Convincing profit-hungry executives to opt for fair trade in their investment coffee house.

We're currently using organic dillanos. I want to use Counter Culture or Higher Grounds, both fairly local roasters that are fair trade and organic. I manage the shop by myself, the corporate office for the company is 3 hours away... they want the costs to be low, so they want to keep using cheaper product. How can I convince them that fair trade is worth the extra expense? (More background to help my case, we're located in the downtown district of a college town, DIRECTLY across from the University. The ARTS department, actually.) Any advice for my fight?

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I think you need to show them the numbers, a lot of times "fair trade coffees" only cost pennies more per cup then non fair trade. Talk to them about how much easier it is for you to sell these coffees and talk about these coffees. And last but not least let them taste the quality differences between the roasters, at the end of the day we are selling coffee, taste should rule.
Open your own coffee house. You have the now how, why continue to grow a business that you clearly do not belive in, and one that clearly does not take the art and science of coffee serious. It's obvious they don't care about quality so with that said make the change! your guest will love you, and reward you for it. I am certain they already do see all of the profits financial and otherwise yourself (especially in the cup).

Has the corporate office tasted the difference? I think one selling point may be sitting them down and drinking counter culture side-by-side to what you are currently serving (sorry i can't speak for higher grounds as i'm not familiar with there product). Also take time to research what counter-culture is actually offering. I think if you look at there site they strive to be 100% transparent with their directly traded coffee's which i believe is much better than your fair trade label as they are working directly with the farmers. Their is a lot to be said about the both the honor shown to the farmer, but also in return a higher quality product that you can showcase.
It doesn't sound like the philosophy of the shop owner is to serve the best quality products possible. Also, think about the coffee vendors themselves...when we were researching beans, we were very concerned about the quality, but also concerned about the customer service of the potential coffee vendor. There was one company we thought had better beans, but they were such pains in the butt we didn't want to purchase from them. Then we did a blind taste test and it turned out we didn't like their beans better anyway. The customer service of our current coffee supplier is so good we are more than 100% sure we made the right choice.

Also, since you mention you are close to the University, then the owners are probably sensitive to how much their products cost. Remember also that they are in business...if the new coffee costs even 1 cent more per cup, then that translates to charging 5 cents more per cup if you want to keep your food costs at 20%. Raising prices in a college atmosphere might not necessarily be smart business. However, the opposite can also be true...often raising your standards and therefore prices can lead to increased sales in the RIGHT market. I do believe it may be worth trying. One thing you could do is look around at the competition..what are other coffee people in the neighborhood charging and selling.

You might try approaching the owners and asking them what their philosophy is. Tell them I think the shop should be associated with high quality and I think I can translate it to more sales if we market the fair trade coffee right. Approach them with the needs of THEIR business in mind, not YOUR conscience. Tell them you'd like to arrange a blind taste test on your own time and take it from there.
I wish I could sit down with a couple of you in a room with coffee and talk about my struggle in the coffee industry and my battles with corporations. Ultimate answer? FINALLY open my own shop. I need more time to research small business loans and financing that monster of a battle. The executive owners in this company (development company, an LLC. There are more than 50 different types of business within the office. The coffee shop started out with an IMMEDIATE overexpansion of 6 shops. Now my shop is the only one left because of poor management decisions and poor training, along with of course, less than exquisite coffee standards. So we're a coffee shop run by executives who are also overseeing 49+ cable companies, package stores, arcades, and random other stores. Most of them--- don't even drink coffee. They drink bottles of diet cokes when they visit and critique. It's ridiculous.) They would apparently like to replace our gelato machine with a hot dog cart of some sort. Yep, right in the middle of the coffee shop. A ketchup, relish, mustard, and ONION table right beside our coffee condiment stand. Can you IMAGINE what this will do to my poor shop?! So instead of taking the fair trade financial risk, it's going to be 89 cent hot dogs. I'm in an interesting war to say the least. I suppose the next step is to get exact numbers with pricing different roasters and bring the profitability possibilities to the table with maybe a survey of the students that frequent the shop about fair trade standards and what they'd prefer. The going opinion in the office that I've heard as well is that "Fair trade is strictly political. It's bad profitability to buy into it." I almost vomited the first time I heard that.

perhaps I'll do the best I can for now and save as much money as possible.

and soon...

my own shop.

thanks for the replies, guys!
you know...the head trainer at Dillanos is an active member of the SCAA, he is the current Southeast chapter representative for the Barista Guild, serving ont he SCAA Training Committee and is hosting an SCAA Skill building workshop at home base in November.

