Hotels and restaurants still not getting the best out of the coffee trade

The Coffee Boys – Gilmartin (left) and Richardson


The hospitality trade does not make the most out of the potential of coffee – indeed, the hotel and restaurant environments are often the most pleasant places in which a customer can drink coffee, and yet these are the businesses who do least to attract the customers who are likely to pay a top price.

The subject of how non-specialist coffee-serving businesses can increase their take from high-quality beverages is to be addressed by two coffee trade masterclasses in in early October. They being hosted in London by the organisers of Caffe Culture, the annual exhibition devoted to the modern coffee trade, and will feature the trade’s most entertaining consultants, the Coffee Boys, traders Johnny Richardson and Hugh Gilmartin of Belfast.

This topic is an essential one for the hotel and restaurant sectors – much has been written about how the ‘speciality’ coffee-houses in the high street have boomed in recent years, but this simply means that the rest of the hospitality trade has been left behind, and has not done so well as they should out of the general public’s interest in the drink.

The Coffee Boys’ first class is devoted to the marketing of a coffee service, and they have already told the beverage industry, in typically challenging style, that ‘marketing’ is the single skill which the catering industry does worst!

“Alignment is the secret weapon of great businesses,” remarks Coffee Boy Hugh Gilmartin. “Coffee is one of the highest-margin products anybody can sell, and is used as a main driver in the coffee shop market… but the real profit is when you can use it as a second product. For example, Pret make more money from coffee than most because it’s a second product after their food. Almost all caterers in this country can do the same.

“It is important to chose the right solution and tactic – the brewing method is usually both the biggest mistake and biggest opportunity in the hospitality sector, and so is the communication of how good the coffee is. This can be very easy, and can do lots with a valuable customer who is spending in another area of the business. This is intangible and often not measured, and as a result goes unappreciated by the business owner.

“The bottom line is that hospitality businesses in general do not take advantage of great coffee. There is no mystery whatsoever about 80 per cent of coffee available in hospitality today – it is all bought for about half the price of what good coffee should be, and you get what you pay for. Paying 10p per cup to sell for £2 is not as good as paying 20p per cup and selling for £3 or £4 – which you can do, if it is great coffee.”

There will be extensive case studies, discussion of step-by-step processes and investigation of such tactics as worthwhile PR, the realistic use of direct marketing, the successful but often-overlooked practice of sampling and tasting, cost-effective advertising, and meaningful signage. The result, say the Boys, is that attendees will be able to leave with a plan and strategy directly applicable to their own business.

The second masterclass on 4th October addresses the ‘dark art’ of creating a profitable menu. There are golden rules for effectiveness, but also myths and mistakes, and the Coffee Boys set out to prove that it is possible to increase average spend without appearing to resort to aggressive fast food-style upselling. The tactics of six of the best UK coffee shops and restaurants will be discussed.

The Coffee Boys have a quite unique place in their trade – they both come from coffee-trading and café backgrounds, and are perfectly happy to acknowledge that one of them has survived then interesting experience of building up a café chain, only to see it crash around his feet, leaving him literally with only the clothes he stood up in. It is their experience of having made all the mistakes, say the Coffee Boys, which has led to their current status of being respected consultants on the subject of how to get a coffee business right.

Their classes at this year’s Caffe Culture show surprised even the oprganisers by their popularity.

The Boys are also behind the extremely well-received book Wake Up and Smell the Profits.


The Coffee Boys masterclasses will be held on 3rd & 4th October at the Free Word Centre in Clerkenwell, London. Details are available from


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