Equipment

Franke’s black and gold

The demand for higher quality coffee in developed markets is advancing so far and wide, that traditional homes of the standard drip coffee such as convenience stores and service stations are now recognising the need to embrace the espresso machine. This has opened up a new front for the makers of super automatic espresso machines, whose products make a perfect fit for the round-the-clock, and traditionally small-staffed businesses in these segments. Swiss manufacturer Franke has found that its advances in technology, which have increased user-friendliness and allowed for greater customisation of drinks, have dovetailed neatly with this growing trend. The growing demand for higher quality coffee and for a greater variety of beverages on offer has come about due to a change in the core demographic of the traditional service station customer, says Mitch Morrison, who is the Vice President at Convenience Store Petroleum. “They’re changing more in a way of expanding the clientele rather than replacing it,” Morrison says. “The older customer is still coming in, but now you’ve also got Generation X and Millennials, and this has produced a couple of important changes.” Morrison says that this new, younger segment of the market – those between 18 and 40 years old – are more likely than older customers to purchase food and beverages from service stations and convenience stores. However, Morrison adds that a retailers’ ability to capitalise on this trend is contingent on the quality and variety of their food and beverage offering. Due to this, Morrison says there is great potential for significant growth in beverages in this market. “In fountain and coffee stations, there is a really big opening for operators to add on to what they have,” he says. “The whole idea of customisation is important to the customer, including having several different flavours and maybe doing seasonal offerings like a harvest blend around Halloween or Thanksgiving.” This is where Franke’s FoamMaster technology has found itself a perfect fit for the industry. The A600 FoamMaster offers 25 standard drinks and, via its intuitive touchscreen user interface, the machine gives users an almost endless range of options for customising their beverages. The A600’s user interface also offers three modes of operation. Two of those modes are designed specifically for self-service environments, while the third is for service staff. This means that staff can dial-in a full order made up of multiple drinks and the machine then prepares them, one after another. Another benefit of the A600’s screen is how it can be easily customised according to the needs of the customer, says CEO of Franke Systems, Yvo Locher. “Customers can place their own advertising on the screen, whether that be a single picture, an animation or even video,” he says. “We can even adapt the logic of the user interface. For example, some customers want first the step to be ‘choose cup size’ and then ‘choose drink’.” More than that, Locher says, the screens allow brands to really make the machine their own. “The screen is fully flexible – of course we can also add different pictures of drinks, tailor-make the background design, and add the nutritional values,” he explains. “On this machine you can implement your full corporate identity.” A key feature of the A600 is its specialised milk foam technology that produces barista-quality foam at the touch of a button. For every drink the foam consistency can be programmed differently by changing the air content in the foam. This means that a calorie-conscious consumer can order a drink with more air in the foam, thereby reducing the amount of milk in the beverage. In addition to its coffee offering, the A600 also offers the ability to customise drinks with flavours and syrups, greatly expanding the number of options available to the customer. One customer of Franke’s who has seen the benefits of improving the coffee on offer through his business is Gus Olympidis, founder of the Family Express chain with 60 stores around the United States. “A monumental shift is taking place in consumer attitudes towards coffee, and it centres around espresso,” Olympidis says. Olympidis watched as this stream of revenue began to dry up for his business, and at first he was at a loss for an explanation. “We lowered prices and introduced exotic drip flavours but could never get sufficient traction,” he says. Unbeknownst to him at the time, the change was being led by the 18 – 34-year-old Millennials and females of all ages whose tastes were changing in front of his eyes. A 2013 – 2014 study from market research firm Dataessential shows that only 17 per cent of consumers choose convenience stores for quality coffee. Coffee shops come in at 47 per cent and doughnut shops at 41 per cent. To capitalise on this trend, Olympidis decided to introduce the FoamMaster into his stores. “The touchscreen was a big selling point because it was second nature to today’s younger audience,” he says. “To improve coffee sales, we knew that the quality had to be superb, or the discriminating espresso consumer would not fall in love with it. FoamMaster gave us that quality.” Olympidis also says that while espresso is at the heart of his new strategy, there is still a place in his stores for drip coffee. “I can’t emphasise enough the importance of getting females and Millennials into the store,” he says. “[But] drip is still very important to your male audience… A solid espresso program can enable you to boost your drip offering. We went from US$0.99 to $1.19 for a 16-ounce drink. With an espresso program like FoamMaster [we saw] increased coffee sales, higher margins, and more people in the store.” Convenience Store Petroleum’s Mitch Morrison says that cleanliness is also a big issue for customers when evaluating their in-store experience. While it is important to keep the outside of a coffee machine clean to maintain its visual appeal to customers, the internal cleanliness of the machine is essential to maintain the quality of the product. Recognising this, Franke has worked hard to create functions for the A600 that allow for a full daily clean at the touch of a button. This is in contrast to many of their competitors, which operate on a schedule of small daily cleans and then one thorough clean at the end of the week. Users of the A600 FoamMaster simply swap the milk container in the machine with an empty cleaning container and the machine then fills the cleaning container with detergent and runs the full cleaning process itself so that the machine is ready for use again the following day. “Refilling the milk is also very easy,” says Franke’s Locher. “You take the milk container out of the machine, you remove the lid of the container and you refill the milk – you never touch the tube or any other hygiene-critical part of the machine.” This means that there is minimal training or effort required from service station staff, creating fewer barriers to the machine being cleaned regularly and thoroughly, which in the end translates to a higher quality cup of coffee. GCR

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