Should Cafe Still Charge "Extra" for Non-Dairy Milk?

Heard an interesting debate between 2 people today while waiting for my coffee.

Person1's view is that café shouldn't be charging extra for non-dairy milk (eg soy, almond etc) because it's a replacement for the cow's milk. Person2 said it's because non-dairy milk cost more so café are making up for the "extras". Person1 said that might be the case 10 years ago but now prices of non-diary milk has come down a lot of there is no reason to still charge customers, in fact the charge has gone up as well, ranging from $0.70 to $1 for some places(from $0.50).

Keen to hear thoughts of coffee drinkers what they think? Should cafés continue to charge customers for non-dairy milk in 2021?


        • Yep when you outsmart a business that doesn’t think things through it’s a great win.

          I just laughed out loud thinking about that ;)

          • +2

            @billybob1978: Unlikely that they haven't already thought this through.

            The administrative and practical costs of setting different milk surchages outweigh setting a standard averaged rate across sizes.

      • +5

        Do you find it funny that the surcharge on all sizes including the largest size still exceeds their cost? They still got a sale and still charged the surcharge. Yes, that really showed them!

        • You totally missed the point. No one said they aren’t making a profit, I expect all businesses to make a profit off me that’s why they are in business.

          • +5

            @billybob1978: No I didn't - you implied you were sticking it to them by paying the same surcharge for a larger size.

            Yep when you outsmart a business that doesn’t think things through it’s a great win.

            What I'm saying is you didn't outsmart anyone. They make a profit off you no matter what size you ordered. They outsmarted you by convincing you to spend more by thinking that you got a "deal".

            I can see why you would feel foolish now, but it is what it is.

    • +1

      You remembered a sign from 7 years ago about a 70 cent surcharge? lol.

      Spending more money to get a larger coffee yeah you sure showed them. They probably did that on purpose so people like you just buy the largest size possible

  • What I don’t understand is why an iced latte (espresso, cold milk, ice) costs more than a hot latte (espresso, frothed/heated milk).

    Surely the time and resources required to heat the milk costs more or the same as the ice? 🤷🏼‍♀️

    • They have to buy the ice. Most places don't have their own ice-making machine.

      That's my guess, anyway.

    • Agreed I argued that on another post but most cafe owners don’t get it.

      • I'm sure they 'get' owning a cafe more than you do lmao.

    • +1

      Because they can! And they sell ten times as many hot drinks as cold.

      • Ahh missed that one!

    • This beats me as well. Same amount of milk without the work of heating it, yet still costs more? Granted they do need to source ice from somewhere, but a bag of ice from Coles is ~$4 and I guarantee I'm not getting 1/4 of that bag in my drink. Granted they also have to run a freezer, but the numbers still don't add up (I've seen places charge nearly double for an iced latte).

      The only thing I can think of is the cost of disrupting the workflow. They have a rythem of pumping out hot coffees, allowing them to usually make multiple coffees at the same time. Order an iced latte though, and then they have to grab a different cup, scoop the ice, grab the cold milk, pour the cold milk, grab the straw and grab a different lid. All of these don't fit into their usual optimised workflow, so I do wonder if they charge extra purely for the disruption caused.

  • nut juice …

  • +10

    I am lactose intolerant, and the local Rashays I go to ran a promotion last year where if you purchased a breakfast meal you'd get a free coffee. The poster doesn't say what kind of coffee it was, so long as it was one made hot. And here's what boggled my mind

    • They wouldn't serve me a coffee made with milk alternatives — wasn't part of the promotion. I even said that I was willing to pay the extra surcharge (50 cents?) to make for the difference but nope.
    • They wouldn't serve me a plain black coffee because it apparently, they don't make it that way at all.
    • they wouldn't serve me tea because tea usually costs more than coffee. (even though it's just a teabag in hot water?!)

    In the end I just asked for a glass of water. Not sure who was the manager that day but boy do I really want to understand what goes through their heads when they said no to pretty much every kind of coffee except for regular cow milk coffee.

    • +1

      It doesn't make any sense.

      I've had free coffee vouchers - but had to pay 50 cents surcharge for non-dairy. Surcharge on free? Give me a break!

    • My local rashays were the same, I don't drink coffee and they wouldn't let me have tea which probably costs them less!

    • I hate rashays. All their breakfast food is awful.

