Big Interview: Coaching Inn Group

Big Interview: Coaching Inn Group

The Coaching Inn Group, the chain of 14 inns situated in market towns across the UK, is set to launch an afternoon tea proposition following its “enormous” success with its morning coffee offer.

With 12 of its sites branded Coffee Houses, CEO Kevin Charity told Coffee Business World that a higher profile coffee proposition was initially introduced to fill what otherwise was a quiet time of day. Now the group plans to do the same after lunch, with a bespoke afternoon tea offer to fill the inns’ quiet afternoons.

“We’re in the coaching inn market, with sites in A1, first class places in regional towns. They tend to have masses of square footage and we wanted to fill the day-parts. A good coffee offer has been really good for business in the morning – which is exactly what we set out to achieve.

“By calling the venue, for instance, the Talbot Hotel, Eatery and Coffee House, we’re telling people clearly that they can get a coffee here, without worrying that they’re going to have to buy a full meal. It’s working - we’re selling enormous amounts of coffee,” said Charity.

“Interestingly, our hotel in Welshpool [the Royal Oak Hotel, Eatery & Coffee House] is one of our busiest sites and the engineer servicing the coffee machine there – we use La Cimbali – told us that we were doing as much coffee as a Costa outlet!”

Along with coffee which is served from a “definite coffee servery” at the bar, the Coffee Houses also offer a selection of patisseries in the morning. “We want people to walk in and see we have made a definite effort to serve coffee,” Charity explained.

The emphasis on serving quality coffee and tea – the group serves a range of Teapigs, from Everyday Brew to Jasmine Pearls, with its house blend coffee ground for them by Lincoln & York – has seen increases in hot drink sales throughout the whole day.

“Without a doubt the mornings are really busy, but people are also drinking more coffee and tea throughout the day. People are quite happy to order a coffee at the bar at 10pm. Things have really changed. In my era, blokes were expected to go out and drink eight pints in the evenings, while today we’re in an era, a far better one in my opinion, where there are no rules, people are free to drink what they like, when they like. The pressure to drink alcohol doesn’t exist any longer.”

With plans to “really push” afternoon tea, Charity explained that a quality tea offer had been standardised across the chain in a bid to increase tea sales, which currently were nowhere near the level of coffee sales.

“Pubs and traditional outlets are realising that if they’re going to sell coffee, they have got to do it properly. I was in a retail park the other Saturday and the Costa was rammed. I joked to a colleague ‘drinking coffee in a retail would never work’! Seriously, a few years ago, who would have ever thought that people would want to go to a retail park to sit and drink coffee? But it was being served in a great environment that wasn’t as intimidating as a pub might be.

“Operators have got to get their acts together and do coffee and tea well - there’s still a great deal of benefit to businesses who can take advantage from the surge in tea and coffee sales

  • La Cimbali is exhibiting on stand E14 at European Coffee Expo on May 22-23 at London's Olympia, and is sponsor of the VIP Lounge and VIP Programme (see this week's news for full details).
  • Lincoln & York is exhibiting on stand B13.
  • Teapigs is exhibiting on stand B11.
  • To register at European Coffee Expo, click here.

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