Friday 14 June 2024
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Andrea Pettinari: “Yes, the food offerings of a café can influence the customer’s choices for coffee”

The barista: "We always suggest to our customers what we think it’s the best coffee pairing with the breakfast they order. If they chose scrambled eggs, we will likely suggest a flat white so that its silky texture pairs well with the eggs; with maple syrup and banana pancakes we may suggest a V60 with a good acidity, in order to balance the general sweetness."

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MILANO – We often talk about specialty coffee and how this product – basically a  philosophy, a way to think about the beverage – it’s starting to take place in the land of espresso as well, bringing culture, quality and a fair price along the whole production chain. One of the ways to increase the spreading of this trend could be coffee and food pairing: something that it’s actually growing as a big trend. Andrea Pettinari, Head of Coffee at Caffè dell’Arte Specialty Coffee – we talked about them here – would like to say what he thinks about this interesting opportunity.

Pettinari starts like this:

“If you look at specialty cafès around the world you notice that food is always there, covering all the customers’ needs: from the early morning commute that needs a quick caffeine shot and a nibble to start the day, to the ones who got some more time to enjoy a lazy morning.

In Italy it’s a bit different, for the Specialty Cafè is idealized and usually associated with an international idea of cafè and it has to deal with the strong Italian breakfast tradition.

The question is: can the food offerings of a café influence the customer’s choices for coffee? Can some kind of food lead a customer to a cappuccino, while a brunch-like breakfast leads him/her to a V60 or an Aeropress instead?

According to Andrea Pettinari, Head of Coffee at Caffè dell’Arte Specialty Coffee, this is true.

How much can brunch and breakfast guide the customer’s choice about coffee?

“For what we can say: a lot. When a customer shows up at our café and feels like he/she wants to eat, there are two choices: pastries and cakes, or international breakfast/brunch.


First of all, the choice is made according to the time factor. The customer who’s got more time, usually opts for brunch, while the one on a rush goes for a fresh pastry.

This choice influences directly the kind of coffee the customer will drink. How? I think it’s something related to the value each customer gives to certain extraction methods and how usual some kind of pairings are.

An exemple of international breakfast (photo granted

In Italy, pastries and cakes are usually paired with cappuccino and, secondly, with espresso. This doesn’t mean there’s no one ordering a V60 with a croissant, but talking about data, the chances that this happens are way lower than the cornetto-cappuccino pairing.

In the same way, eggs and bacon or pancakes recalls bigger coffee drinks, with or without milk: lattes, V60s, large cappuccinos etc…”

What about the value customers attribute to coffee?

“There’s a wrong relationship, in customers’ mind, between coffee drinks and their value: short beverage = low value / large beverage = high value.

This mainly applies to black beverages, but it happens with milk beverages as well.

Customers have not much time, quite often, so they think they won’t be able to take the right time to analyze and taste the flavor nuances a V60 can give, so they perceive filter coffee as a “high value” drink.

On the other side, instead, espresso is seen as something with very low value because you can drink it very quickly and “it doesn’t need so much attention”. Which is wrong.

This leads us to food. Time is always a factor that determines value perception in customers’ mind, so that they are more likely to pair a brunch or a continental breakfast with a “high value” drink – like V60, flat white, cold brew – while pastries are seen as something to pair with espresso and cappuccino.”

Pettinari, talking about percentage, how would you resume coffee-food pairings?

“Italian traditional breakfast, with fresh pastries, sees 50% cappuccino, 30% espresso macchiato, 15% espresso, 5% other drinks among filter based and espresso based drinks.

Coffee as wine (photo granted)

Brunch and continental breakfast, flat white is king, with 40%, then we find 15% large cappuccino, 25% filter coffee, 10% espresso, 10% cappuccino.”

Pettinari, do you think a wider breakfast offer is needed to promote different coffee drinks?

“Nothing is actually “necessary” and we have to break everything down to what is doable and what is not (thinking about cafès without a kitchen…). In my opinion, anyway, a wider food option may actually help increase sales in those areas that are not so popular in Italy.

Brunch and continental breakfast give you a chance to introduce your customers to filter coffee, because if the customer decides to stay for a while to have brunch, there will be enough time to enjoy that bigger coffee perceived as a high value beverage.

It’s a matter of balance and choices, but in my experience brunch and bigger breakfasts give you much more time to have a dialogue with the customer and explore new coffee horizons.

I asked myself if this relationship may explain why outside Italy there’s a larger consumption of filter coffee and bigger drinks in general: we all know that in other parts of Europe people are more likely to spend time having a larger breakfast, like an early morning brunch, but I don’t think things are that easy.

Central and Northern Europe drink bigger coffees, but it’s also true that they drink a lot while commuting, so it’s quite hard to compare and analyze habits in an interview.

But generally speaking, yes, I am convinced that a different approach to food, in Italy, may help promoting a different way to drink coffee.”

That food-coffee relationship… Do you think it may help increase coffee consumption outside breakfast, as well? For exemple the aperitivo, with coffee based cocktails – like espresso martini. Are things changing?

“Coffee is growing on “non-conventional” drinks as well. I think we should consider more and promote that coffee based cocktail area, and I’m seeing them in many cocktail bars, right now.

We only work during mornings, so Espresso Tonic is the best seller. There are people who really like to pair it with a brunch/aperitivo between 11.00 and 12.30, having a french toast or something similar.”

Is this continental breakfast thing related to an age group? What do you think?

“If we talk about Italian customers, this trend is actually linked to young people between 20 – 35 years old. It’s that part of customers that had the opportunity to travel a lot around, discover new horizons and like to find something different when in their hometown. Many of them are smart workers or digital nomads, as well, so brunch is their main daily meal, quite often.”

Would you mind showing us how you decided to utilize the food-coffee link in your menu (espresso and filter)?

“We always suggest to our customers what we think it’s the best coffee pairing with the breakfast they order. If they chose scrambled eggs, we will likely suggest a flat white so that its silky texture pairs well with the eggs; with maple syrup and banana pancakes we may suggest a V60 with a good acidity, in order to balance the general sweetness.

With our sweet french toasts, instead, we ask the customer to choose which coffee to pair by the aromas, so that we can use that same coffee for the batter.

(Find our menu here”.

Andrea Pettinari gives us his opinion on how specialty coffee it’s seen no more as an elite, also thanks to food

“The Third Wave niche is not a “niche” anymore. It’s growing and it has to be the leading factor in the Italian coffee scene’s future.

Coffee and food pairing is a good strategy to promote new ways to drink coffee in Italy. Brunches and continental breakfasts are quite catchy and help to create a new idea of a contemporary cafè. This, for sure, leads customers to explore new ways of drinking their everyday coffee.”


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