Canadian Vending

Features Profiles
From The Editor: Summer 2019

Office coffee services are evolving

July 17, 2019
By Naomi Szeben


With the Canadian Coffee, Tea & Water show coming up, and HostMilano around the corner, operators and distributors are looking at how the HoReCa (Hotel, Restaurant and Catering) industry is dealing with coffee’s growing popularity. Studies by Restaurants Canada and Europe’s Ulisse Information System indicate that people want better quality coffee, and are willing to both pay more, or go an extra distance to satisfy their craving.

Restaurants Canada’s research showed that Millennials are the largest growing demographic in coffee drinkers, and it pays to pay attention to their buying habits. This age group is employed, but not saddled with as many financial responsibilities as their older co-workers. A cup of coffee is an affordable luxury that elevates their day. If an employee is willing to pay ten dollars or more for a designer drink, and don’t mind walking an extra block to get what they want, it would make sense to improve office coffee service offerings and keep your client’s employees within the same building.

Many OCS have used office productivity as a model by which they sell their services. “Why waste office hours with staff leaving for a break, when they can be kept near their desk, or lured closer to their office?” The argument for a high-end café experience in an office setting is clear. Transform the break room into a luxurious café, and recuperate lost productivity.

Europe always had a strong café-culture, where people would meet before or after work, chat, and continue with their day. The challenge for today’s operator lies in making an office break room or cafeteria a cozier, more social environment. In chatting with Kelly Duffy of Balzac’s Coffee Roasters, I learned how the owner adapted her business model after Parisian cafés. Ontario is slowly picking Québec’s “pause-café,”  a way to continue working, and builds morale within the office walls.


Warm lighting, comfortable seating and a peaceful environment that doesn’t have distracting display screens are key to a cozy space, said Duffy. Balzac’s owner, Diana Olsen deliberately chose spaces with visually interesting features. Her combination of intuition and planning delivered a space that her employees enjoyed relaxing and working in, and turn an impulse buyer into a regular.

How can an office compete with a café that offers music, art on the walls and seating that encourages lingering? Both settings are different, but an office that is focused on keeping their staff nearby may want to redefine their comfort levels.

A good OCS may satisfy requests for designer drinks with plant-based milks, and good quality beans or tea: It’s up to the office to create a space where employees stay for a bit of serenity (or a coffee that doesn’t taste like it was filtered through a shoe).

Ask a potential client how often they noticed staff leaving their office for lunch or a coffee break. Offer to create a survey for them: Ask if the staff prefer the taste, or range of options at the coffee shop. Ask employees what it is they like about the external shop: Is it the coffee, snacks, the ambiance or just the need for a private space that is not their office?

The service-added fee of a survey could reveal how your clients can retain their staff. A business inquiry or survey helps your clients discover how they might be losing staff and as a result, see where they could regain lost time from their workers. Keeping staff comfortable is one part of the staff retention equation. A space where they feel they can speak privately, not be bombarded with work-related questions or large TV screens that distract them from being present in a serene state is another.

The future of OCS lies in partnering with a client to create a café, not just supply a cafeteria. Comfortable staff that feel valued seldom leave. As Duffy says in People’s Parliament, “Office coffee isn’t always great, but it has the opportunity to be great.”