Every business is looking for ways to provide more value to its customers, and the office coffee business is no different, especially in today’s challenging times. Operators are upgrading their coffee offerings, including higher quality blends, single serve coffee, and iced coffee to capture more of the afternoon beverage experience. Others are starting to offer new services such as water dispensers and other beverages to provide more value to their clients. One approach for coffee professionals to support an upscale office beverage program is to provide ice to their clients.
For the office coffee professional, ice is a natural business extension because (1) it is essential to an iced coffee or iced tea program and (2) ice is nothing more than frozen water, the liquid that is a primary ingredient in their coffee offering. Coffee professionals skilled at providing high quality water can apply the same skills to ice and expand their business. Ice can already be found in many offices around the country as well as on countless factory floors and road crew dispatch centers – locations that coffee professionals already serve. The key is to provide the right ice offering.
Ice – A valued amenity
Ice can provide several benefits to an office coffee program. Most people in this country like ice, with about 250 billion pounds per year consumed in foodservice applications outside the home. Ice makes drinks colder and keeps them colder longer. People also like to chew ice when their drinks are finished. Several studies have revealed that over 50% of the population enjoys chewing ice. Many people enjoy their beverage chilled. Ice will keep beverages cooler, making it more likely that people will drink more.
Ice also provides health and wellness benefits. The benefits of good hydration on mental acuity, productivity, and general wellness have been well documented. Ice water also provides a metabolic benefit. The caloric requirement to metabolize 40 degree water to body temperature for someone drinking the recommended 8 glasses a day is the equivalent of 3 to 4 pounds a year.
For office coffee and water clients, ice can solve the problem of running out of chilled water at break times. Most water coolers only have limited capacity to chill water and, often, the first few people with large mugs will use up all the available chilled water, leaving the rest of their co-workers disappointed. With ice, you can provide your clients with an almost limitless amount of ice cold water, even at peak periods.
Ice complements other beverages. Iced coffees, iced teas, flavor packets, soft drinks, energy drinks, and other beverages all benefit from the availability of ice. As companies look for enhanced refreshment services to keep their associates on-site and productive, ice can be a part of the overall solution. Ice is a key component to expanding ice coffee programs and growing coffee sales.
With ice, water and other beverages will stay cold for much longer periods than if they come from a chilled water dispenser or some other refrigerated dispenser. Ice makes all cold beverages more appealing to employees.
There are a number of considerations when choosing icemakers for employee refreshment. Machines need be sized appropriately to serve the client population: number of people, daily patterns, climate, interest in ice, cup sizes, are all important considerations. Ice type and utility consumption (water and energy) should be evaluated. Installation needs to address water supply and, if required, drains or condensate pumps. However, the most critical fact to remember when considering adding ice to your product offering is that ICE is FOOD. As food, ice requires the same concern for sanitation as any other water or food product you may offer.
Ice – Keep it sanitary
When it concerns ice, sanitation takes two basic forms: sanitation in dispensing and in cleaning of ice machines. Traditionally, ice has been available in offices from either the refrigerator or an icemaker that is installed under a counter. Larger operations may have an icemaker on top of a large storage bin. More recently, some offices have chosen to install small, low capacity countertop icemakers. These icemakers are convenient (they come in either plumbed-in or pour-over models) and relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately, these icemakers all have open bins from which individual users scoop ice out. Many employees complain of cross contamination from unsanitary Co-workers who scoop their cups through the ice bin or who may store their lunch or other food in the ice storage area. Since the ice is exposed to air every time the bin is open, there is greater likelihood of bacteria, yeasts, molds, or algae growing in the icemaker and/or bin.
Sanitary dispensing of ice
One way to minimize the potential for contamination of ice is to use ice and water dispensers where the ice is both made inside the machine and stored in a sealed bin to protect it from hands, dirty scoops, or unnecessary exposure to air. These ice dispensers will have some type of mechanism to dispense the ice out of a bin without the need to touch the ice. Many of these will also dispense water using a variety methods such as lever, button or infrared sensing. They are also easy to install and maintain by placing on a counter or on a base stand for easy utility and drain connections. Some don’t even require a drain, making installation easier and placement more flexible.
Cleaning the icemaker
In addition to using equipment that improves sanitation by minimizing the potential for exposure when dispensing ice, maintaining proper cleaning and maintenance practices is critical to providing a quality ice offering. Most preventive maintenance programs involve (1) daily/weekly wiping of the exterior surfaces, (2) monthly cleaning to remove dust from the condensers, and (3) semi-annual inspection of critical parts, cleaning to remove scale from the icemaker an acid cleaner, and sanitizing the icemaker with the manufacturer’s recommended sanitizer. In some areas, particularly if the water is hard or if there is yeast or bacteria in the air, more frequent cleaning and sanitizing may be needed as well as pretreatment of the incoming water to reduce scale. When selecting an icemaker, look for those that are easy to clean and maintain. A well maintained icemaker provides the greatest return on your investment.
The same principles apply to coffee houses.
The right type of ice and the right type of icemaker will benefit the coffee shop operator as well as the office coffee provider. Ice sanitation and cleaning procedures are just as important in a retail establishment as in the office coffee environment. While somewhat more expensive than traditional icemaker/bin combos, some retailers have chosen to invest in the hands-free ice maker/dispensers to reduce the potential for cross-contamination. The choice of ice type can also contribute to both high revenue and lower costs. In the fountain beverage arena, studies have shown that more people will purchase more beverages if offered the choice of chewable nugget ice, and the same should hold true for iced coffee and iced tea. Additionally, nugget icemakers, either in dispensers or in icemaker/bin combos, typically use less energy and substantially less water than comparable sized cube-type machines found in most retail establishments.
In conclusion, the coffee professional has a number of new opportunities relating to ice. When pursuing the opportunities, always remember that ice is food and needs to be dealt with in a safe and sanitary manner.
Michael Rice is Senior Product Marketing Manager for Follett Corporation. Follett Corporation is a leading manufacturing of ice machines, ice and water dispensers, and ice storage and transport equipment focused on innovative solutions that promote health, safety, and well-being in foodservice, healthcare, and office environments. Mike is also Adjunct Faculty at DeSales University where he teaches courses on Ethical Issues in the Workplace, including topics of Corporate Social Responsibility. Contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org