  • +10

    Surely the shop can set whatever prices they want irrespective of the cost of ingredients. You can choose to either pay the price or not?

    Personally, I don't care what price the coffee is as I don't drink the stuff.

    Now Diet Coke is my drink of choice and I can get 600ml bottles at Woolies for $3.70 or at the BP service station for $5.40 (or my local corner store at 2 for $6.50). Quite a difference for the identical product. But each place sets their own price, and I can choose where I shop.

    • +1

      Exactly right. If people are willing to pay more, why should they charge less. If people stopped buying the non dairy alternatives because it costs too much, then they would drop the price.

  • +2

    Maybe it's not all about the product alone, but the cleanup of the machines or jugs used for special 'milks'.

  • +3

    If it is a busy CBD location they could just be charging for anything that disrupts their Barista's flow. Those guys pump out flat whites and caps ridiculously fast and I can see how having to do something different could cause delays

    • +1

      Not to mention the wastage of heating 'milk' for one-off serves. With normal milk they normally heat enough to do lots of coffees, and often keep refilling the jug when it's near empty; with a non-dairy they'd need a new jug and have to discard the excess.

    • +8

      Yeah cant stand that lactose intolerance fad. They should just suck it up and drink cows milk and ride the dunny all day.

  • Because 99% use Bonsoy which costs 4 times as much & is the only soy milk in Australia that’s not even fortified with calcium. I don’t know why or how they have this huge monopoly. I started ordering almond milk just so I could get calcium, even though I prefer the taste of soy.

    • As an ex-barista it's because Bonsoy is the easiest to NOT burn, easiest to be reheated multiple times without burning and is generally one of the most pleasant tasting options.

      But I will mention, it being Japanese brand is another reason it's (profanity) expensive.

    • Are you that low on calcium? Perhaps just buy a bottle of calcium supplements - they're very cheap and each tablet has about as much calcium as a litre of almond milk (my kid was on restricted diet when he was a baby).

  • +5

    "Should cafe's charge more" is the wrong question the question for the cafe is "can" and the question for the customer is "should I pay more". The reason you pay more for alternantive milks has nothing to do with the cost of production. It is in the cafe's interest generally to advertise the lowest price (generally a price set by competitors in the area and fairly standard) for the basic beverage to get people in the door and then upsell extras.

    So back to the customer the question becomes would you preference a cafe that doesn't charge for alternative milks over one that does? To your dairy drinking companions it doesn't make any difference. The behaviour of charging more for alternative milks has already been taught to the consumer so you probably don't think very much about it anyway.

    Do you have any alternatives? Probably not. Doubt many people when ordering alternative milks go "don't worry I'll just get dairy" when being told it is a dollar extra. So there is no real signal to the shop to change their pricing model.

    Personally, I find the fact a long black costs the same as a flat white in a lot of places, and that some shops make larger flat whites by adding in more milk without more coffee, more disturbing.

    • Well said! Because people will pay is the only real justification, and a valid one at that.

    • Get your economic logic outta here!

  • +4

    Loads of cafes are actually quite junk.

    • They all burn the coffee/milk a lot, because they take on board feedback from old coogers who say "my coffee is cold!" even though their 'coffee' is a latte which is 90% milk and can't be >65C or it burns, and they are used to drinking 90C scalding teas.
    • Milk is hardly ever prepared right
    • Difference between capp, flat white, etc? Nah nah nah no difference.
    • That'll be $5.50 for a standard cup.

    The worst part is that junk cafes are still around and kicking because either everyone doesn't care (pretty common in Aus) and keeps buying it, or they simply don't know what an actual well-made coffee beverage is supposed to be like.

    • +3

      I have no doubt that there are plenty of bad cafes, but Australia is widely recognised as having a pretty high standard in coffee. You'll see a big difference between a trendy city suburb and a remote mining town of course.

    • +1

      And this is why I often just buy $1 7eleven coffees if I'm out. They aren't great, but they're a lot better than a lot of cafes - and they're consistent.

    • +1

      5.50 and substandard…?

      Must be WA

      Sydney is extremely competitive $4 for a large, 3.50 for a regular… You see the rare $4.50 but it would be at a tourist area or somewhere with no competition. Though I also notice outside of Covid I've never seen a cafe shut down

    • Absolutely! So many burnt coffees. I’m surprised these places survive.

    • This.

