Is restaurant-roasted coffee an emerging trend in 2019?

Starbucks Reserve Roastery, New York

Craft, artisan, and locally produced beverages are set to lead the beverage trends in 2019, according to preliminary results from the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) annual What’s Hot survey. The survey from the Washington, DC-based NRA reveals that craft, artisan, and locally produced beverages, such as wines and spirits, are the industry’s leading alcoholic beverage trend this year, while craft coffee and house-made soda trended highly in the non-alcoholic category.

The What’s Hot survey is a barometer of food and beverage trends at restaurants around the United States. The results forecast the food, beverage, and culinary concept trends for the year ahead. The annual survey looked at the responses of approximately 650 professional chefs – all members of the American Culinary Federation.

Early results for the What’s Hot beverage trends for 2019 find:

  • On the non-alcoholic side, 51 percent [of chefs] said craft/house-roasted coffee would simmer over in 2019.
  • Nearly 65 percent of respondents indicate that craft, artisan, and locally produced spirits is the number one alcoholic beverage trend on the What’s Hot in 2019 Culinary Forecast.
  • Almost 60 percent of respondents said locally produced spirits, wine, and beer would be among the hottest beverage choices in 2019.
  • More than 50 percent identified house-brewed beer as a hot trend.

It is no surprise that craft coffee made the list – it doesn’t take a fortune teller, or even a survey for that matter, to acknowledge that craft/artisan coffee will be popular this year – this is certainly not news as this has been “trending” for the last several years. But I am amazed that house-roasted coffee made the list and cold brew coffee did not. Cold brew coffee is one of the fastest-growing menu additions in foodservice establishments. Granted this tends to be more on the quick casual and quick serve restaurant side rather than in higher end restaurants, but it is a more cost-effective and less labour-intensive option than roasting coffee in-house. (Along with the requisite fire code and health department requirements that must be met, there are spacing issues as most restaurants do not have the space for a roaster, even a small/lab one, front or back-of-house, and, of course, there must be an experienced person hired to actually roast the coffee…)

Furthermore, while “restaurant coffee” has greatly improved in the US, and around the world, there is still a lot of mediocre (let’s be honest, bad) coffee being served — even in higher end establishments. The debate continues as to why restaurants would continue to serve poor-tasting coffee given the plethora of wonderful coffee available and easily accessible. Some say it’s because they want to “turn the tables” rather than have guests linger (although if some guests order coffee and dessert, while others order after-dinner drinks, the bill escalates, which one would assume the restaurant would prefer). Others say if a chef owns and operates the restaurant, the quality of coffee is better than in a non-chef owned and operated one. Either way, I find the likelihood of restaurants beginning to roast coffee in-house slim.

A better, reasonable and feasible option would be to tap a respected local roaster to create unique house blend for the restaurant. This is also a more sustainable alternative as it expands the coffee supply chain: the restaurant sources its “special house blend coffee” from a local roaster, that roaster will likely need to purchase more coffee, which helps producers (hopefully paying a premium price for that coffee), and that roaster may eventually have to “staff up…” – thus, beneficial to both sides of the supply chain.

The complete 2019 What’s Hot survey results will be available this month (find it under White Papers, Research & Green Coffee Reports). I will be curious to see if cold brew coffee made the list, and what is projected for tea – hot and iced – this year.

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