Innovation and technology in the office coffee service (OCS) space

June 5, 2024
While most of the industry buzz these days is about vending and micro market advancements, the OCS business has seen plenty of innovation over the years, and the trend toward technology is accelerating.

After 50 years in business, it is safe to call Missouri-based Newco Enterprises an iconic name in the coffee service industry. The company is a leading manufacturer of coffee brewing equipment. Joe Webster, the company founder and CEO, does not consider himself an innovator or technological leader. What his company has done over the years is significant in both of those categories, propelling coffee service operators to success.

“We never thought of what we have been doing over the years as technological innovation,” said Webster. “We just knew that we needed to develop customized equipment that would help our customers grow. We listened to our customers. If they were the locomotive, we thought of ourselves as the caboose.”

Years of innovation

After introducing Newco drip brewers in the 1970s, an early innovation was the development of batch brewing to accommodate the needs of a location that required two pots of coffee at once during break time. “Then we developed what we called a ‘new tap,’ a container that replaced the glass pot and had a spigot on it, and it held a gallon of coffee instead of a half-gallon,” Webster said. “Our innovation came from the operators who were asking for solutions that would generate more sales.”

Additional innovations followed over the years, including thermal pot brewers and low-profile brewers that could accommodate low cabinet heights in modern office kitchens. Today, Webster said Newco is focusing on self-cleaning equipment, bean-to-cup brewers, liquid coffee and pods.

“Offices today don’t have the staff to make coffee as part of their job or even to clean the equipment,” he continued. “We have to focus on finding solutions that work around that issue, which is why liquid coffee is becoming more popular, especially as the quality of the coffee has increased.”

Focusing on connectivity

In addition to self-cleaning equipment, Newco is currently focused on machine connectivity technology. “We need to be able to answer questions about usage and service calls. Are we able to reset the machine and fix it that easily without sending out a technician? We are going to see more and more of that communication technology going forward. It is a really good thing because it also gives the operator insight into the patterns of consumption in the workplace,” Webster said.

Single-cup innovation

Based in Michigan, de Jong Duke, founded in 1897, has been a leader in the single-cup coffee arena since the 1970s. Its newest single-cup brewer, the Lua machine, was a big hit with operators at the 2024 NAMA Show, offering both chilled and sparkling water. This built-in feature is a great alternative to other water dispensers, where space limitations can be an issue.

According to William Duprey, vice president of sales at de Jong Duke, the company is focused on innovation and technology from a number of directions, including an improved brewing mechanism, an easier service menu on the machines for customizing drink options, the menu layout and for receiving machine alerts.

ConnectMe

De Jong Duke’s ConnectMe technology, created by its own in-house programmers and development team, allows operators to communicate with machines from a smartphone or a laptop, was introduced in 2013. According to product manager Karen Borucki, the capabilities and usage of the software has advanced in the past two years.

“By having ConnectMe, operators can organize their business remotely, pushing software updates and recipe files, and then also managing any type of images or video uploads to the machines if they choose to do that, as well as pulling reports,” she said. “This allows the operator to function proactively, instead of waiting for the end user to call them, so they're able to reduce their service calls and address them immediately. Within ConnectMe, we even have built in communication with machine parts. So, operators can take that proactive approach by finding out what spare parts they might need in the field and have the repair completed in a single service call.”

AI plays a role

Borucki said that AI is already playing a role at de Jong Duke, and it will become increasingly important in the future. “Adaptive energy saver is a feature on our machines that is using a smart scheduler for the energy save mode. It learns the behavior of a machine on location. Every 12 weeks, we're able to update that information,” she said, adding that AI will bring machine by machine predictive product ordering into play in the future.

365’s PicoCoffee – not in the USA

Even 365 Retail Markets, a global leader in unattended retail technology, is now expanding their reach into the OCS channel, but not in the United States, only in the U.K. and Europe. The company recently announced the availability of PicoCoffee, a compact, cashless payment device for automatic tabletop coffee machines that allows consumers to vend beverages and purchase micro market items in the same transaction. VP of product strategy, Ryan McWhirter, noted that the product is designed to meet a specific need of European operators, where paying for coffee is more common.

About the Author

Bob Tullio

Since selling his business in January of 2017, Bob Tullio has been an active industry consultant at www.tullioB2B.com focused on content creation, strategic planning, sales training and business development. In addition to serving a growing client base, he has written over 50 columns and features, providing operators and others with an inside look at how he helped build a successful business from the ground up.

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