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Coffee Matters

People of a certain age will doubtless remember the days when, eating out of home, your wine choice was simply ‘red or white’. At the same time, a cup of coffee invariably comprised simply boiling (yes) water, milk and a spoonful of soluble coffee. How things have changed. Today, many establishments will have either a sommelier or F&B manager, but how many have a person whose responsibility is coffee? Ronan Sayburn, master sommelier – who has been working with UCC Coffee UK & Ireland since 2016 to develop its seasonal, Grand Crü blend – talks about the importance of coffee know-how for operators in the eating out sector and its impact on the menu.

Wine is the perfect partner for food when dining out, but a coffee to round off the meal is the element that makes the final impression. As is the case with wine, an establishment that can offer a good choice of coffee, presented well, by knowledgeable staff, will enhance the customer’s experience. With eight out of 10 consumers choosing to order a coffee over a dessert (according to research conducted by Allegra World Coffee Portal), getting your coffee right is key to enhancing the experience and the bottom line.

Care about your coffee

Operators need to give the same attention to detail to their coffee offer as to all other aspects of the service. Chefs take care over ingredients and presentation of a dish, while a sommelier scrupulously considers the wine, and front of house attentively looks after their guests.

For many years, coffee has been served almost as an afterthought. However coffee is a key part of the dining experience; as such, the same care and attention should be given to the quality of coffee, as well as its blend, its grind and how it is served.

Knowledge is key

Any establishment that expects its employees to be knowledgeable and informed about the menu, should really expect them to be knowledgeable about coffee as well – not least because coffee offers great profit potential for operators.

Having well-informed employees who can guide customers through recommended blends gives the opportunity to upsell at the end of a meal. It’s not necessarily about knowing every detail about the origin of each blend – employees should be able to inform their customers what the blend consists of and give an overview on taste notes. An employee with a good grasp of coffee provides real added value to diners.

Similarities of wine and coffee

The elements that go into making the perfect cup of coffee are very similar to the qualities I look for in wine. Even down to the way we taste and describe coffee and wine – we talk about body, aroma and pick out different flavours such as citrus, nuts and earthy notes. Developing a coffee blend is all about considering the individual attributes of the different coffee beans and how they work together – just as you would blend grapes. It’s all about achieving a harmony of complementary textures, acidity and flavours – exactly the same for wine.

Having worked with the coffee specialists at UCC Coffee this past year, I have not only gained a real appreciation for coffee, but it has also opened my eyes to the important role coffee plays on menus in all manner of establishments.

Ring the changes

In this industry there is no room for complacency. Operators should review their coffee offer regularly to ensure it is the best it can be. If you have served the same coffee for a while, remember to check its quality, sell by date and also ask for feedback from customers. Asking your supplier about their latest blends and seasonal offerings could really open up the opportunity for sales in your establishment.


The operators out there taking coffee seriously are taking their knowledge to the next level. They’ll make sure they work closely with their suppliers and understand the taste notes of the coffee, the different ways to serve it and the perfect recipe. Whether wine, beer or coffee, get your suppliers to come in and conduct training or refresher sessions with your team. It is invaluable for employers to give this type of training to their employees. Knowledge empowers employees to provide outstanding and engaging service, which is the cherry on the top of the dining experience.

Last impressions

Coffee cupCoffee is such an important part of a menu – especially as two thirds of diners believe that a high-quality cup of coffee at the end of a meal makes the difference between a good quality experience and a truly great one. It is the last thing a customer tastes before they leave, so it is worth taking the time to make sure your coffee has impact.

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