January. Few folks’ favourite month, now that the cold weather has been here for too long, Christmas is done, and we’re into the coldest time of year. It’s always felt like the worst possible time to set those new year’s resolutions in motion. The weather, the short days, the return to work and the endless wait until summer all seem to load the dice against you. And yet, there are people out there looking to shake off the gluttony and excesses of Christmas by partaking in Dry January. A month of no drinking alcohol. Coffee is a stimulant and an obvious substitute, not least because of all its health benefits. Dry January is an opportunity to coax your customers to quaff coffee instead, and an unmissable opportunity for pubs with a decent espresso machine.
And that really is vital. A good quality commercial coffee machine, with enough group heads to handle multiple coffee pours at once, makes all the difference. You don’t need to be an award-winning barista, but you’ll need to master the standards: latte, cappuccino, flat white, Americano and macchiato. We’ve been in far too many pubs where we’ve been served distinctly underwhelming versions of all of these, often lukewarm before the cup reaches our lips. So, if you’re leasing an espresso machine, check whether basic barista training is offered. After that, head to YouTube (and don’t get distracted), where you’ll find more how-to videos on making first-rate coffee than you could possibly need. Order ethically sourced, good quality arabica coffee, too.
Then sell it. Don’t push it on customers, of course, but get it up on your social media, on A-boards outside the pub or restaurant, and make sure all your bar staff are as comfortable talking and pouring coffee as they are pulling pints. Nothing kills your coffee sales potential like poor coffee; and with most coffee drinkers used to the very generic tastes you get at the big coffee chains, if you respect your coffee machine, source flavoursome coffee beans and take pride in your pour, you’ll always impress the punters.
It’s not just Dry January, though. It’s Veganuary for many. Even those not committed to a lifetime of animal-free eating and drinking are being more flexitarian in their approach to food, and the plant-based milk alternatives are still growing in popularity. Cater for Veganuary in the same way you would vegetarians at a restaurant, by offering a plentiful milk alternative. A choice is no bad thing, but you need to gauge usage at your pub or coffee shop. And because milk substitutes have their own distinct flavours, your customers will have different preferences. Soy milk and almond milk are rather less sustainable and environmentally friendly than is often believed, so do make sure you include oat milk. It’s probably the most ethical non-dairy milk you can offer to vegans, people with lactose intolerance, and anyone who just fancies something a little bit different.