The hospitality industry encompasses many types of businesses, including hotels, restaurants, casinos, catering companies and theme parks–just to name a few. These facilities may treat guests to food, drinks, gaming, fun, adventure and beyond, depending upon the specific type of establishment.
If you’re a part of this exciting and challenging industry, a range of coffee solutions can lighten your hefty load. Below, we’ll show you many of the options available and ways in which they may be able to you save money, time and hassle.

Commercial Coffee Makers

Commercial coffee makers are the models you often see in restaurants, diners and many other high-traffic establishments. For restaurants, hotels, catering events, casinos and other busy establishments in the hospitality industry, these machines can be great options as they make it possible to serve a large number of people while providing quality brews for coffee connoisseurs.
First things first: let’s cover costs. You can expect to spend $200 to $600, on average, for one of these machines, although top-of-the-line machines can retail for well above $1,000. Your options include pour over varieties (which require you to pour water into an opening at the top) and plumbed varieties (which are hooked into a water line, allowing them to fill automatically).
Pour-over models are easily relocated; they’re great for saving space in cramped kitchens or in facilities with limited smaller counter space. Plumbed commercial machines are not so readily relocated, but they allow workers to turn their focus away from refilling the reservoir and onto other, more important tasks. Workers simply insert a filter and add coffee grounds, and these machines do the rest of the work. In addition, certain plumbed models are equipped with pour-over capabilities, just in case.
Both pour over and plumbed machines can enable you to brew for a crowd. Many times, they come with extra pots and warmers, along with a variety of other great features meant to simply the server’s life.

How Do You Know If You Need a Commercial Brewer?

First, let’s talk about brew capacity. Lower-end commercial models often brew around four gallons (approximately eight pots) per hour. Depending on whether you use six-ounce cups or eight-ounce cups, you’ll be able to serve between 16 and 20 people per gallon of coffee (assuming one cup of coffee per person). Thus, a machine that brews four gallons per hour will allow you to serve between 64 and 80 people per hour. (And, if you use five-ounce cups, you’ll get approximately 100 cups of coffee per hour.).
Now, that’s the starter models: What about some of the larger machines meant for very high-traffic areas? A variety of models, sizes and brew capacities are available. Certain brewers can turn out six gallons per hour (which, using six-ounce cups, amounts to approximately 120 cups of coffee–two every minute). Other models can serve up to 15 gallons (a whopping 300 cups) per hour. As previously mentioned, these larger model include multiple warming stations and coffee pots to accommodate for higher brewing capacity.

Coffee Urns

Not to be outdone, coffee urns (usually, tall pots with handles near the top, a spout at the bottom and a variety of other working mechanisms within) can brew large quantities of coffee quickly and efficiently, making an average of 10 to 20 gallons per hour. There are also more restaurant-oriented varieties, which resemble box-like coffee dispensers and accomplish the same goal.
What about brewing potential? Assuming six-ounce cups of coffee, you’ll be able to serve between 200 and 400 cups per hour. That’s a lot of coffee for a variety of public functions, including conferences, meetings, banquets, catering events and cruises.
Regular coffee urns often cost between $30-$150. The commercial-oriented, box-like versions mentioned above are much more likely to break the bank: some can cost around $2,000.

Coffee Vending Machines

Freestanding vending machines (the big machines often found in hospitals and colleges) can provide customers with fast, relatively tasty and (in some cases) cheap coffee. Customers pay using cash or a credit or debit card, and their drinks are served up on the spot. These machines can be good options for facilities that aren’t in close proximity to a local coffee joint.
Table top vending machines are similar but take up far less space. They fit easily in a kitchen setting and are more practical for that a space that’s already being clogged by other food or drink equipment.
Both types of machines can allow customers to purchase a wide variety of drinks, such as:

  • Coffee.
  • Tea.
  • Cappuccino.
  • Espresso.
  • Mocha.
  • Hot chocolate.

You have choices when it comes to purchasing and maintenance, too. You can go through a manufacturer to buy a coffee vending machine and then stock it and care for it yourself. This route requires putting down thousands of dollars on the initial purchase and buying products to stock the machine; however, you’ll be able sell beverages at a high markup, allowing you to make money on the endeavor. Another option is to choose a vendor who will supply you with the machine, as well as repair and restock it. (And, hopefully, they’ll share some of the profits from the machines, as well.). This tends to be the easier, less labor-intensive route.

Coffee Delivery Services

Working in the hospitality industry often means running around with a million things on your plate. That’s where coffee delivery services come into play: Some of your favorite brands (as well as some smaller mom-and-pop coffee shops) will deliver coffee and more directly to your doorstep.
You’ll choose the delivery schedule that works for your needs and they’ll do the rest. Small companies can opt to simply have coffee delivered on a regular basis, while larger establishments can go with a full-service plan that also provides machines, coffee supplies, servicing, installation, repairs and more.

Espresso Makers

Workers and customers may enjoy a frothy, strong espresso drink every once in a while. Espresso machines start at $50 for a basic model; though price tags can go as high as $3,000 for a top-of-the-line espresso maker. For medium to large venues, commercial-oriented espresso machines (and more expensive models) are designed to handle heavy use while delivering great-tasting drinks.

What Doesn’t Work

Here are a few types of machines to avoid when serving large numbers of customers in the hospitality industry. First are pod coffee makers, which make single-serve cups of great-tasting coffee: they make only one cup at a time and require buying relatively expensive coffee “pods” rather than more economical traditional ground coffee. While there are office and commercial varieties of these machines, it’s best to avoid these models if you’ll be serving large groups of people all at once.
Second, automatic drip coffee makers (those that are found in many homes and offices) might not be the best options for serving large groups, either. These traditional machines are great for home and small (or even medium) office use, but they fall short when serving hundreds of guests at a time. While you may purchase more than one of these machines to increase your brewing capacity, having multiple coffee makers just adds hassle to an already complicated set of tasks for employees. So, stick with commercial-oriented machines meant to handle the high demand of the hospitality industry.