Family Express’ Espresso Ambitions

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LA PORTE, Ind. — Family Express convenience stores
are breaking into the upscale coffee business, not with a
personnel-heavy barista program but with a remarkable new coffee maker
that president and CEO Gus Olympidis calls the Lamborghini of espresso
dispensers. This ain’t your granddad’s espresso machine.

Family Express officials gave CSP Daily News a first-hand look at the 60-store chain’s new espresso and latte
initiative. The exclusive look is part of the September cover story of
CSP magazine, which looks into the potential of specialty coffee and where
the Valparais
o, Ind.-based retailer’s latest tactic fits into the bigger
industry scheme.

Family Express’ high-end system grounds fresh
gourmet beans, infuses Family Express-branded milk or other flavors and
even creates hot foam. Customers place the cup (with or without ice),
use a touchscreen to navigate menu options and press their selection.
The machine goes to work to make the drink. A temporary “barista” will
educate customers as they get used to working the device.

Olympidis
said consumers—
especially millennials and females—are moving in this
direction, opting for higher-quality beverages over traditional drinks.

Recent
data backs him up: In convenience stores, traditional dispensed
beverages were down in units during the 12 months ending June 2014 by
6.05%, mirroring a similar drop two years earlier, according to
Cedarhurst, N.Y.-based StudyLogic. Traditional dispensed beverages at
c-stores did have a modest rise in 2013 at 2.39%.

Conversely,
made-to-order coffee units rose consistently in that time period, up
8.05% in 2012, 15.22% in 2013 and 24.09% in 2014.

Below is a slideshow of how the system, branded “European Café,” works.

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