Offer the coffee employees want to drink

Gourmet coffee isn’t exclusive to high-end coffee houses anymore. Premium coffees are becoming more widely available in restaurant, hospital and at-home environments, among others. Consequently, more consumers are demanding higher-quality coffee, and they want it offered in their places of work. Responding to this demand, many vending and OCS operators have been upgrading to premium coffee options to help their customers satisfy employee expectations.

Data published by the National Coffee Association supports operators’ shift to upgrading office coffee. The association reports in its National Coffee Drinking Trends (NCDT) market research study that more than a third of adults in the U.S. consume daily gourmet coffee beverages, while non-gourmet coffee consumption has dropped. OCS operators are seeing this trend demonstrated in workplaces. “Customers seemed to have switched to more gourmet coffees,” said a Midwest operator who upgraded coffee options in 2013 and saw a total sales increase of more than 10 percent. She credits this sales increase to the new higher-quality coffee offerings added to the portfolio.

Employers recognize that office coffee is an integral part of employees’ days as well. The Society of Human Resource Management found that 76 percent of organizations offer free coffee as an employee benefit. However, the NCA found that fifty-eight percent of employees are less than “very satisfied” with their at-work coffee options, leaving room for operators to provide options to increase employee satisfaction.

Small perks, such as offering gourmet coffee in the office, can have a large impact on employee happiness. Dr. Bob Nelson, a leading authority on workforce motivation, sees free gourmet coffee as a desired office perk with high value to employees that can improve morale and enhance productivity.

A California operator has found this positive correlation between the satisfaction of employees and the quality of coffee at the location to be true. “It’s always a pleasure to go into those accounts [where I offer premium coffee],” said Dan Zell of Pettey’s Full Line Vending Service located in Novato, CA. “They treat us better and employees are happy. [The locations] aren’t concerned with the price, just the quality.” 

Although many operators and consumers have made the switch to premium coffee, business locations may take some convincing. Higher-quality coffee comes with a greater price; however, operators can offset this by preparing a few talking points that encourage locations to make the upgrade.

First, operators should walk around a location and count how many employees have a personal coffee maker at their desk. Personal coffee makers are proof that the type of coffee offered in the breakroom is not satisfying employee needs. Personal coffee makers require more energy, which means that the company is presumably paying more money in overhead. If there are enough personal coffee makers, it’s worth mentioning that upgrading the coffee to employees’ tastes could save the company money.

Second, operators should sell beyond the price increase. “A lot of people depend on coffee to get through their day,” said Stephanie Stein, human resources generalist for Cygnus Business Media. Not only that, but coffee even improves performance. A study found that it may be an effective way to reduce the number of errors and help employees recharge. “I think it also provides a certain office culture that boosts morale,” continued Stein. “People stop in the breakroom to pour a cup and someone else walks in . . . casual conversation begins.”

Lastly, new data from the NCA reveals that employee-paid office coffee does not significantly affect satisfaction. In 2014, 39 percent of employees who were required to pay for office coffee were “very satisfied” with their offerings, while only 43 percent of employees who received free office coffee were “very satisfied.” Therefore, operators speaking with locations may want to suggest that the employer upgrade to a more preferred brewing system and higher-quality coffee options. Locations can ask employees to cover part of the costs, because consumers will search for a quality cup of coffee, even if it means leaving the office.


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Kraft Foods Group

Oct. 31, 2013
Kraft Foods Group is one of the largest food and beverage companies in North America with annual revenues of more than $18 billion. With the spirit of a startup and the soul of...