Are you a small boutique store or a mom-and-pop shop with a limited number of employees? Or, maybe you’re a giant department store or supermarket with a lot of foot traffic and the need for extra hands on deck. Whether you’re a small, medium or large retail establishment, let’s take a look at some of the coffee solutions meant to keep your workers engaged and ready to serve.

Pod Coffee Makers

For smaller retail establishments with a handful of employees, single-serve pod coffee makers have been gaining popularity for some time now. You’ll get great taste and ease-of-use bundled into a machine that costs between $50 and $300, depending upon the specific brand, model and features you choose.
Using a single-serve pod coffee maker can take measuring coffee grounds, filters, most the the cleaning and the general hassle out of making morning coffee for retail staff. To brew a cup, you simply open the machine, insert a single-serve cup, close the machine and choose your brew size (and, in some cases, other settings such as brew temperature and auto off, which conserves energy when the machine is not being used). You’ll have a steaming hot and great-tasting cup of coffee with little fuss.
If your retail establishment has more than a handful of employees, consider office and commercial single-serving brewers that have a larger water reservoir or are plugged directly into your water line, and that offer a faster brew time to boot. These can be good machines for medium-sized businesses with 16 to 30 employees, though there are options for larger retail establishments with more than 30 employees.
With that being said, you’re still making one cup at a time. In addition, these machines will end up costing more in the long run as single-serve cups are actually more expensive than traditional drip coffee. (And, you’ll need to be buy them more often.) You’re paying for both convenience and technology to make your life easier, thus a higher cost more in the long run. So, you’ll have to weigh the pros (great taste and simplicity) against the cons (one cup at a time and higher costs for coffee) for your retail establishment.

Automatic Drip Coffee Makers

Traditional automatic drip coffee makers are found in homes, offices, retail shops and basically everywhere people drink coffee. You’re probably familiar with the process: open the top, pour in the water, insert your filter, add your favorite coffee and brew a nice cup ‘a Joe.
These coffee makers normally brew 10 to 12 cups at a time. There will be a bit of cleaning involved and you’ll be purchasing filters and coffee grounds on a regular basis. Basic models can run around $40 (which make perfectly good tasting coffee) while higher-end models can cost approximately $200.

Coffee Delivery Services

For retail establishments looking to lessen their load, coffee delivery services bring fresh coffee to you on a schedule that works for your company’s needs. Companies like Starbucks, Caribou Coffee, Boca Java, and Peet’s Coffee and Tea can deliver their products directly to your door, saving you time and bother.
There are a wide range of plans, and there’s one that’s a good fit for your company size, coffee requirements and budget. If you’re a smaller operation, you may choose just the coffee shipments. Larger retail operations can often benefit from full-service plans, which might involve coffee shipments plus new machines, including installations, repairs and more, all covered by the coffee company.
Prices per shipment obviously vary, but the typical cost for delivered coffee is $50 to $125 per year for each employee. Equipment may cost more, from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars; however, companies will sometimes waive the product fee, either through promotions or a rental period.

Coffee Urns

A coffee urn–essentially a vertically elongated pot with handles near the top and a spout near the bottom–can brew an abundance of coffee for large organizational events. These machines normally cost between $30 and $150, and come in a variety of sizes, including 30-cup, 40-cup, 50-cup, 60-cup and 80-cup brewing capacities (and beyond). Commercial urns (which sometimes look more box-like) can cost much more, sometimes in the $2,000 range.
Many coffee urns make between 10 and 20 gallons per hour. Assuming a six-ounce coffee cup (and one cup per person) you’ll be able to serve 200 to 400 people per hour.

Coffee Vending Machines

For malls, large-scale retailers and other such stores, coffee vending machines (which come in a real variety of shapes, sizes and features) offer great ways to serve big groups of people quickly and efficiently. We’ve all seen freestanding machines that take coins, bills or credit/debit cards and then dispense piping hot beverages. The drink choices for both freestanding and table top models are varied, including coffee, lattes, cappuccinos, espressos, tea and hot chocolate; some even dispense soup.
Varieties of coffee vending machines include:

  • In-cup options (the machine drops the cup and fills it for you).
  • Bean to cup machines (users get the best-tasting coffee around as the beans are ground on the spot).
  • Freestanding machines (larger machines typically seen in hospitals, malls and college campuses).
  • Table top models (smaller, more compact machines meant for kitchens, offices, counters and more).

You may need to spend thousands of dollars to purchase one of these machines, as well as stock and take care of everything yourself. However, there are other options such as going through a supplier or vendor who will deliver, restock and repair your machine for you. These companies may split some of the profits (perhaps offering you around 15 percent of the proceeds from the coffee) in order to entice you to choose them.

Commercial-Oriented Coffee Products

Commercial coffee machines, such the model you might see in your local diner, offer higher brewing capacities and have the ability to serve many customers and employees. Some are pour-over options which will involve simply pouring water in the top as you would with a traditional drip coffee maker. Other commercial makers are plumbed, which means they hook directly to the water line and automatically fill.
Depending upon the product and its intended uses, these machines may have multiple warmers and coffee pots to go along with their increased brewing capabilities. Many of these commercial coffee makers can cost hundreds of dollars–$200-$600, on average–with a few of the high-end models costing $1,000 or more. So, if you have a large company with many employees and the potential for large events and heavy foot traffic on a regular basis, these can be good options for your company, though they are probably best suited for restaurants and other food service operations.

Espresso Makers

Employees often have different tastes and some may enjoy a frothy and strong cafe product like espresso. There are many types of espresso machines, including steam machines, manual stovetop models and electric pump versions, as well as variations meant to work for small, medium and large retail facilities. For instance, commercial-oriented espresso machines are designed to work in medium to large offices and can handle 20 or more workers.
Espresso machines run from $50 for a basic model up to $3,000 for a top-of-the-line espresso maker. Those with smaller businesses can be served by models on the low end of the price scale.