Six Key Trends to Unlock Stronger Coffee Sales

ROCKVILLE, Md. — The restaurant segment is seeing minimal shifts in its top beverage varieties, which confirms there is little movement on the beverage menu. More specifically, there is little deviation from "core" coffee menu items.  

A static menu will lead patrons to fall into a habitual ordering pattern, so one challenge for foodservice operators is to encourage customers to consider options other than the "usual."

Multiple opportunities exist for restaurants and other foodservice players to leverage coffee drinks as a way of encouraging exploration of the beverage menu, according to a new Packaged Facts report, Foodservice Coffee Market Trends in the U.S., which analyzes industry and consumer trends shaping the U.S. market for coffee sold in restaurants.

The incremental growth in foodservice establishment visits that would inevitably stem from piquing consumer interest with new and novel offerings would help grow restaurant food sales through at least 2018, the report cited.

Six key trends important to foodservice coffee expansion are:

1. Market coffee to specific consumption occasions. Innovators have developed a range of coffee flavors throughout the day, but they need to be more clearly marketed to specific meal or snack occasions. Suggestions include dessert-inspired sweet coffee flavors and lightly roasted, sweet iced coffees.

2. Limited-time and seasonal menu items. These are the essence of beverage menu innovation. This is not a new trend, but it remains an important one. Limited-time and seasonal offerings create a sense of anticipation and urgency. By conditioning customers to expect seasonal favorites, operators are encouraging a shift in the "usual" beverage choice. Limited-time offers also allow operators to experiment with flavors and formats that are trendy.

3. Sourcing. This offers opportunity for storytelling and can play a significant role in coffee beverage menu innovation, with upside sales potential as a result of premium pricing. For example, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is dedicated to sourcing and features a variety of single-origin coffee.

4. Single-origin coffee. While single-origin coffee is no longer a novelty, it provides additional room to not only help justify premium pricing, but also invent customer interest and knowledge. If the product delivers, both can sow the seeds of loyalty and return visits.

5. The locavore trend. This provides an interesting marketing opportunity. While local sourcing is more prominent in marketing alcoholic beverages such as wine, there is opportunity for coffee beverages to feature local roasting and to create blends and specialty drinks that play to local preferences and pay homage to the community.

6. Cross-pollination. This continuing beverage trend features drinks, such as tea plus energy drinks and carbonated soft drinks plus water. "Beverage blends" enable operators to offer an extremely large choice set, incorporating beverages that range from health to indulgent. Opportunity exists to create "coffee-plus" beverages in order to obtain functional benefits and drive quality/premium associations, as well as justify higher prices.

More information about the report can be found here.

Rockville-based Packaged Facts, a division of, publishes market intelligence on a wide range of consumer market topics.