WCP reports rise in self-serve coffee machines, UK

self-serve machine

Global information platform Allegra World Coffee Portal (WCP) has released its 2021 Automated Coffee Report which found that UK’s premium self-serve coffee segment has doubled to 14,628 units since 2016.

The report found that coffee shop owners were experiencing automation benefits including reduced staff costs, greater operational efficiencies and increased data capturing abilities.

Consumer quality expectations also increased, says the report, with surveyors reported that they were choosing fresh ground coffee and milk, over instant and powdered formulas

“Automated technology is generating many great business opportunities across the UK coffee industry,” says Jeffrey Young, Allegra Group Founder and CEO.

“Not only are automated solutions helping operators provide more convenience and choice for consumers, they are also enabling baristas to focus more on customer service and can provide long-term solutions for hospitality staff shortages.”

The report also found that more consumers were expecting the quality of self-serve beverages to be on par with café coffee with 80 per cent of surveyors reporting they tried to recreate their usually coffee order when using self-serve.

“More than half UK consumers (53 per cent) indicate convenience is the main benefit of using a self-service beverage concept, with 51 per cent making a purchase because it is the only option available,” states the report.

62 per cent of surveyors said that they most frequently used self-serve at petrol and service stations, followed by 39 per cent reporting they mostly used it at convenience stores and 35 per cent reporting they most frequently used it at supermarkets.

“These high footfall and low dwell time sites remain the most opportune locations for operators investing in self-serve coffee solutions,” says the report.

The COVID-19 pandemic also played a role, with 20 per cent of surveyors reporting they used self-serve machines more during the pandemic.

The report found that automation within both the coffee sector and wider hospitality industry was growing with automatic with self-serve coffees pushing baristas into more service-orientated roles.

The report also found that one-third of all surveyors were open to a completely automated coffee shop experience with no human interactions. Surveyors that did prefer hand-prepared beverages, however, reported an appreciation for the interaction, skill and personalisation offered by a barista.

The report found that Cost Express is the largest brand in the UK premium self-serve sector, holding 71 per cent of the market share and operating with 10, 390 units. Sainsbury is the second largest brand operating with 810 units and Starbucks We Proudly Serve has 750 units across the UK.

Nine coffee chains across the UK currently use super-automatic coffee machines, including coffee and bakery chain Greggs who uses Thermoplan machines across 2,078 of its locations.

“Our research also shows UK consumers firmly embracing automated coffee, meaning operators have more opportunities to serve high-quality beverages in a wider variety of locations than ever before,” says Young.

WCP predicts that automated coffee machine demand will continue to grow in branded coffee shops across the UK, especially within food-focused shops where coffee is not the primary product sold.

The report also predicts that automatic machines across all UK industries will continue to grow at least 10 per cent CAGR over the next five years.

“As technology evolves, there’s no doubt that we’ll see more innovation in both super-automatic and traditional machines, enabling baristas at all levels to perfect their craft and ultimately deliver a better customer experience,” says Young.

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