I say this because it truly sounds like you are on an island and you are discouraged. you need to hook up and fellowship face to face with coffee professionals.
It sounds to me that it is time for you to make a move to a better company. You are talking quality and they are talking hotdogs, I don't think you are going to win this war. Look out for you self and find a company that you are a better fit with. I have been in your shoes. Good luck.
Hey Guys,

Since the Dillanos name has been thrown out there a couple of times in this thread, I wanted to speak on our behalf. We care about quality and the well being of our supply chain as much as anybody. We do indeed offer fairly traded coffees as well as a very progressive line of direct relationship coffees. We are very proud of what we have done and what we will continue to do in this industry to make it better.


Check this for an article about one of the coffees in our One Harvest line. Just one example of what we are doing.

With love,

Jay! (TacomaPenna)
this is is simple misunderstanding. Sandy meant to say I worked for Dilworth Coffee, not Dillanos, so sorry you got drug into this one. I will be contacting her on behalf of the Barista Guild to see how we can best support her. Ultimately, it's about keeping her open, I am sure we can all agree on that. It's a tough balancing act for coffeehouses these days. Prices are going up on all your necessary basic products, and people are being pinched from all directions. It doesn't help that the customer is at their breaking point as far as what they will pay, so we can't pass those added expenses off to the customer without seeing sales drop. It's a hard time, for sure, but I truly believe that if you will run the best coffeehouse you can, the best in your area, and just focus on being the best in every area, you give yourself the best chance.
As far as the Fair Trade fight goes, that's a hard one. Because the average consumer does care about what they buy, but with all the certifications out there, it's hard for a roaster or even retailer to be all Fair Trade. It's even harder for the customer to know what all these designations are. Most of the larger coffee companies out there have started their own designations for a fair trade model, and this only confuses the customer more. So, there's both a challenge and an education opportunity there. Right now we roast coffees that are Fair Trade and Rainforest Certified, yet don't display the designations anywhere. We just try to do our best to inform our customers we are doing all we can to be as socially responsible as we can. And that may take on a different certification that Fair Trade, or Rainforest Certified. And we all know that Fair Trade doesn't equate to a better product.
So, there's good conversation on here, for sure. This is a battle we are all in the middle of, trying to find our way and navigate these rough waters. But, alas, the sea does calm down, you just gotta stay your course.

Jay Lijewski (TacomaPenna) said:
Hey Guys,
Since the Dillanos name has been thrown out there a couple of times in this thread, I wanted to speak on our behalf. We care about quality and the well being of our supply chain as much as anybody. We do indeed offer fairly traded coffees as well as a very progressive line of direct relationship coffees. We are very proud of what we have done and what we will continue to do in this industry to make it better.

Check this for an article about one of the coffees in our One Harvest line. Just one example of what we are doing.

With love,

Jay! (TacomaPenna)
I think Stephanie's post is spot-on. How to convince them that certified fair trade or direct trade is worth the extra expense? Prove it.

Does this change make business sense? What are your target drink margins? Will this change (maybe a 30% product cost increase) blow your margins? Can you raise prices to maintain these margins? Will this increase or decrease sales? Get creative.

This may fall on deaf ears, but practicing this sort of "cold, hard" analysis on their dime builds your skills, and you'll need them when you are running your own shop - not to generate fat profits, just to keep the doors open.

I would actually be curious to know... within this group, have any of you made a change like this? What sort of results did you see in terms of actual sales? Give Sarah some ammo here.

The hot dog thing is awful. Good luck.
yes, i am a dork and to know me is to love me......

I WAS refering to Jason Dominy who works at DILWORTH not Dillano's.

((slapping hand to forehead))

my bad and my apologies.

perhaps maybe, the job market is increasing for you?? you've got a great network of folks in your area.

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