How PJ's Coffee Keeps Up with the Latest Menu TrendsBy: PJ's Coffee
At PJ’s Coffee, keeping up with trends is all about timing the introduction of our new menu items and limited-time offers (LTOs) just right. Our timing ensures our franchisees experience maximum profitability when rolling out new products.
Brands can get in trouble if they roll out products too early. There may not be enough momentum or knowledge among consumers if new products are introduced at the beginning of a trend’s life. It’s not uncommon to find newly developed products do well with focus groups, but fall flat with a brand’s consumer. Therefore, it’s important for us to figure out, as precisely as possible, when our customers are ready for new products.
Here’s how we make sure we implement the right new trends on our menu at exactly the right time:
Adding Our Own Twist to Trends
One way we do that is by pairing a new idea with a familiar flavor profile. For example, in the fall the market is saturated with pumpkin flavored products, so we know consumers respond well to that flavor. We’d be missing the boat if we didn’t introduce a pumpkin flavored beverage. But, it had to be unique. So, last year, we introduced pumpkin affogato, which is ice cream with hot espresso poured over it. Because of the success of this specialty drink, it earned a spot on our LTO menu.
When we pinpoint that sweet spot, it’s fun to see the results.
A lot of the research we do is observing what’s trending and what’s working in the industry, along with measuring the comfort level and willingness of our customers to accept the latest trends. This happens on a regional level, as well as national.
The cold brew movement is still going strong, with the coffee beverage being offered in different formats. As one of the original purveyors of cold brew, we also capitalized on the trend by introducing a ready-to-drink (RTD) nitro cold brew product – coffee infused with nitrogen gas for a creamy, stout-like drink — in December.
While flavor profiles often drive the trends in our industry, we also take into account other associated trends.
Honey is a good example. It’s a natural sweetener that’s becoming popular with coffee and tea as more Americans demand cleaner and ethically-sourced foods.
Because that demand remains strong, along with the upwardly trending flavor profile of honey, we will bring back our honey macadamia nut coffee LTO. We’re also focusing on a honey crème brulee iced latte topped with pieces of caramel and sugar. It’s indulgent, but also natural because of the honey.
We Don’t Rush In
Pursuing the development of new menu items depends a lot on what’s happening in the coffee retail market. Because we want our franchisees to be successful, we take our time to gauge what is and isn’t working. In other words, we let our competitors be the guinea pigs.
We have a good idea of what flavors we’re going to promote during the year, but we take a look at specifics only about four or five months out instead of building an annual calendar, which is typical of most brands. That helps us adjust based on purchasing trends, what’s popular or working in the industry at that time.
When we decide which products will work for us, we are able to implement them quicker than our competitors because we’re vertically integrated.
Considerations for Franchisees and Their Staff
None of the new products we plan to roll out come as a surprise to our franchisees. We unveil some of them at a discovery lab during our annual PJ’s Coffee conference, where we sample new beverages. We do this to make sure our franchisees are comfortable with change and new products.
But, we also take into account how new products will affect operations at the coffee shop level before putting them on the menu. Our primary considerations during innovation are:
- Storage – There’s only so much refrigeration and storage for bringing in new ingredients. Can it be stored safely and remain fresh?
- Ease of preparation – The beverage must be operationally sound, and should be simple for the baristas to make.
By putting our own twist on the latest trends, releasing new menu items and LTOs at the right time and ensuring our franchisees will be able to easily implement menu changes, we are able to release delicious new specialty coffee beverages that are a hit with both our franchisees and our guests.