In today’s world where Starbucks and McCafé are considered the baseline for what’s tolerable in a mass market coffee culture, any hotel that wants to make an impression through its coffee service must be exceedingly vigilant to not only offer guests superior quality, but also an extraordinarily diverse menu.
Whether traveling for business or leisure, coffee will always be a vital part of many adults’ mornings and a deeply personal experience. As such, you must differentiate and constantly improve this service as it will reflect positively on your hotel.
It requires both elements, though, as you cannot succeed on quality alone. As a truncated example of how this psychological principle works, suppose the nearest franchised coffeehouse provides a basic menu of drip coffee, americano, espresso and cappuccino, while you offer the exact same list. No matter the quality of the beans you source, how much more knowledgeable your barista is or how much better your machinery is, you are still competing on apples to apples. You are still comparing almost imperceptible changes in flavor while not presenting anything even slightly different.
Instead, you need to bring people slightly outside of their comfort zones by offering a few beverages and an assortment of snacks that aren’t what one typically finds nowadays at a café. With so many options at your disposal, where do you start? How do you go about finding the right balance of exotic and traditional so you can wow patrons without alienating them?
My recommendation is that you look to rebrand your breakfast outlet or café with a theme inspired by a specific geographic region. One negative consequence of the vast spread of franchised coffeehouses is that we’ve homogenized our coffee selection, which means that relishing in the nuances of a specific culture will automatically differentiate you from the competition.
Whether it’s France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Morocco, Turkey, Ethiopia, Mexico, Brazil or South Korea, every country has its own interpretation as to what makes its particular coffee culture unique. Some nations are even blessed by having a myriad of variations from district to district. And all can be wielded to better engage your customers towards crafting a superior dining experience.
For instance, suppose you decide to give your restaurant an Italian theme—let’s say Roman to be exact. Then instead of following the nomenclature that some bigwig in Seattle once decided was what you would call an americano, you opt to put this drink on the menu as a caffè ristretto (restrained or narrow), caffè corto (short) or, obvious enough, caffè normale, all three as they would be labeled in any trattoria within sight of the Vatican. Just this simple change can work to build excitement, even without changing the actual beverage provided.
Now comes the fun part—deciding what you are going to be in broad strokes. Are you going to model your restaurant after an authentic Parisian patisserie where the smell of melted butter oozes through the corridors, a Catalonian café with vibrant décor to mirror the frenetic Barcelona nightlife or perhaps a wild little place like what you would find next to a bazaar in Istanbul? It can even be subtle—many Australian bistros have differentiated their cappuccinos from elsewhere by dusting milk foam tops with chocolate powder. If you’ve decided to go the Italian bistro route, look to get licensed so you can offer guests a limited selection of caffè corretto where your baristas can play around with infusions of grappa or other liqueurs.
The key throughout is that you can’t make gains by being just an imitator. Like a properly roasted brew, you too must be bold with whatever direction you decide to take your coffee service.