WMF Coffee Machines’ return on investment

With a finger in every major European market, German automatic coffee machine manufacturer WMF is always scanning the horizon for the next major development in the industry. Over the past decade, this has meant that the company’s eyes have been firmly fixed on the service station industry, says WMF’s Export Director, Gert Riethmüller. “For WMF coffee machines, service stations are one of the most fast-moving segments of the past 10 years,” Riethmüller tells GCR Magazine. In this time, service stations the world over have been building loyalty among their customer base by responding to the growing desire for quality coffee. For WMF, which also services more traditional automatic coffee machine markets such as hospitality and offices, this has meant embracing rapid change in the industry. “The service stations – or travel channel as we call them – have been really bringing up their coffee concepts and we are seeing more and more that they are becoming like convenience stores and this is improving the business for franchisees,” Riethmüller says. “No service station concept works anymore without coffee,” he adds. Riethmüller says that it is a growing sophistication in consumer tastes, along with changing consumer habits, that has been driving this trend. “I think this is being driven by a growing awareness of quality in coffee. It’s driven by cappuccinos, and it’s driven by the to-go concept,” he says. “This was not necessarily started by the service stations, but it’s now very standard that you go in, get your coffee, and take it away in the car with you.” However, while a shift in what was demanded from customers may have been the impetus for change in the service station industry, Riethmüller says that the move has been facilitated by the growing capabilities of the technology for delivering good quality coffee. “This is an ideal environment for the super-automatic coffee machines,” he says. “The owners and operators are not necessarily specialists in coffee, so we can offer them a solution where they can have a great standard of coffee in all variations, from drip coffee to espresso and all of the other varieties by just pressing a button.” WMF services service station operators right across the European continent, with Germany and Russia – where it has more than 1000 machines in Gazprom outlets right across the country – being its largest markets. It also operates in all the other major markets around the world. Dealing with such large customers, Riethmüller is very familiar with the needs of businesses in the segment. “Working with chains means that the size of the business is going to be substantial,” he says, adding that the sophistication of these businesses’ coffee knowledge has grown in line with the demands of their customers. “You have to do your homework. All of them have their own in-house coffee specialists, so it’s not just as if you come and offer them something and they say yes – you have to really prove the quality of your product as this is becoming a more and more important coffee channel.” As well as providing a high-quality end product, the machines must be reliable, he says. “Consistency is very important in this segment, and once you have set up the machine then you get results,” he says. WMF’s most suitable machine for this segment is the 1500S, Riethmüller says. The WMF 1500S is designed for businesses that serve up to 180 cups of coffee per day. The machine can be configured to fit in a number of different locations, depending on the space available. “The footprint of the machine is compact, as it is very important that these machines do not take up too much space,” Riethmüller says. Featuring two grinders and up to two powered hoppers, the machine can serve a variety of blends and other flavours, all of which can be selected through the machine’s intuitive touchscreen display. The perfect coffee taste is based on levels of quality that have been clearly defined as a result of a long series of tests for each individual drink. In addition, the quality of ground coffee, the volume of water, and the water temperature for each drink can be set. Users can even opt to mix all of the coffee varieties together from the bean hoppers. The visually illuminated side components of the hoppers also serve as a visual indicator of the operating states to tell staff when they are empty. This makes maintenance of the machine throughout opening times simple and responsive. All of the coffee beans go through the machine’s high-performance grinders for a fully uniform grind and better in-cup flavour. The WMF 1500S features the Easy Milk System, which gives customers milk foam and temperature consistency throughout the day. The machine’s display can also be customised to reflect the retailer’s branding and the menus can be altered according to the needs of the individual business. “We can give the machine the branding of the customer so that it fits in with the overall design of their store,” Riethmüller says. In addition to this, the WMF 1500S features a fully automated, HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control points) certified milk cleaning system. This patented Plug&Clean cleaning system is all controlled through the touchscreen display. Another bonus is that WMF operates the largest company-owned service network in the European coffee machine industry. “If you are doing international business then it is very important that you can keep the machines running reliably,” Riethmüller says. In terms of moving with the shifting demands of the market, Riethmüller says that one territory bears greater consideration than the others. “At the moment the big area for development that we are working on with customers in the Nordic area,” he says. “They’re always coming up with new concepts, such as redesigning the service stations to look more like a coffee bar, which has really caught on in the rest of Europe.” Riethmüller says that design and user interaction are the key areas where the Scandinavian markets excel: “They’re very focused on getting the right interior design and the right location for the coffee machine when it is in a self-service setting.” Now that internet connectivity is becoming standard in many appliances, Riethmüller says the Scandinavians are again leading the way. “They are very advanced when it comes to the internet of things, with applications and marketing tools in combination with the coffee machine and with smartphones,” he says. WMF’s top-of-the-range 8000S, which is designed for businesses that serve up to 350 cups per day, features a comprehensive digital control suite, with all the machine’s data able to be downloaded and backed up via USB stick. Overall, Riethmüller says, the point of his machines is to add value to his clients’ business, while leaving them free to focus on their core functions. “We have to understand that it is still a service station, so it is important to come up with ways to bring people back to that specific service station and good coffee is a big driver for that – if you serve a great cup of coffee, the return rate of the customer is going to be high,” he says. GCR

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