New start-up trying to decide between the endless offerings for frappes and smoothies...what are your recommendations....Jet bases, Dr. Smoothie, MoCafe, Amor.....soy, pre-mixed coffee frappes or add your own to non coffee? We are looking for great quality but would love to keep it SIMPLE....is there an all in 1 you can just add sauces and coffee to including a Green Tea powder? Please Respond. Thanks!!!!!!
Mark Twain Ice & Coal

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Ricky,

Most who are looking to do blended drinks aren't willing to do what you do. Also, when dealing with a slower economy, simplicity is best. Kudos to you. I personally wouldn't add that to my menu, but for those who want to, I think yours is the right way to go.

Ricky Sutton said:
While i understand the model of not over-diversifying, i whole heartedly disagree with the nay-sayers here.

For instance, we have blenders and we are very much a coffee focused establishment. We also use the best ice cream in the state. I will proudly pull you a fantastic shot of espresso from what is acclaimed as being one of the best coffee roasters in the country, then i will drop that shot in the blender with some vanilla ice cream and turn it on. Your mind will be blown out the side of your head by the results.

It's not about what drinks you offer. It's about offering the finest possible quality version of what you offer.

What's wrong with a smoothie made from freshly delivered fruit from a local farmer? What's wrong with a shake made from the finest creamery's product? Don't do it if this isn't possible, but if it is possible... you will be unparalleled.

Another option is using the same lower quality crap that everyone else does, and raking in the money from the demographic that loves it.
Do I consider a blended "real coffee?" No, personally I don't. But I take just as much pride in the baked goods that we make freshly and the bagels we have from a local baker and those aren't coffee either...

Sorry to get all pissy, I'll shut up about that tangent now before I bury myself in a wave of controversy, haha. It's all just opinions anyway...

However, I was just re-reading the "Bitchen Blended Drinks" article in Barista Mag from a couple years back (don't think it's online anymore, though) yesterday and then discovered this thread.

I think the person I relate to most in that article is Matt Riddle from Intelligentsia. Basically he sums it up in the same light that Ricky does... If you're going to do it, do some research first. Build your drinks yourself and make them different than other people's. Make it your own and serve it with pride.

My summary: If you can't be just as proud of your blended creation as a ristretto you shouldn't be offering it.

As baristas it is our job to promote quality coffee and educate our customers, not to only serve those that already have the same level of knowledge/awareness of coffee that we do and share the same palate for coffee as us.

Sometimes it takes the gateway drink to get a customer in the door :)

-bry

John P said:
Ricky,

Most who are looking to do blended drinks aren't willing to do what you do. Also, when dealing with a slower economy, simplicity is best. Kudos to you. I personally wouldn't add that to my menu, but for those who want to, I think yours is the right way to go.

Ricky Sutton said:
While i understand the model of not over-diversifying, i whole heartedly disagree with the nay-sayers here.

For instance, we have blenders and we are very much a coffee focused establishment. We also use the best ice cream in the state. I will proudly pull you a fantastic shot of espresso from what is acclaimed as being one of the best coffee roasters in the country, then i will drop that shot in the blender with some vanilla ice cream and turn it on. Your mind will be blown out the side of your head by the results.

It's not about what drinks you offer. It's about offering the finest possible quality version of what you offer.

What's wrong with a smoothie made from freshly delivered fruit from a local farmer? What's wrong with a shake made from the finest creamery's product? Don't do it if this isn't possible, but if it is possible... you will be unparalleled.

Another option is using the same lower quality crap that everyone else does, and raking in the money from the demographic that loves it.
It seems to me that there is a dichotomy between competition signature drinks and "foo foo" drinks.
If we were honest with ourselves one of the biggest issues we have with customers putting flavor in a drink etc. is that we did not think of it first...or it is not pretentious enough.

There our thinking on the bar...
"You want me to add Hazelnut syrup to your Machiatto?!...ewe! gross!!!...how could you do that to my fine hand crafted coffee?!"

Then there is our thinking at the USBC...
"Judges, for my signature drink I have imported french Hazelnuts and gently roasted them over cedar...I will add some still water, Tahitian vanilla, cream, and a dash of pink Himalayan sea salt and simmer over mild heat to fully extract this rich unique flavor which compliments the Brazil I am using so well".

Hypocritical much?

Yeah...I know it is a bit of a straw man...but there is some truth to it. I think we need to be involved enough in the drinks creation that we know and are proud about every ingredient that goes into it. Most places cannot do this 100%. Most restaurants cannot and do not do this 100% for that matter...they just claim to. ...(Just look at the coffee offered at some of the world best restaurants!)
Bottom line is that those of us who are concerned with quality to the utmost are stuck in some form of compromise somewhere...living with that compromise for the customers sake(if only to patronize them) does not necessitate that we stay there for the life of our business. I think that we should have an honest look at our own hypocrisy on a regular basis and not begrudge the customer what we would call a crappy "foo foo" drink but then turn around and try and convince that our crap smells like roses.

