It’s brown, steaming and Americans can’t get enough of it.

We’re talking about coffee, of course.

According to NACS, coffee is the number-one hot beverage of choice among convenience store customers. Savvy operators are capitalizing on the trend, offering more choices in their coffee service areas, including premium coffees and specialty creamers. It all adds to the fun, as customers get to create their own custom cup of coffee.

Suppliers such as Green Mountain Coffee, Community Coffee and Seattle’s Best offer programs to ensure C-stores provide the most compelling coffee experience possible. This kind of support, coupled with your own store’s attentiveness, ensures that your coffee service brings a maximum return.

Here are some tips.

Be disciplined about your brewing schedule unless you’re willing to serve customers something that tastes like furniture polish. Keep your coffee area clean, too. Nothing kills a customer’s craving for French Roast like splattered creamer, spilled sugar and sloshed coffee on your counter.

Tracking profitability poses perhaps the biggest challenge. You may know the cost of bulk coffee, lids, cups, and condiments, but do you know how much coffee is used in a sixteen ounce cup? How many packets of cream and sugar? Are you accounting for the sweet-toothed regular that dumps a dozen hazelnut “shots” into his cup every day? Or the ne’er-do-well who just likes grabbing a handful of stirrers so he has something to chew on the rest of the day?

The right C-store back office system can go a long way to helping you maintain healthy margins on your coffee sales. The most sophisticated solutions incorporate Food Service Manager software to help you maintain accurate inventory and cost control over self-serve coffee components and the bulk items you purchase and portion out to create them. Think of it as creating a standard recipe that can be applied again and again to each cup you sell. Set it up once and you’re good to go.

This kind of innovative technology may not help you deal with the questionable-looking gentleman throwing down straight shots of creamer, but it will ensure you squeeze every drop of steaming hot profit out of your coffee service.