Coffee Summit Fit a Need; More Will Follow

From coast to coast, as well as from Canada, nearly 400 coffee service professionals turned out for the first-ever Coffee Summit sponsored by the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) held in Cherry Hill, N.J. The coffee service industry is booming and all agree that NAMA should invest in more tools and programs tailored to the coffee service community to help our members benefit from this red-hot market.

The 2-day event featured networking, sales training, business building seminars and face-to-face meetings with the industry’s best known leaders. Those who attended raved about the success and importance of this kind of gathering to the industry.

OCS: A REVIVAL IS UNDER WAY

Operators learned about a revival of the coffee service channel and saw the new energy from those who described the “raising of the bar” associated with the heightened professionalism and “best practices” demonstrated by the presenters and the participants.

Every program offered something unique and important. For example, Elliot Maras, editor of this magazine, opened the summit with a comprehensive “State of the Coffee Service Industry” report that addressed the tremendous opportunity coffee service operators have for future profitability. He said, “Coffee service may be entering the strongest growth period ever experienced.”

Elliot also discussed the growth opportunity specialty coffee houses have created for our industry and went on to evaluate how this applies to younger consumers who frequent them. Said Elliot, “These coffee shop consumers are giving our industry a thumbs up, and we can’t let our guard down.”

Elliot presented a sweeping array of compelling research for his presentation, covering every facet of the industry. After his presentation, an all-star panel of experts led a spirited question and answer period.

A NEW PARADIGM EMERGES

The comprehensive event offered attendees a glimpse of the new paradigm of service. A successful business model shows that coffee service operators must now provide more than just coffee; it must be quality coffee and a higher level of service.

The event would not have been possible without the assistance of program chairperson David Gellman, the Norristown, Pa.-based vending and coffee service product broker. What impressed him the most was the geographic draw of the attendees.

The summit, originally expected to draw from the eastern seaboard, was so attractive that many of the participants traveled from all over the U.S. and Canada. Both David and I agree that this demonstrates the importance of the event to the industry.

As always, it’s the people that make this industry what it is, challenging and rewarding at the same time. “The fact that our industry is maturing means we can compete with each other Monday through Friday 8 to 5 and then we can break bread together. This did not happen 25 years ago when I first came into the industry”, said Con Foley, CEO of Gold Cup Coffee Service in Tampa, Fla. and recent NAMA award winner.

EVENT DREW A HIGH LEVEL OF EXPERTISE

The event was also notable for the diversity of attendees. At this summit, we had salespeople, sales managers, company presidents, and successful entrepreneurs. And the level of industry experience represented by women and men that attended the summit made this a powerful event.

The coffee service business today offers a golden opportunity, but operators must be knowledgeable about the business to catch this wave of opportunity. That sort of knowledge is exactly what the summit offered. It’s obvious that NAMA has tapped into an important need within our industry and should continue to create more programs and resources that help this segment of our membership understand how to take advantage of the potential growth and profitability.

In fact, this Coffee Summit was such a resounding success that plans are already under way for 2009.

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