What Have You Got that will Help Beat the Heat?
One of my favourite Beatles songs has the lyric “it’s been a long cold lonely winter…” which sums up for most of us what was that period between the solstice and the equinox that seemed so much longer than 3 months. Spring is here, the days are longer, buds are starting to show on trees and soon summer will be upon us. It is definitely not too soon to be thinking about what warm weather options there are for foodservice and OCS customers who, no doubt, will be asking “what have you got that will help beat the heat?”
Within the realm of coffee, there are many options that can be RTD (ready to drink) as well as those that can be made on site with varying degrees of capital investment. Cold brewed coffees (nitro et al), Iced coffees, coffee-based granitas, and even a re-surgency of Coke’s coffee-based cola will no doubt be options that are discussed. Beyond the needs analysis that ever good rep or TM will conduct with the customer will also be the business case of what makes the most sense for both customer and service provider. RTD options are the simplest as they provide a “what you see is what you get” solution, but usually with a greater delivery cost component as well as smaller margins than options that are transformed on site. Cold beverage products that are prepared on site will have varying degrees of capital expenses (equipment, mixing vessels, etc.) but will usually cost less per serving to deliver on the final mile as well as offer much better margins than their RTD counterparts.
The consultative aspect of the relationship between you and your customer cannot be overstated when discussing these options. Understanding what they are looking for and then directing the conversation on what would be the best fit (rather than allowing the customer to dictate to you what they think they want) is just good salesmanship. If there is to be an investment in equipment for a seasonal offering, it needs to be justified objectively on if it works for both customer and supplier. Sometimes, this is exactly what is required in the sense of providing a premium offering that will better satisfy the need while at the same time allowing for an acceptable return on investment that makes good sense for the service provider. Other times, the solution may need to be an RTD option due to limited volume prospects, sub-optimal location, or other factors that would preclude on site preparation. The key, of course, is not to fall into the rationalization gap of allowing a misfit solution based on the premise of a “loss leader”. Essentially, this happens when a good account insists on a type of service that doesn’t makes sense from your point of view but when taken as a whole, you make more on one side of their business than you lose on the other.
What can add arrows to your quiver is also understanding the options that exist currently in the market for these seasonal products. Some cold brews that are prepared on site can involve very little investment (in some cases, just jugs), while others, like nitro, will require not only significant investment, but also the support staff to keep the equipment running. Newer options in this niche offer a hybrid solution between RTD and on-site preparation where portion controlled pre-packaged concentrates are available that allow consumers to prepare a cold brew by just adding water one beverage at a time.
Before the requests come in, which they surely will, it is best to be prepared two-fold; once by doing the homework on what is now available in the market to fill the coming need; and then by preparing the marketing and sales approaches for each option that you’ve decided to carry. To borrow heavily from the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” could, for our purposes, be “an ounce of preparation is worth a ton of unprofitable business”.
Brian Martell, Heritage Coffee