      When they request extra hot - I cringe. Go google tongue/oesophageal cancer and having hot beverages greater then 65c.

      bah. here is the link

  • +1

    Non-dairy milks that work well for steaming still tend to cost a lot more (e.g. Bonsoy). I use Aldi's brand of soy milk at home but it's probably not something you'd want to make a flat white with. It's not just brand marketing, either, there's loads of tests out there comparing milks and finding a dairy substitute that serves its purpose well at a cafe isn't as easy as you'd think.

  • Any proprietor, irrespective if they’re a cafe owner, butcher, fish monger, mechanic etc can charge whatever that like. Boils can to supply and demand. Whether it’s morally, ethnically they charge the way they do is another thing.

    We can regulate how much they charge for coffee….?

    • +1

      People can talk about things. It's a discussion site, not a regulatory body.

    • We can regulate how much they charge for coffee….?

      $1 espresso like in Italy? I'm in!

  • +2

    Last I checked, an owner of any business is free to charge whatever they wish for any of their services or goods. You as a consumer are also free to buy said service or good.

    If you aren't happy, move on and if everyone else feels the same, the proprietor will either change prices or be replaced.

    If I went to a restaurant that used cheap ingredients and wasn't happy with the taste or price, I'd not eat there. How is this different?

  • +3

    This has nothing to do with cost, it has to do with what the customer is willing to pay. Most of the cost of a cup of coffee is labour. I did some work building business cases for a large 50+ store coffee chain, and their direct costs were something like:
    Coffee - $0.25 – $0.40
    Milk - $0.10 - $0.20
    Take-away cup and lid $0.15
    Labour - $0.50 - $0.80

    Labour is quite variable depending on the time of day. 80% of coffees are sold before 10am. Cafes have to recover a whole shift of a barista's pay effectively over 3-4 hours, as foot traffic generally declines after 10am.

    So, even if you used milk that was double the cost of the standard milk they use, it would only add about 15c to the cost of a cup of coffee.

    The reason for pricing in the extra 50c - $1.00 comes down to consumer psychology. Customers of non-dairy coffee have been conditioned to believe that the cafe is doing them a favour by creating a product just for them. Hence, they reward this 'favour' by paying a premium.

    • +6

      I see a lot of cafes using premium brands of milk alternatives like Milk Lab, Bonsoy, etc.
      200 mL of Milk Lab almond milk costs about 77c (e.g.,
      The same amount of cow's milk is about 24c, which makes a 50c surcharge pretty reasonable.

    • I thought it was a workflow thing.

      It's far easier to make an order such as:

      Lg FW
      Lg Cap
      Reg Latte
      Lg tea - black
      Lg Latte

      Even if you add skinny milk to the equation, across every 4-6 drink orders, you have a milk jug that might make 1, 2, 3 or 4 of the drinks.

      But then you add soy milk or any other milk to the equation -
      Lg soy FW
      Lg sk Cap
      Reg Latte
      Lg tea - black
      Lg Latte

      Suddenly, the workflow breaks and you have to adjust your barista preparation by ensuring you prepare and serve drinks so customers are happy with the timing of your delivery and that you aren't out of step with your orders. Ultimately, it means your output as a barista, or as a part of a barista team may be slower because of these issues. The additional charges for add-ons include the additional cost of the goods but also, the additional time in preparing such orders.

      A lot of cafes simply don't know how to train their baristas to work quickly and efficiently when faced with more complex orders and I suspect this is part of the reason why they still continue to charge that uplift for soy/almond milk. Many cafes will charge an uplift because the cost of goods is different and they decide to use a better soy milk or almond milk etc.

      Of course, the flip side of that is that by providing different milk alternatives, it brings in another demographic who might not arrive at that cafe's doorstep. Some places are better than others with handling complicated orders. Also, a servo which might be using the cheapest soy/almond whatever alternative, might not be subject to the same dairy vs non-dairy cost differentials.

      Anyway, vote with your feet. You don't have to patronise a cafe if you don't like the price, or the ingredient that is used in the preparation of your drink.

  • I'm willing to pay for for (good) soy milk in a good coffee. I wish I wasn't, but I just can't handle the taste of dairy in coffee anymore..
    Would much rather pay more than have bad soy. I accept that they charge more than the difference in their cost price for soy vs dairy
    If someone was to charge more than say 70c for soy then i'd avoid them
    50c is fair for me (especially bonsoy)

  • I've been to cafes where they charge a premium for their iced long black and price it the same as their other cold drinks like frappes even though it's just an espresso poured over iced water.

