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Most Profitable Coffee Shop Foods to Help Grow Your Bottom Line

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Justin GuinnAuthor

Coffee shops can play an important role in a neighborhood — daytime meeting place, daily morning pit stop, afternoon pick-me-ups.

To capitalize on this positioning, owners and operators can focus on the most profitable coffee shop foods and drinks to help boost their bottom line.

Cost-effective ingredients, creative recipes, strategic pricing, and customer preferences play a crucial role in maximizing the profitability of coffee shop menu items. Whether it's lattes or latkes, the most profitable coffee shop foods can help menus strike a balance between popularity and profitability.

In this article, we'll explore some key ingredients for sustaining coffee shop profitability, delve into individual coffee shop menu item profitability, and explain how to analyze menu items to calculate plate costs, menu prices, and overall profitability.

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Key ingredients of sustained coffee shop profitability

Achieving a proper rise in profitability in a coffee shop requires more than just brewing a great cup of coffee. Here are the key factors to consider when developing your menu of profitable coffee shop foods:

  1. Cost-effective ingredients: Like any culinary enterprise, coffee shops must utilize cost-effective ingredients. Staples like coffee beans, milks, pastries, and other products can provide a solid foundation for profitability.

  2. Quality and presentation: The appearance and taste of coffee shop items play a pivotal role. Using fresh and high-quality ingredients coupled with appealing latte art and other presentations can help justify premium pricing and enhance profitability.

  3. Unique creations: Differentiate your coffee shop by offering unique, signature creations. Whether it's a special latte recipe, a unique single origin coffee bean, or delicious pastries, a touch of creativity can attract customers willing to pay more for a distinctive experience.

  4. Seasonal specials: Adapt coffee shop foods and drinks to seasonal ingredients, whether it's holiday-themed teas and lattes or seasonal produce for salads and sandwiches. Seasonal specials can create anticipation and boost sales.

  5. Pairings and complements: Encourage customers to pair their drinks with food items — especially premade pastries and other grab-and-go options. These upselling opportunities can improve guest experiences and increase profitability.

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Analyzing the most profitable coffee shop foods on your menu

High-margin menus typically combine popular, profitable, and high-cost dishes. 

Coffee shop menus typically stick to a relatively brief product mix (pmix). Regardless of your menu makeup, analyzing your current offerings can help you improve your menu and ensure it’s a moneymaker.

Achieving consistent profitability can depend on balancing your prime costs — the combination of your labor costs and your cost of goods sold (COGS)

Understanding these costs and calculating them on a regular basis — because they change — is the first step to a profitable menu.

Once you’re able to consistently measure profitability (plate cost vs avg price of menu item) and popularity (total sales) of each of your menu items, you can conduct menu engineering. The process of menu engineering takes these costs into consideration along with other key menu factors, such as guest psychology, menu design, and more.

The end result should be an understanding of which menu items contribute the most profits, based on their sales frequency and average profit margin.

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Most profitable coffee shop foods and beverages

Here are some of the most profitable coffee shop foods that can elevate your coffee shop's success and boost your bottom line:

  1. Bottled cold brew: Cold brew is a popular option for coffee shop guests. Pre-bottling it can help speed up your service during the morning rush, as it frees up barista to focus on more complicated drinks and food prep.

  2. Smoothies: Smoothies provide endless opportunities for creativity with various flavor combinations and combinations of fresh produce and dairy. Customers seeking a healthy pick-me-up will be delighted by these drinks.

  3. Salads: Offer a wide array of unique and healthy fresh salad options full of vegetables, fruits and seafood.

  4. Pastries: A variety of delightful pastries such as pies, tarts, macaroons, muffins and cupcakes can enhance sales.

  5. Specially crafted coffee drinks: Offering specialized drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes. Syrups made in-house can be more appealing for guests while also letting you squeeze out more margins.

By focusing on the most profitable coffee shop menu items and implementing strategic pricing, coffee shop operators can tap into a prosperous market and ensure sustained profitability. 

With the right mix of cost-effective ingredients, quality, creativity, pricing, and the selection of profitable coffee shop foods, your coffee shop can thrive and meet customer demands in the long term.

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Achieving success with strategic menu item pricing

Proper pricing is essential to ensure profitability in your coffee shop. Here are some tactics to consider when setting or revamping your coffee shop prices.

  1. Cost analysis: Understand the cost of ingredients, labor, and overhead to establish a baseline price. Pricing should not only cover costs but also allow for a healthy profit margin.

  2. Competitive analysis: Research local competitors to determine what they charge for similar coffee shop menu items. Price competitively while showcasing the quality and uniqueness of your offerings.

  3. Value perception: Highlight craftsmanship and the artisanal touch that sets your coffee shop apart. Packaging, marketing, and an inviting ambiance can enhance the perception of high-value products.

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Optimizing coffee shop operations with the right blend of tech and service models

Offering the right restaurant foods can make a significant impact on the overall profitability of your business. Folding some or all of these most profitable coffee shop items into your menu may help boost profit margins on your sales.

Here are a few other ways to help encourage greater restaurant profitability, including restaurant cost breakdowns, restaurant technology, and optimized service models.

Adjust what goes on your plate 

Just like with your coffee, calculating plate costs can show you exactly the costs and profit margins for individual menu items. It’s the combination of recipe cost, portion costs, and individual ingredient costs. It can help coffee shop owners see exactly how each component is contributing to the overall profitability — making it easier to achieve an ideal balance between portions, prices, and profits.

Remove popular items that’ve lost profitability

If plate costs become too high, coffee shop kitchen operators should be careful not to fall into a trap of sentimentality. Underbelly Hospitality Group realized that the cost of chicken had risen dramatically, fluctuating between 30 and 40 percent higher than usual. Rather than sacrifice the quality or portion size of their famed, crowd-pleaser wings, they pulled them entirely.

Get more efficient with scheduling

More staff doesn’t equal better service. Too many team members and not enough work leads to complacency. Then everyone loses — staff members and their tips and engagement, customers missing out on great experiences, and your ballooned labor costs

Restaurant scheduling software that’s integrated with payroll software can help you take control of your weekly staff schedule and associated costs. 

Implement the New Steps of Service

What if a single adjustment could improve guest and employee experiences while saving on labor costs? Sounds too good to be true until you dive into the New Steps of Service — with streamlined service that can empower guests to order and pay at the table whenever they like. It also enables your front-of-house staff to pick up a handheld POS and help bust the line on your busiest days.

Leverage granular reporting within your restaurant software

Invoice processing automation is an automated tool that digitizes critical invoice line-item data. 

Having this ingredient pricing data readily available can simplify your ability to calculate COGS, monitor price fluctuations, and take action on the COGS side of your ongoing restaurant cost breakdowns.

Just like with invoice automation for food costs, scheduling and payroll and team management tools can help automate and simplify labor cost calculations. 

You likely don’t have time to manually calculate individual payrolls — and you definitely don’t have time to add all that up to get your cumulative labor costs. An easy-to-use payroll and team management software gives you transparency and visibility into fluctuations in your weekly labor costs, tip pooling breakdowns, payroll taxes, and deductions. 

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Where to go from here

Combining Toast and xtraCHEF can help all types of restaurants access reports on daily sales, costs, and how they’re impacting profitability.

Toast Payroll and Team Management, as well as Scheduling, powered by Sling, work together to uncover valuable labor trends so you can make better decisions.

xtraCHEF by Toast empowers you to drill into line-item level detail for every ingredient on each of your supplier invoices.

Together, these tools can automate and simplify the process of creating restaurant cost breakdowns.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.