January 24, 2017

How to Design a Food Menu That Complements Your Coffee


A coffee shop will rarely make enough money to pay the bills from coffee sales alone. It also needs a food menu to remain profitable and attract hungry customers.

But a food menu isn’t just a boring necessity: it’s an opportunity. The right menu will complement your coffee offerings, bringing out their best notes. It will communicate your values. And it will become just as much of your brand as your coffee.

Anthony Rue is the Founder and Brand Manager of the famous Volta Coffee in Florida, not to mention a Sensory Judge in the World Barista Championship. We met up with him at his Barista Skills Workshop at Micro Festival El Salvador(See our Events Calendar for more events like this.) And afterwards, he agreed to talk to us about how he designed Volta Coffee’s food menu.

Spanish Version: Cómo Diseñar un Menú de Comida Que Complemente tu Café

anthony rue

Anthony Rue leads a Barista Skills Workshop at Micro Festival El Salvador. Credit: Perfect Daily Grind

1. Pick The Right Food Supplier

Whether they’re providing baked goods or ingredients, choosing the right supplier is vital. “It’s all about relationships,” Anthony tells me. “It’s about making sure you find the partner that shares your vision.”

He adds, “At the beginning, it was really difficult to find a reliable source, and some of the places we wanted to partner with didn’t keep to the quality we needed.” Your supplier company needs to be able to meet your demands for both quantity and quality, every single time. Don’t rush into a decision. Research first.


Pumpkin cupcakes are prepared at Volta Coffee. Credit: Volta Coffee

2. Train Your Staff

The kitchen is as much a part of your café as your brew bar and espresso machine – and so you should work towards the same level of quality in it. Anthony tells me that, if you’re planning to hire a baker or chef, you have to find one who shares your values. For him, that’s consistency, reliability, and an appreciation of coffee.

He employs two people, one of whom works 30 hours a week and the other 8 hours. And just like with his baristas, he trained them using a SCAA cupping form. This means they can identify the flavours in coffee and understand the impact of different processing methods.

staff cupping

Cupping coffee at Volta Coffee. Credit Volta Coffee

3. Enhance Coffee Flavours

Anthony’s menu doesn’t just feature delicious food. It features delicious food that enhances the profiles of the coffee. In fact, he made a list of items and flavours that his bakers need to create based on the beans he’s offering.

He’s not the only one thinking about the relationship between coffee and food, either. “The bakers learn all about coffee production, and about the different ways of doing washed coffees and natural coffees, and how to cup. They are all fully trained and understand coffee,” he tells me. And this allows them to look at the cupping notes and select complementary flavours.

flavour wheel

Comparing food to the flavour wheel. Credit: Volta Coffee

SEE ALSO: What Food Should You Eat With Your Coffee? A VIDEO Introduction

4. Think Variety

Anthony also says that a changing food menu is important for Volta Coffee. “We try to have a different mix throughout the day.” He gives the breakfast menu as an example: “We are always going to have a few sweet slices of breads or some sort of breakfast pastry. And we always have quiche and something that is filling.”

Seasonal offerings are popular, too. Not only do customers like the variety but, when they realise the food will only be available for a short time, they want to try it before it’s too late. And Volta is famous for food that matches the coffee offerings. Whether it’s a Colombian, Mexican, or Ethiopian coffee, Anthony makes sure customers can also try a dessert from that country.

“This becomes a constant challenge for bakers…to come out with new ideas,” Anthony tells me, reinforcing how important it is to have staff that share your values. “[My team] always want to do their best.”

pumpkin pie

Pumpkin spice sweet potato pie at Volta Coffee. Credit: Volta Coffee

5. Consider Other Drinks

Anthony tells me that doesn’t make any blended, artificially sweet, or flavoured drinks. However, he tries to offer a varied non-coffee drinks menu that matches Volta Coffee’s values. This means Chinese teas, traditional Japanese matcha, and so on.

Just like with his food menu, the drinks menu is seasonal. In the summer, he’ll offer agua fresca, water-based fruit smoothies. He’ll also serve hibiscus tea, or “agua de Jamaica”, when the flower is in season.

It’s easy to treat your food menu as a low priority, but that’s a missed opportunity. Consider your coffees carefully, pick the right team, and start creating meals and snacks that will bring out the best in your beans. Your customers will appreciate it, and you’ll reap the financial rewards.

With thanks to Anthony Rue of Volta Coffee.

Perfect Daily Grind is not affiliated with any of the individuals or bodies mentioned in this article, and cannot directly endorse them.

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