    $3-$4 for an espresso
    $4-$5 for a long black
    $6-$7 for an iced long black

    I just stop going to those cafes. I have been tempted to order an espresso and ask for a glass of iced water and make it myself but in the cbd it's easier to just find another cafe.

  • Cafes can and will charge what they like in a free market
    They will also be the first to face competition if they are overcharging.
    The barrier to entry to start a new cafe and compete is basically zero.

    • There's also a very high failure rate to new cafes after 18-24m. I've seen a really, really average cafe open across the road from another cafe which was more expensive, but offered smaller, tastier drinks.

      From the value pov, the really, really average cafe ought to have cleaned house because of their low low low prices.

      But people voted with their feet and went to the 'expensive' cafe because they didn't want to be served coffee that was the equivalent of a home espresso machine and food that was the equivalent of last night's leftover dinner, served to the public.

  • Person2 said it's because non-diary milk cost more so cafe are making up for the "extras".

    I think that's true when you compare to supermarket home brand milk, but make cafes use upmarket milk which costs more.

    I would imagine that upmarket milk and alternative milk both have a similar cost.

  • A business can charge whatever they want. It’s up to customers to decide if they will buy from that business or not.

  • +1

    I guess the other way to ask this question would be 'are you willing to pay extra so the cafe can spread the extra cost of non dairy milks across every coffee?'

  • its a replacement for the cow's milk

    reminds me of this joke from Tom Gleeson :)

  • They don't need a reason to surcharge hipsters.

  • A business charges whatever they want.

    If you don’t think it’s fair, take your business elsewhere.

    Stop using cheap brands to justify your opinion.

  • Going to start a business with no surcharge and corner the market

  • I think it’s fair to charge.

  • Scum of the earth when I ask for a lactose free flatwhite and get the surcharge and you can have a 1l for 1.60.

  • -1

    All cafe charge you for special milks such as almond, soy, etc.

    Why are you complaining about it?

    I know I run a cafe.

    • +2

      I know several cafes that don't charge for special milks.

      I know I have been to those cafes.

  • +1

    To be honest isnt it more convenient to order Soy etc because it doesnt require to be fridged and has a long expiry meaning you can order in bulk?

  • +1

    It is not the cost of the milk that the charge is for. It is that you need extra time to change to another tin and fluff the soy milk. That process cost extra. Majority of people order standard milk. If you are the odd one out, extra charge is reasonable.

  • Interesting question…

    Yes, the Oat/Almond/Soy milk etc DOES cost more (e.g. $3.8 per L for a good quality barista one)… (mind you - the cafes aren't using $1L/milk either… maybe $2 per L)

    BUT it doesn't need to be refrigerated and can sit on the shelves for months.

    Factoring in the cost of the regular deliveries, spoilage/waste, electricity costs of cows milk and there is less in it… but I would say overall I think a 40-50c extra charge is reasonable

  • +1

    I reckon it's simple. If you are a cafe providing high quality coffee, which means the dairy subsitute would need to be at a level of Oatly or Minor Figures for example(can be close to $4-5 per L), your demographic is coming to you for quality and would not care to pay the extra 50c because that is standard.

    If your cafe is just using any kind of soy or alternative and doesnt put coffee at the highest importance of quality. Dont charge extra, as you can get cheap alternatives at the same price. This scenario you can also think you buy just standard milk.

    Really need to just work out if you cafe is catering for snobs/connoisseurs(I fall under that bandwagon, but understand not everyone does), because we are not going to walk away from a good coffee for under $1. But if your indeifferent and dont care about the alternative at all then dont charge those extra.

  • Should they charge more probably not

    Can they charge more of course

  • Should Cafe Still Charge "Extra" for Non-Diary Milk?

    If it costs them more, than yes…

    I don't see why milk drinkers should subsidise vegans…

    Milk: $1.20 per litre
    Almond juice: $2.00 per litre 66% more expensive…

    • I have never seen a cafe that uses supermarket milk

      • Go to any supermarket at opening time. You'll see cafe workers waiting for the doors to open to buy their bottles of home brand milk and ice cream for the day

    • I don't see why milk drinkers should subsidise vegans…

      Why not? Vegans subsidise nonvegans all the time with government grants to crying animal farmers, socialiy funded surgeries to clear your atherosclerosis, abatement programs to counter the damage animal agriculture causes to the natural environment, etc.