That said...there is a fine line in my mind between quality ingredients added drinks...and non thinking flavor added drinks...I am pretentious, yes...but then so is the customer in their own right...In the end tit is my job to offer something truly great and coffee focused.
While most of us were looking in another direction, our industry put America's soda fountains out of business. I've always wondered why more coffee bars didn't revive them a bit by making their cold, sweet drinks out of the most delicious, simplest ingredients available: vanilla ice cream, syrup and milk. I think that's called a "milk shake." :-) Add a shot of espresso and it's a "grown-ups milk shake." :-)
You know, I've been playing around with fruits & coffee, and summer is near for ice drinks. I love Mango & Coffee, so this past week I created a simple drink: Ice-Mango Macchiato: Awesome taste: double espressos, crush ice blended with fresh mango, (2 pumps of caramels as base for the double espresso shots (will change out caramel flavor on my next trial) but right now it works well) and 1 inch of milk foam, and another spoon of ice on the bottom of the cup)!! This tastes delicious!!! yet not to sweet, mango is not overpowering and you can taste the smoothness of the espressos. Try it out!!1
If the blended, iced, etc. is a great solution, then why not open an additional business?

Having a great strategy for business is necessary, but let the strategy grow your sales, don't let sales grow your strategy. Making business decisions based on "customers through the door" and "sales" has never appealed to me. Blended drinks may be a great decision.... but for another business. If you are not already doing them, there is no reason to add. Eroding your core is never a good solution. Decisions should be thought about long term, not as a short term cash grab or revenue creator.

When adding/changing an element of your business, ask yourself:

What is the core of my business?
Does this decision build my core or erode my core?
Does this decision narrow my focus or blur my vision?
Does this decision help or hurt my positioning in the market?

The right decisions in business are like those in other aspects of life, sometimes the easiest path is not the best one.

My 2 cents.... and 98 more will get you a dollar.




Mike Adams said:
John P said:
RE: Blended drinks.

A. Don't do it. B. Refer to "A"

In a time when new businesses are struggling, you need to differentiate yourself. You can go ANYwhere and get a blended drink, but the number of places that focus on coffee/espresso is still relatively small in most every community. The "Starbucks" style model has lead many to failure. Offer something different. Offer quality, and focus on your coffee.

Build a business that dictates your customer base, rather than building a business where you let the customer base dictate you.

This might be a great solution for your business, John. If you can offer just quality coffee drinks and you're happy with your sales levels, then more power to you. However, I find that most retailers need to offer more to bring more people in the door. Just coffee is almost never enough.

I wholeheartedly agree with your point that differentiation is critical. When used correctly, many of the blended drink bases can be adapted, modified and tweaked to make them your own. Offering these drinks can help turn people on to your great coffee that would have never set foot inside had it not been for a Dr. Smoothie they picked up after a visit to the gym.
If you are looking for a simple and quality smoothie offering for your coffee bar, I would recommend also checking out Sweetbird Smoothies. They offer simple flavors that are very good, and modern packaging. They are pretty new to the coffee market here in the US, but are spreading the word well. Also, they are a big supporter of Barista Exchange and recently hired on the beloved Anastasia Chovan.

- Matt
Thanks for all the input. It has been a year now that we've been open and I have to say that what has worked for us is using real fruit in smoothies with natural yogurt and two shots of espresso with vanilla ice cream for the frapps. Being willing to be open to creating our own solutions has really helped us and although we have some of the best coffee in the region we also make some mean panini sandwiches and we serve ice cream...give the people what they want...we serve great coffee but we also have root beer floats. Thanks all.
Ice n Coal
Ricky-

I am so glad I read your post. I am opening a stand soon and found myself automatically deciding on Big Train- but the reality of it is- The BEST blended coffee drink I have ever had was an ice cream based drink with a shot of espresso (or two depending on the day). Thinking about it- we already are paying for all of the flavored syrups- why pay for over priced powders.

MMmm.. All I can think about is a creamy mocha shake.... and this is what I want my customers thinking, too... and none of my competition offers these..

Thanks for your post!

Ricky Sutton said:
While i understand the model of not over-diversifying, i whole heartedly disagree with the nay-sayers here.

For instance, we have blenders and we are very much a coffee focused establishment. We also use the best ice cream in the state. I will proudly pull you a fantastic shot of espresso from what is acclaimed as being one of the best coffee roasters in the country, then i will drop that shot in the blender with some vanilla ice cream and turn it on. Your mind will be blown out the side of your head by the results.

It's not about what drinks you offer. It's about offering the finest possible quality version of what you offer.

What's wrong with a smoothie made from freshly delivered fruit from a local farmer? What's wrong with a shake made from the finest creamery's product? Don't do it if this isn't possible, but if it is possible... you will be unparalleled.

Another option is using the same lower quality crap that everyone else does, and raking in the money from the demographic that loves it.
We use Jet Tea for our smoothies at Roots.
We just started using big train frappes, adding them to a milk/toddy base. Customers have loved them so far.
I am not a shop owner but from my observation I would take a look at serving gelato. It appeals to the entire family and not just coffee drinkers. The profit structure has got to be very high with the cost of a cup from $3-$5. I know one shop that opened 6 months ago and it is busy all day long serving gelato and it's winter.

Search it out.
Stay away from powder mixes if you can. Pull your own shots, add your own flavors then add base (we use ice cream base) then blend. You can easily post a listing of your flavors and suggested combinations. People will appreciate fresh espresso vs powder and it's a great marketing point that you build your drinks to suit the customer. Smoothies: we use Jet Tea and are pleased with the result.

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