Coffee is servo-ed: The petrol and convenience sector embrace barista-quality coffee

The petrol and convenience sector is embracing barista-quality coffee to draw in new customers and create a one-stop shop for people seeking convenience.

In the past, the petrol station is the last place a person would expect to find a good cup of coffee. However, with the bar for quality set so high in Australia, customers have come to expect the same quality everywhere they go.

At the same time, Barista Technology Australia CEO Brett Bolwell says consumers are looking for faster and easier solutions for all of their products, including coffee, a trend petrol stations and convenience stores are primed to take advantage of.

“The leading brands in fuel around the country, whether it be Caltex, On the Run, or BP, have seen the rise of coffee in Australia and want to be a part of it,” Brett says.

“The partnership between BP and a brand like David Jones shows there’s growth for more ‘sophisticated’ offerings in the convenience sector. People want everything from their coffee to their grocery shopping to be convenient and quick, and it’s even better if they can get it all in the one place.”

Just like people will go out of their way to visit their favourite café, the petrol and convenience sector is motivated to adopt a high-quality coffee offering to build brand loyalty and a point of difference to its competitors.

“When you’re out and about and need to top up your petrol, you’d usually just go to whoever is closest. But if a person could also get their morning coffee from you, and it was just as good as at their favourite café, they will intentionally seek you out,” Brett says.

“It’s been a pretty ordinary two years for the convenience sector, with people staying at home because of COVID, and they’re all looking for new ways to draw more people into their shops, and a quick, good, and profitable coffee is a great way of doing that.

“Some service stations have used super automatic machines for a while now and have had a lot of success with it, but a lot of people just prefer their coffee be made by a barista. They’d still appreciate the convenience of getting their morning coffee in the service station, so if the offer is right, the branding and experience is done properly, and the quality is there, there’s potential for massive growth in that sector.”

While cafés usually have a dedicated barista on shift to maintain quality and consistency, most petrol stations and convenience stores won’t enjoy the same luxury. Brett says this is especially true given current barista shortages around the world. 

“Even in cafés, it’s clear we’re going to have a massive shortage of skilled baristas over the next few years,” he says. “Unless you’ve put the proper systems in place, you won’t succeed long term.”

Instead, petrol stations and convenience stores will need to have the proper training, tools, and systems in place so any of their current workers can jump behind the machine and make a consistent coffee.

“The coffee set-up needs to be formulated with a number of different systems that maintain quality. Using a Puqpress automatic tamper, Perfect Moose for milk texturing, and grind-by-weight grinder for dosing, you’re removing the variables that usually take years of training to understand,” Brett explains.

“With this full suite of technology around the espresso machine, you can teach anybody to make coffee within a fairly short amount of time. Then, having the Flow telemetry system installed within the stores will allow you to monitor quality in the cup over time and across different stores.”

Barista Technology Australia has seen huge amounts of success implementing these types of processes and equipment with McDonald’s, contributing to McCafé’s position as the largest coffee chain in Australia.

“We have worked with well over half of McCafés nationally, which have improved their delivery metrics by above 30 per cent on average by putting in place a series of systems into their workflow to deliver a better-quality cup,” Brett says.

With these systems in place, Brett says training of new staff can be accomplished in under an hour.

“These have proven that our systems can be seamlessly taught to juniors and people in the business whose main job is not making coffee,” Brett says. “The right equipment is a must to set the quality benchmark and streamline staff training, but how can you be sure you’re serving great coffee every time? With the advent of the Flow telemetry system, every shot is measured with the data collected for analysis and also presented in real time to the barista to give immediate feedback.

“The other side of this coin to consistency is speed. It’s great to be able to make a good coffee, but if you can’t do it fast and efficiently, especially in a convenience environment, chances are the customer won’t be coming back.”

But McCafé didn’t succeed on consistency and convenience alone. Brett says like any café or business generally, petrol stations and convenience stores will require the right branding and design to leave an impression on customers.

“We’re working with commercial fit-out companies to design indoor concepts. You need to recreate the look, feel, and experience of visiting your favourite local café, to communicate the message and feeling of quality, and I think that’s what the petrol and convenience market hasn’t really achieved yet,” he explains. “One of our plans for 2022 is developing a full end-to-end solution for the petrol and convenience sector – not just equipment, but advice on how to structure the fit-out and market the product.”

While the wider petrol and convenience sector has only just begun to jump on the barista-made coffee trend, several independent stores and small chains – particular around highway pitstops – have found success with the model for many years. It’s also fairly common overseas, especially the United States and Europe, and Brett predicts the same will happen in Australia.

“European chains in particular have done very well moving into a different kind of retailing, where you can buy your groceries, coffee, and petrol on one trip,” Brett says. “Petrol stations aren’t just selling petrol anymore. They’ll be retailing at a higher level.”

With COVID-19 causing a shift in people’s behaviour and priorities, Brett says now is the right time for the petrol and convenience sector to start riding the coffee wave.

“If you look at cafés, over the past two years, people have gravitated away from sitting in the café and drinking their coffee to picking it up via takeaway or drive through. The reality is, people want to do things quickly and conveniently like get their fuel, coffee, juice, groceries, flowers, whatever it might be, in the one place,” Brett says. “With the investment we’re seeing from the big global players, in the next few years we’ll see some pretty amazing coffee offerings enter the fuel and convenience space.”

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This article appears in the February 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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