Coffee Summit Delivers Once Again

Some thought it was mission impossible. Could the NAMA Coffee Summit, which shattered expectations in terms of quality and attendance last year, deliver a repeat performance in its second year? In a brutal recession with many companies scrutinizing expenditures to protect their bottom lines?

Those of us with our ear to the ground had no doubt what to expect. The OCS industry has become a true profession in recent years. It is an industry of leaders who fully understand the need to educate and strengthen themselves and their teams.

Not only did the turnout in Cherry Hill, N.J. surpass last year’s, but the educational content was even more powerful! (Last year’s attendees who couldn’t make it this year will find this hard to believe.)

The OCS pros know they need to keep up to speed on their rapidly changing industry, and the Coffee Summit didn’t disappoint. Operators returned with notebooks full of ideas on technology, sustainability, consumer trends, marketing and team building.

Program chairman Geoff Paul of Excelso Coffee introduced the conference by stating, “We can change the entire future in front of us.” He asked the audience to consider the success McDonald’s has had introducing baristas in their restaurants.

One session examined single serve brewers. It was evident that the jury is still out on pod brewers as sustainability has taken on new importance.

Another session challenged operators to brainstorm ways to involve their sales and service staffs in marketing.

Researchers from Harris Interactive presented results of a consumer survey of worksite beverages. This survey unveiled trend data that refreshment service operators need to know to meet changing consumer needs.

A key point was that specialty coffee is now reaching the mainstream through quick-serve restaurants. While this is happening, specialty drinks remain the least available beverage in the work place. The research identified a big opportunity in replacing hot chocolate and tea, which have limited audiences, with specialty coffee drinks.

As challenging as the business has become, the pros are on the march, and they aren’t letting a recession stop them.

The 2009 Coffee Service State of the Industry Report on page 18 confirms this in several ways.

Dedicated OCS operators sustained staffs more than vending operators with OCS operations; hence, dedicated OCS companies have a better chance of maintaining and adding sales. In addition, 60 percent of dedicated OCS operators added products to address environmental concerns compared to 45 percent of all respondents

The consensus: OCS has a great future for those who are up to the challenge.