Spotlight on: hotel coffee offerings

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From eco-friendly pods to protecting on-site cafe or bar profit, hotels face dilemmas when it comes to their coffee selection. One thing’s for sure – the demand for high-quality product is continuing to grow

The global coffee craze shows no sign of slowing. According to the National Coffee Association USA, for instance, the share of gourmet coffee consumed per day reached a new high of 61% in 2019.

Such behaviors are mirrored in hotels. Espresso machines have become virtually omnipresent across luxury establishments, while specialty coffee shops are increasingly common in lobbies.

Coffee priorities

The Rose & Crown, an 18th century country inn found in northeast England, has recently changed its coffee selection. The bar-restaurant here originally used a Nespresso machine and pods, but that was both time-consuming for staff as well as unprofitable. Now, ground coffee is sourced from the local Lonton Coffee Company, with ecological concerns partly motivating this switch.

“Delivered packaging-free, Lonton’s coffee is roasted in a Diedrich IR-12 with infrared burner technology, a process which decreases energy consumption by 50 to 60%.” explains Lonton Coffee Company’s Operations Director, Cheryl Robinson. “Our use of refillable Kilner jars and the short travel distance also help to combat the average 425g of greenhouse gas emissions produced by just one cup of coffee. This has been well received by customers, and allows us to emphasize our wider sustainability ethos.”

Problems with pods

Although there’s lots of competing information, those ubiquitous Nespresso pods—and single-serve aluminum pods in general—have repeatedly been accused of creating unnecessary waste, as their energy-intensive coffee grounds end up in landfills and have been said to take 150-500 years to break down. Mixed-plastic pods, which Nespresso’s rival Keurig currently produces, are virtually unrecyclable.

Accordingly, luxury London hotel The Ned has chosen to provide Cru Kafe pods alongside Nespresso machines for guests as part of its environmental strategy. “Cru Kafe is continually striving to reduce its carbon footprint,” explains Gina Daubaraite, the hotel’s Coffee QC Manager, “and their pods and packaging are 100% recyclable.”

Eco-friendliness is also a key driver at The Pheasant Inn in Berkshire, where all bedrooms have mini french presses. “We have considered other options including machines,” says owner Jack Greenall, “but feel that having freshly-ground coffee effectively kills two birds with one stone: it allows us to provide a quality service to guests while also eliminating much of the waste which often comes with espresso machines.”

Coffee is often cited as the most profitable commodity at hotels. Photo: credit to Tyler Nix, Unsplash


Protecting F&B profits

A key concern for many hotels is that by providing complimentary—and increasingly good-quality—in-room coffee, they risk diminishing their chances of then upselling the same product for profit in a bar or cafe. At Australia's Sydney Harbour Marriott, however, an alternative demographic is anticipated at its new cafe, Three Bottle Man, which serves custom-blended coffees.

“As it operates as a separate laneway venue with an external entrance,” describes Marketing Manager Ace Mamun, “Three Bottle Man’s patronage includes lots of local workers and tourists.” He says that Sydney residents had much to do with the decision to introduce the venue.

Another approach toward protecting profit is to heighten the perks offered by a public-facing cafe or bar. At The Ned, for instance, while those complimentary Nespresso machines await in bedrooms, specialty coffee—100% Arabica, roasted by Origin—is sold in its various restaurants (and via room service), as are specialty drinks such as Instagrammable beetroot lattes. Paying more earns guests a better coffee product.

Coffee culture – and concerns

Coffee is often cited as the most profitable commodity at hotels, but Mamun disputes this. “Coffee actually has a very low profit margin at the Sydney Harbour Marriott, and at other hotels,” he asserts. Even so, and despite there being over 50 craft coffee spots in the vicinity, Mamun does admit that the hotel “would be remiss not to offer quality product given the importance of today’s coffee culture.”

Back at The Ned, a more sobering trend is currently one of the key considerations. “Due to climate change,” Daubaraite says, “coffee production could drop as the crop becomes harder to grow. Innovation will be required from farmers, and they need to be financially able to make changes; this is why we are committed to paying suppliers fairly.” The hotel currently buys directly from three family farms in Brazil.

Be it sating supplier support, Instagram-worthy lattes, pod policies, or protecting F&B, one thing is clear: coffee offerings have never been such a keen, key consideration for hoteliers.


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Hero image: credit to Brooke Cagle, Unsplash
  • Measures such as using local coffee suppliers and refillable jars can help decrease energy consumption by 50 to 60%, which will please guests
  • With doubts about the sustainability of Nespresso and other pods, biodegradable capsules offer an alternative
  • Rather than suffer diminished profit due to in-room coffee-making facilities, on-site cafes or bars are capable of attracting local clientele
  • Another approach toward protecting profit is to sell higher-quality coffee or specialty, Instagrammable lattes in public-facing venues or via room service
  • Climate change could see coffee production dropping as the crop becomes harder to grow – which makes supporting quality producers increasingly important