Restaurants are Paying Attention to Coffee Quality

By Pat Snyder

The consensus within the specialty coffee and restaurant industries is that most restaurant decision makers are finally getting it: An excellent coffee is as essential to the fine dining experience as delicious, perfectly prepared food, fine wines and outstanding service.

“In the last five or more years, we’ve seen a significant turnaround in restaurant coffee quality due to the growing specialty coffee industry’s influence,” says Katy Boyd Dutt, director of marketing for Boyd Coffee Company in Portland, Ore.

“Guests are demanding more of restaurant coffee service, and restaurants are responding by making coffee a featured menu item; for example, matching coffees with food, choosing sustainable and organic coffees, and brewing the coffee to the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s industry-recognized standard for excellence,” Dutt says. “At Boyds, we believe that serving coffee appropriately matched to the restaurant’s menu enhances the meal experience in an extremely rewarding way, just like a fine wine or after-dinner aperitif.”

Executive Chef Scott Neuman of Portland’s Oba! Restaurante agrees with Dutt and says, “We feel very strongly about serving the right coffee with our food, which is Nuevo-Latino style. Our theme is to bring a little sunshine into rainy Portland, so we serve Spanish, Portugese, Cuban, Mexican and Central and South American dishes.” Neuman chose a dark roasted, 100-percent organic coffee that ideally matches their food profile.

Neuman points out that for Oba! Restaurante, it is equally critical that the coffee matches the restaurant’s core values; in this case, it’s a deep commitment to environmental responsibility. “We’re one of Portland’s first restaurants to recycle nearly everything we use and compost most of our waste,” Neuman says. “It was critical to choose a coffee that is not only certified organic, but is also Rainforest Alliance Certified for economic, social and environmental sustainability.”

Certainly, all restaurants have the potential to serve the finest cup of coffee recognized by the industry, one with the optimum balance between strength, extraction and brewing formula—the SCAA’s Golden Cup Award standard. But how does one convince restaurants to focus on this coffee excellence?

Dutt says, “We work very closely with our customers to educate them about proper brewing techniques, nurturing a partnership between Boyds, our restaurant and other foodservice customers and the SCAA.”
One way to help cement the partnership is to encourage the restaurant’s staff members to understand the importance of how using ideal brewing techniques can set their establishment apart from competitors. “If the restaurant’s employees are brewing the coffee to the highest standard and are educated about why it is important to do so, it will lead to the guests enjoying the coffee more as well,” Dutt explains.

Chef Neuman notes how he’s watched the wait staff at Oba! pour a cup of coffee for themselves and lean their heads back in enjoyment. “I know I am getting that same reaction from our guests,” he says.

Neuman adds how it was critical that the Oba! Restaurante employees bought into the importance of serving Golden Cup Award Standard coffee. “We spent time talking to the employees about what the standard meant, and then had everyone taste the coffee. They all went, ‘Wow!’ so we knew we had staff support right from the beginning,” Neuman says.

“This is critical to restaurant coffee service,” Dutt says about the importance of including all employees in the coffee selection process. “We believe wait staff training is key to not only promoting specialty coffee to the consumer, but also critical to driving increased profits and tips due to larger check averages. While some restaurant decision makers may scoff at the cost of serving a more expensive coffee, it can be more profitable, especially if guests have a great experience for the price.”

Neuman concludes by saying, “What is the cost of not serving a great cup [at the end of the meal]? The guest will think, ‘Oh, they are skimping on the coffee.’ It’s not inexpensive to serve a specialty coffee, but it is worth it to allow our guests to leave Oba! Restaurante with a great taste in their mouths and the memory of a wonderful meal.”

Like Oba! Restaurante, the Northwest-based Elmer’s Restaurants chain purchasing staff works hard to source fresh, local ingredients for menu specialties, which they call the “Northwest Fresh” culinary platform.
According to Rodney Bryant, director of purchasing for Elmer’s Restaurants, Boyd Coffee Company’s coffee fits perfectly with this program. “Coffee is a very emotional product for our guests and our employees; it’s near and dear to their hearts. People get very attached to their coffee,” Bryant says. “The coffee tastes great, and the level of service we are receiving? That’s outstanding. Boyds Coffee works very well in our ‘Fresh Northwest’ platform. it’s an excellent fit.”

Katy Boyd Dutt says this is a great example of how Boyd Coffee Company’s team is deeply committed to partnering with Elmer’s Restaurants to make sure the coffee served matches the restaurant guests’ expectations. She advises, “Learn as much as you can about the restaurant, taste menu items, find out about the type of guests they serve, and listen closely when the chef, owner or manager talks about food and service.”

Conversely, restaurant decision makers benefit by partnering with their coffee providers to establish a coffee program worthy of the attention paid to other menu items, Dutt emphasizes.

“A huge part of our commitment to the restaurant industry during the past 100 years has been to make sure the coffee is the best a restaurant can serve,” Dutt says. “We do that with our high-quality product, industry-leading brewing innovations and top-notch customer service.”

Pat Snyder is the internal communications coordinator at Boyd Coffee Company. Boyd’s key inventions include the airpot brewing system and the Coffee Profiler, the only brewing system certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America to brew each cup to the Golden Cup standard. Visit