      • -1

        Vegans subsidise nonvegans all the time with government grants to crying animal farmers,

        Ha ha… Nice try…

        Vegans don't pay tax…

  • Greedy business cashing in on fads, but people still pay like the dummies they are, so they do it, but there should be no extra charge.

    Not when the fashionable smashed avo on toast costs like $14 because it takes a supreme level of culinary skill and the finest ingredients to make it, posh git

  • Should cafés continue to charge customers for non-dairy milk in 2021?

    Yes, they can always use the new waiter/old menu excuse.

  • I'm happy to pay extra for milk but it's annoying i need to pay the same price for my short blacks as latte drinkers.
    So as a lactose intolerant i need to pay the same as milk drinkers or pay more for an alternative.

  • it is the labour cost. to rinse out the milk in the frothing jug for non-dairy milks.

    and then rinse again to put regular milk back in for next customer (likely)

    • +1

      That's why cafes use different jugs

      • and that's why you're paying extra

        • Your original argument was that alternative milk cost extra because

          it is the labour cost. to rinse out the milk in the frothing jug for non-dairy milks.
          and then rinse again to put regular milk back in for next customer (likely)

          But cafes don't do that.

          So your argument is now that because the thing you initially said doesn't happen in reality that the thing that does happen in reality is adding the cost.

          Are you looking for any excuse to support your belief?

  • I think the debate it simple. The business owner can choose to charge what they like and patrons can choose whether they want to buy it or not.
    I also agree with comment about extra labour. A niche product is always more expensive to service then the core business. More stock to have / going bad in the fridge, separate orders, separate jugs, separate washing for maybe <5% of the drinks sold.

    I've literally heard about manufacturing businesses that charge more NOT to provide something that comes as standard with a product. This is because it is a non-standard order not setup for in the production line. For example, buying a sheet-steel product that they pre-drilled with holes free to suit where it gets fitted as a spare part… If you want it without the holes because the place you are fitting it is bent / non-standard, it costs more despite them having to do less work.

  • +1

    I drink soy and yes they should charge me more. If anything they don't charge enough more to cover the cost which is 4x higher for soy than cow's milk (yes because decent cafes use bonsoy almost exclusively). I suspect regular milk drinkers are partly subsidising my coffee already :)

  • fake milk should cost a lot more

  • Because everyone is doing it . If all cafe around your shop stop charging extra 50c for almond milk , you are forced to do the same too.

    This applies to the credit card surcharge. Once upon a time ,50c per tap is normal up until gov said no. Then no one charging 50c per credit card transaction.

    I dont see any alternative til it becomes a law. And business owner would happily charge 50c cause of supply and demand.

  • If it's more expensive, charge more, if it's less then charge less, if it's the same then charge the same, if you want to charge a different price irrespective of the cost then charge a different price…. Pointless conversation.

  • -1

    Choice of milk is not a right.

    If the business charges more buy pay it or go elsewhere.

    Some people are a special kind of stupid.

  • I just want milk that tastes like real milk

  • +1

    I was thinking it was fine for them to charge more until I was charged $6.50 for a dirty chai, yesterday. They prefer to use soy instead of cow milk for this drink.

    In fairness they were right, it tasted pretty good, but no better than their $5 mocha.

  • Boo Hoo waiting for my coffee…. if you are prepared to pay $6 for a cup of coffee knowing that the grower is exploited by the West, then paying extra to help the owner reach his million dollar goal sounds absolutely justified

  • +3

    On the flip side as someone that drinks mostly black coffee, either espresso or long black there are very few places that price this cheaper than a coffee with milk. If you are looking for logic in 'pricing' you wont necessarily find.

  • Yes they should.

  • Any customisation (other than leaving something out) will generally cost more.

    It's not due to the price difference alone, but the whole chain from supplier to the customer.

    The various fake milks need to be sourced, purchased, take extra fridge space, carried back and forth from the fridge, need to be prepared separately from real milk, maybe even need their own separate milk jugs. It all adds up.

  • Somewhat off topic but I make my own coffees at home with half light milk and half almond milk (SoGood brand) - I ran out of milk one day and topped it up with almond milk and been loving it ever since.