How to Choose a Coffee Supplier for Your Business

Coffee Education / October 22, 2020

Choosing a coffee supplier is an important choice for the success of your business — whether you’re making the decision for a restaurant, hotel, or cafe. 

It’s not enough to be able to deliver a product that keeps customers coming back. You need to look beyond what the customer is expecting. 

Coffee and tea sit at the top on the list of items customers want. There are no replacements for a smooth cup of craft coffee, and if you leave that customer craving unfulfilled, you forgo important business and risk alienating your customer.

To keep your customers coming back, it’s crucial to find a sustainable, effective way to make sure coffee falls into their hands when they need it. 

That’s why a long-term relationship with a trusted coffee supplier will go a long way. You want your customers to walk away from their experience telling their friends how great your coffee is. This can only happen with a coffee vendor that will consistently match your standard of quality. 

Quality Comes First in Choosing a Coffee Vendor

There’s a difference between good and bad coffee. Trust us, your customers will be the first to tell you.

You want to end up with a reputation for good, quality coffee that customers love.

So what makes quality coffee? Well, there’s quite literally a science behind it.

Coffee is a unique non-alcoholic beverage where the appeal stems far beyond the taste. A huge part of what makes good coffee good is the enhancements that each component brings to its drinkers.

The caffeine improves perception and reading skills, while serving as a reliable pick-me-up.

Understanding the Process of What Makes Good Coffee

Some people argue that the quality of coffee comes from the beans, but that’s not necessarily true. Of the two most common coffee beans — Arabica and Robusta — it’s impossible to argue that one is “better” without accounting for the roast. 

That being said, there are important differences between the two. Specialty coffee is almost always Arabica. Arabica is more common and is associated with a smoother, sweeter taste with more complex acidity. 

Robusta is known for strong, bitter coffee and tends to have slightly more caffeine.

The roast is what really takes your coffee to the next level. Roasting is a way to transform the sugars and acids and modify the flavor compounds. There’s no standard method of roasting coffee, so it takes an expert to be able to “read the beans” and make the right decisions when roasting. 

Light roasts are preferred for more mild, less oily coffee while dark roasts are associated with less acidity and a defined bitterness. America’s preference is said to lie slightly in the middle, closer to light. In order to find your niche, it’s a good idea to ask your questions to a trusted source. The right coffee vendor will have the answers.

It’s this understanding of quality that leads to competitive coffee customers will crave. Make sure any coffee supplier you work with projects a passion for sourcing high-tier craft roast coffee. 

One Place for Quality Beverages

Since coffee remains polarizing, it’s important to pick a coffee supplier with versatility, specifically when it comes to high-quality tea. Tea will hit the spot for those antioxidant-chasing customers. A partner that can deliver rare and organic teas with the same expertise they bring to coffee is a must.

You should have what it takes to please all customers on their journey to a fulfilling  beverage; not just tea and coffee but also cold brew, matcha and even kombucha. A good coffee supplier will know what cold beverages customers love.

The Right Equipment at No Extra Cost

The right supplier will be a one-stop shop, not only for beverages but also for the equipment it takes to bring them to your customers. And the right equipment should be given to you when you partner with the right supplier. 

Simply put, you could have the most finely-roasted, high-quality beans in the world, but without the right equipment, your product will never fulfill its potential. 

The right coffee supplier should understand your vision and be able to design the perfect equipment strategy for your business. Just like the relationship you have with your supplier, your supplier will need to have a relationship with the most cutting-edge equipment brands. A faulty espresso machine, cold-brew keg or coffee grinder will be a major obstacle in any pursuit of coffee bliss.

Next, a coffee supplier needs to understand how your business works so that your customers are able to consume the coffee the way it’s intended. Does your supplier have a versatile range of cups, with lids and sleeves that can dodge a disaster? Can they provide thermals and servers to keep the coffee at the right temperature? Do they have the plug on syrups and milk alternatives to allow personalization for all types of customers? Can they hook you up with cleaning supplies for your machines to prevent costly break-downs and repairs?

If the answer to any of these is “no”, it’s time to keep looking.

A High Level of Customer Service

Let’s face it. Running a business is about a positive customer experience, and part of that experience is giving your customer a product and service that exceeds their expectations. 

That being said, you want a coffee vendor who is willing to work with you every step of the way so you can keep focusing on what matters: your customers.

You can usually tell the difference between a vendor who cares about your business and one that just wants to sell you their product. Look out for an active interest in what you do and an eye for how their solution can fit into your day-to-day service. Kindness and engagement are tell-tale signs that a business relationship is going to work.

Additionally, you need a coffee supplier who will be there when the going gets tough, specifically when equipment breaks down. Instead of placing the blame on you when something breaks, the right coffee vendor will offer 24/7 emergency repair to provide a solution as fast as your customers need it.

A Sustainable Investment

Making coffee is more than just creating delicious drinks. It’s a business practice that can take its toll on the world if not conducted sustainably. A great restaurant coffee vendor is one you can rely on to keep your carbon footprint at bay so that your customers can consume ethically.

Producing coffee at a low-price relies on exploitation of workers and, in some cases, child labor. In addition, climate change is already starting to take its toll on the coffee industry in places such as Mexico, where farmers are turning to less volatile and destructive ways of monetizing crops.

This is why initiatives such as the Sustainable Coffee Challenge and Fairtrade America are getting businesses to commit to ethical sourcing of coffee. Make sure you ask any potential coffee vendor about what they are doing to help protect the environment and support farmers.

A Source of Training and Education

Coffee is about service almost as much as the product. After all, the difference between a barista and a cashier is a nuanced understanding of the art of making delicious drinks.

As you transition into a coffee and tea business, training is crucial to avoiding an on-the-ground crisis. Your supplier should be able to transform your employees into high-functioning baristas, acting as a resource for training and education.

Consider an espresso. 

If you’ve never made one before, the first thing you learn are the core fundamentals of how to do it…how to make the espresso as delicious as possible. Then you can move onto the more advanced techniques, like “dialing in” or adjusting parameters to find the best possible flavors, that make the drink delicious. 

Once you’ve mastered the flavor, you can focus on the aspects of coffee-making that turn your business into a social media powerhouse, creating the artful, gorgeous lattes that populate Instagram feeds worldwide.

Conclusion

A great coffee supplier will guide your employees towards expertise every step of the way. A part of your success in the coffee world depends on tapping into your supplier’s knowledge and commitment to excellence. 

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