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Dynamic Coffee: Fuel or Flavor? It’s All a Matter of the Occasion


three women and their coffeeCoffee is a versatile drink. With both its energy kick and piquant aroma, it can be the mechanical morning necessity or it can be a small anticipated treat. There are, of course, many other natural or sustainable sourcing demands connected to coffee, but The Hartman Group Restaurant Occasion Wheel has revealed powerful differences in how coffee can almost be two different products: an instrumental energy source or a savory delight, depending on which demand the consumer places as primary in that particular food service occasion.

While carbonated soft drinks are normally the uncontested champ in restaurant occasions, coffee (or espresso) is the largest beverage within two occasions: the Solo Discerning Snack and the Solo Power Breakfast. The interrelation between these two occasions and coffee details how consumers’ shifting needs affect how much focus goes to the coffee itself.

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Coffee serves either as a peripheral add-on or the forefront of the occasion. Of occasions where coffee was the only beverage and there was no food, 30 percent were Solo Discerning Snacks – by far the largest occasion therein. The Solo Discerning Snack is a restaurant occasion where the consumer wants to be delighted by a high-quality or artisanal snack from a restaurant. This means there is a strong connection between the demand for high quality and occasions that consist solely of coffee.

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On the other hand, when the coffee was accompanied by food (but was still the only beverage), suddenly the Solo Power Breakfast was the top occasion, accounting for 14 percent of coffee and food restaurant occasions. The Solo Power Breakfast is – as the name suggests – a restaurant occasion about fueling up for what could be an uncertain day. As such, the needs for energy and satiety are intertwined; the coffee and food are serving a married purpose.

The Solo Power Breakfast occasion has average price sensitivity, but the Solo Discerning Snack is among the lower price sensitivities — beaten only by romantic outings. It seems that when the consumer is operating under what could be an indulgent whim that is still, as a snack, rather small, then it’s not difficult to pay more for higher-quality foods or beverages. However, as the Solo Discerning Snack with coffee happens far less than Solo Power Breakfasts with coffee, artisanal coffee occasions may not be considered routine for mainstream America. It is still important to remember that Starbucks Reserve demonstrates that the occasion is scalable and a possible growth engine.

In today’s hyper competitive restaurant marketplace, targeting restaurant occasions is a more meaningful, relevant way to capture market share.

For more information on The Hartman Restaurant Occasion Wheel, a taxonomy of consumer behavior towards restaurant selection connected with social and emotional goals, check out our Hartbeat Exec, The Power of Marketing to Restaurant Occasions.

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Food & Beverage Occasions Consumer Package Goods Foodservice/Restaurant


FOOD SHOPPING IN AMERICA 2017

As leaders in the study of American food culture, The Hartman Group has been tracking how Americans shop for food since the 1990s. From one-stop shopping to multichannel shopping to online markets and click-and-collect, we continue to track consumers’ evolving perceptions, needs, habits and relationships with food retailers. New to the 2017 report is a special section on the expansion of the discount grocery channel, the emerging fresh-format channel and smaller-footprint retail formats.

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