Russ Bamford

Head of Convenience, Forecourts and Workplace

Russ Bamford, Head of Convenience, Forecourts and Workplace

Thursday 20th February 2020. The first takeaway coffee of the day is from a bakery in Derby city centre, just after arriving at the bus station. The second comes from the trolley on the train from Derby to Birmingham Airport – it’s not great, but it’s necessary. Next up is an unusually sensible choice to have a cup with my pub breakfast in the departure lounge and then a cheeky pick-me-up when I land at Berlin Tegel. From there on there is no more coffee that day as the stag do I’m on continues in a predictably boozy fashion.

The next morning, warm caffeinated drinks from a tram station, a fast-food chain coffee in Berlin Schoenfeld airport and a very much non-budget priced brew on my budget flight to Glasgow in order to get me to our company conference. Obviously, there is warmly recognisable coffee there and I lap it up. Again, a fantastic evening follows and the morning after I’m more in need of the hotel’s unlimited filter than I am the potential for all-you-can-eat bacon and eggs. A cup comes with me on the taxi ride to the airport, where the donut stand sorts out my needs for both another cup and a happy, sugary treat now my constitution is up to it. No coffee is consumed on the flight back to Birmingham as I am soundly asleep.

48 hours, 3 countries, and at least 10 different cups of coffee to go. Nice story, I hope you are saying, but so what? In answer to that, I was thinking about the future of coffee to go and it occurred to me that I probably had more variety (both in geography and brand) of coffee in those two days last February than I did for the rest of the year. Like most, I have been heavily using my local shops over the past 12 months and I’ve been glad to be able to support them, but now I’m looking forward to what’s next.

What does the future of Coffee to Go look like?

I see the future as being a hybrid of what we used to do and what we currently do. I’m predicting that the bulk of the population will return to a workplace, whether part or full time. The distance and frequency of journeys will be reduced though. Here are my predictions on what this means for coffee to go.

1. A wider variety of outlets offering Coffee to go

Consumers will demand a higher expectation of being able to grab a quality coffee in whatever their local environment is. I imagine that alongside the convenience stores and forecourts that the nation have relied on recently, we will start to see a higher demand for coffee to be served from non-traditional locations – a tradesperson may well want to get a cup from a hardware store as they pick up supplies for a job, or a parent dropping their child off at nursery may be glad of the opportunity to buy a bean to cup latte as they leave the establishment rather than have to stop off at another venue before heading home to work.

2. Consumers are looking for an elevated coffee experience

With the advent of home coffee subscriptions, consumers are also telling us that they are loving the opportunity to try something different to market leading brands. For many retailers, now is an ideal opportunity to look whether their coffee to go offering truly differentiates them from their local marketplace.

3. Focus on ethical coffee production and sustainability

Like me, an average consumer has drunk a LOT of coffee over the past year and they are increasingly aware of what is positively contributing to both their local environment and the wider world. Sustainable ambitions and the feeling of global solidarity in the wake of the pandemic are encouraging customers to look at products that are good for both local and worldwide communities.

4. The personal touch

Personalising drinks is something consumers have come to expect from their coffee to go, just as much as in a café. Having a range of syrups or the option to make your coffee super strong with an extra espresso is a must-have.

Above all, people are desperate to see people, and good old-fashioned customer service needs to be a focus for any growing business. We’ve all had a year of chat-bots and Zoom calls and having access to a real person to deal with their coffee needs is high on our customers lists. Funnily enough, after a year of being sat at my kitchen table, I’m thinking exactly the same!

Now is a great time to rethink the coffee to go offering in your store, forecourt or workplace. Get in touch with us here to discuss Smokin’ Bean for your business, or find out more on the Smokin’ Bean website and Instagram.

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