The Questionable Order: Tall latte, no foam

So when I am working the bar I get the periodic 'latte, no foam' order. Sometimes I ignore it and pour them a latte w/ art, sometimes I heed the request.

What do you all think? Do you give them a flat, crappy latte that is not all it can be just because they want 'no foam'? There is a difference after all between sea foam and micro-foam.... It seems to me to be a great educational opportunity and opening, but I want to know what you all think.

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What you have here is a great opportunity for customer service and education:

In my opinion you should make two drinks, based on your comments.

Make the drink as ordered - as good customer service and hospitality dicatate that the customer is always right, you never want to give the customer any reason to go anywhere else, if they wanted the drink differently they would have ordered it that way, who are you to second-guess the wants and needs of the customers, why are you arguing with the people who pay the bills and put cash in the register, etc, etc, etc.

Make them the drink that you want and provide it to them for free, describe the care and enthusiasm you have for coffee, and your belief that the experience from a well prepared balanced latte with sexy, micro-foam is desired by many.

Let the customer decide wich they prefer. Most likely they will apprecite the time and attention that they receive from you and will hopefully learn something in the process. You may effect change and help them discover what specialty coffee is all about, or you may develop a friendship with the comsumer.

Either way your goal is to educate and provide the highest quality drinks possible.

Remember - what's the best coffee?........it's the one that sells!
I am so glad to hear that you also just pour latte art for the most part. I have found that if I steam a great silky foam even when asked to pour a "no foam" I get no complaints. It is funny, sometimes just to challenge the order I will purposely pour the beverage ahead of the no foam order right in front of the customer just to get a reaction. Recently the customer who ordered no foam ordered a standard beverage for his friend as well and while I was pouring some latte art he was watching me and said "Well if it's going to be that kind of foam, I'll take it." Oddly enough I believe that customers have an unforgiving memory of bad foam and just assume you will give them that "spit bug foam". I also serve the same beverage for the following orders: no foam latte, wet cap, free pour latte, latte, and 16 oz Capp. (because it is usually not a true capp)
Thanks for getting me involved with a great comment.
Sarah
yeah I can say I really get no negative comments when I pour that crushing micro-foam....but I do get a few 'ooo's and 'ahh's...the two drink solution is a great idea too though
Spencer,

I believe that you are totally right.

I also would say that the European or Italian's caffe latte is not made with foam, and that would be someone like. If I am not in the coffee business and is only a normal customer, I may ask for return of the drink, specially after I advised for no foam.
yah I call the 16-20 oz capps 'extra-foamy lattes'
Indeed. Nobody hates foam. People just hate flat dull cardboardy foam. (and to contradict myself, some also hate the right kind of foam)
My experience with customers ordering no foam is not necessarily due wholly to taste, but due to volume.
A lot of baristas will unintentionally pour a capp when the customer has asked for a latte, thus leaving the customer feeling ripped off as his/her cup is one third to one half less milk than what was anticipated.

even as latte art pourers, double check your pours. steam and pour straight milk into a tall (clear) glass and allow the milk to settle a bit. then add a drop or two of diluted food coloring. how much foam did you end up pouring?
honestly, that's why a lot of customers say 'no foam'.
I suppose that this problem and ask is a reflection of the "confused" recipes of caffe latte and cappuccino. Both of those coffee drinks are popular around the world, and people may travelling around quite a lot. No one can remember the different "definitions" and "recipes" of a single drink for so many cities, from Rome to Paris, to Berlin, to New York, to Tokyo, to Madrid, to Beijing, to ...... Customers are getting confused, about one coffee drink in so many different definitions and recipes. If a cafe chain from New York opened a cafe in Beijing, they mixed again, and do you really want the customers to notice the fact that you are American styled cafe in Beijing? Not even a coffee professional can make that things clear, how to expect from customers? And, we are not in an active position. So, we have no choice. If customers do not like, they simply do not come, or go to *$s. That is always the same around the world.

On the other hand, with one third of foam and not, the tastes can be much different. It may not be for more or less of milk, but tastes. To respect guests or friends, people are used to leaving their guests and friends to add suger to their coffee, for the most preferable tastes. To order a prepared coffee drink in cafes, one expect to find what they like, not what you, as basrista or owner of cafe, like in all ways.

To solve this problem, make standard recipes for most popular coffee drinks. It should have all that people may expect to order.
true 'dat.
Yeah... that suggestion has come up one or two times before :)

I think the better solution than standardizing recipes globally is to do what Sandy suggested - check your own pours and make sure that you are actually making what you intend. This way, regular customers at your cafe will at least know what to expect at your cafe, and either eventually figure out how to ask for what they want or go somewhere else.

I helped open an independent coffee shop partially so that we could define our own recipes to represent what the owners feel expresses each drink best, be that a 5:1 microfoam cappuccino or a 1:1 microfoam macchiato. These drinks may not match some people's definitions, but they do match others. They taste good. I am ok with this.

That said, I'll happily make a "little foam" latte for my no foam customers. Most do not complain... those that do can have their drink totally flat if they want, and I know that they actually want it that way.
I actually had the opportunity of doing an order tonight for the latte, no foam. I took the suggestion of Spencer and it worked out really well. It gave me a nice opportunity to discuss what sets us apart from corporate coffee and proper milk texturing techniques.

Needless to say, the customer left happy and promised to return soon.
Not a bad suggestion, thanks spence.
I agree with all the previous answers, I live in a coffee culturally deprived area. It is 70 miles to a decent cappo,or latte, let alone a great Ristretto.
What we get here is the "Cellulose sponge foam" filling a third or more of the container. The PBTC says "that is a real 'whatever we had ordered.'" I find it is now second nature to order "without the foam."
Cheers
Richard

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