industry leaders.”

When it comes time to use your skills, Kenney suggests focusing on basics. “Many new or younger team members may not drink coffee, and so understanding why an eight-second espresso extraction is going to taste terrible is critical to ensure they know what to look out for and how to avoid this.” 

He also recommends holding training sessions outside of opening hours so that nerves don’t flare up under pressure – and if in doubt, a coffee supplier can help facilitate this. “An external trainer will often have more impact and reiterate the importance that you’re placing on coffee quality. Even better if you can do training off-site in their barista schools or roastery space!”

McDonough agrees that off-site training can help the team build confidence. “A blend of on-the-job and off-site training ensures that staff can immerse themselves in this learning opportunity, both in the café environment and in dedicated training settings,” she says.

And don’t be afraid to give constructive feedback in the moment rather than at the end of a shift. “If you’re working with a barista and you know that they just need to angle that milk jug slightly differently to get a great texture in the milk, that’s the time to say it.”

6. Master the basics, but keep an eye on trends

As a starting point, you’ll want to keep things simple. “The majority of your drink sales will be from the ‘core’ menu – do those really well and you’ll have a great foundation for your coffee operation,” Kenney says. 

“Once your team are consistent and confident in what they’re making, then it’s easy to expand with flavoured seasonal drinks. A cold coffee offering is becoming increasingly important, and not just during the briefest of British summers,” he adds.

What other coffee trends are on the cards? “Nitro brewed coffee is also an area that is becoming increasingly of interest,” McDonough adds. She believes this could really alter the look and feel of cafés in the coming years. “From my own sources within the industry, I understand that the face of the UK coffee shop will change in the next 10 years to resemble a little bit more like how a bar would be – if you imagine in a bar where you have a server pulling a pint, you’ll be pulling coffee like that from nitro-brewed coffee stored in kegs at some point! Cold coffee and cold milk may also be stored this way too.

“For now, though, think about cold coffee options.”

7. Consistency and repeatability are key

“Your customers’ loyalty is dependent on getting the same level of quality every time they visit,” Kenney says. “Like most areas of hospitality, recruiting and training team members is challenging. To help support the team while new members get up to speed, it might be worth investing in automated machine solutions to help maintain consistency and quality,” he suggests.

Maintaining quality is essential for delighting customers, agrees McDonough. “There is nothing worse than enjoying an amazing coffee once and coming back to be served by a barista who doesn’t have the same level of coffee-making skills,” she says.

Consistency makes the difference. “That’s when customers are going to return, and you get the buzz about your venue. That, in turn, means you also need to retain those staff (especially important in the hospitality industry as it is at the moment). Fair wages and professional value contribute to the role of being a ‘professional barista’,” she says.

8. Link up with your retail offering

In the retail space, buyers focus on quality and presentation to attract their audience, “with an emphasis on packaging, branding and information,” McDonough says. “In contrast, cafés need larger quantities of coffee beans for in-house brewing, necessitating reliable suppliers who can provide consistent volumes without compromising quality.”

While a café serving espresso coffee might opt for medium-roasted blends, the retail side of your business should consider typical customers’ home brewing methods. Martins notes the rise in demand for speciality coffee pods and suggests this as an area for cross-promotion. “When choosing a coffee roaster to partner with, it’s a good idea to enquire about their range of pod options, as this could be a key offering to attract customers looking to elevate their at-home coffee game,” Martins says.

In the current economic climate, consumers are seeking cost-effective ways to enjoy high-quality coffee at home. “As people become more cautious about spending on coffee outside, there’s a growing interest in enhancing their home coffee experience. This includes investing in better domestic coffee machines and upgrading to higher-quality coffee beans,” he adds.

Another way to cater to cost-conscious consumers who still want to enjoy good coffee is to sell larger pack sizes if they offer good value. “Alongside the standard 250g retail bags, consider offering 1kg bags if it means you can provide a saving to the customer,” Martins says. “This approach not only caters to the budget-conscious consumer but also taps into the trend of improving at-home coffee experiences, presenting a significant opportunity for retailers to meet this rising demand.”

9. Focus on quality throughout

As well as sourcing high-quality beans, a premium coffee offering should provide the best in all ingredients. “As the UK coffee culture continues to grow, consumers are increasingly interested in the quality and provenance of not only the coffee but of the milk they use and how it affects the coffee flavour profile,” says Mark Moody, head of marketing at Trewithen Dairy, which has developed a non-UHT barista milk that is available for consumers.

“With the cost-of-living crisis, people are tightening their belts and the demand for home-crafted barista-style coffee for a fraction of the high street price is huge,” Mark says. “Retailers need to ensure they are stocking high-quality ingredients that have been sourced correctly to allow the new style of home baristas to live out their newfound passion for coffee.” 

Whether you are just adding a café to your retail shop, are expanding a coffee offering to allow for more choice or simply want to stock better coffee products for customers to make at home, choosing the best quality products will all but guarantee success.

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