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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My take on the no-foam request is that the customers experience with foamy milk is not satisfying. Usually "foam" means milk over steamed, airy, no texture nor taste. This usually is made/steamed by inexperienced Baristas. The customer is protecting themselves from getting another bout of crummy steamed milk so they ask for no foam. However there is the customer that truly wants flat milk to the top, which gives them a very hearty beverage. I did have a customer request that I take off the little coffee art on top as they adamently requested NO FOAM! I bit my tongue.
I don't know if it's a regional thing, or if where I live right now is just not classy enough for specialty coffee, but we have such a huge problem with people ordering capps, and (as we are trained to ask how dry they want it) getting dumb looks or unhappy people when they get a cup that is lighter than expected. It all comes down to stupid sugary fake gas station "cappuccinos" which is I guess what they are expecting, but it's so frustrating...some type of standard would be nice, obviously no one is going to do it exactly the same, but when gas stations market a product as something just because the name is classy sounding, it is almost impossible to be able to educate customers on what they should actually order.
In our concepts, we consider those coffee drinks in two catagories. One is the traditional ones and should be made the same as they are in Italy; The other one is non-standard, which can be made as you like and prefer.

For the traditional ones, like cappuccino and caffe latte, they have been most possibly improved to the best in decades of years. On the other hand, they are all popular around the world. If you made something different from the traditional ones, your customers will never know what it is and find what they like. That is dangerous for your business, I believe.

At this time of the world, people are traveling around the world quite a lot, and can be any part of the world everyday. It is not like the old time, they do not even cross a mountain, so that people apart from a mountain, they do not understand others' accent of the same language, Chinese. We should speak the same language of coffee, both for the baristas and the customers. Keep in mind that our work is for the satisfaction of our customers. We serve them and they survive us.
Yeah, those gas station "cappuccinos" are the bane of our existence too. You are right, the trick is finding a tactful way to figure out if they want a real capp or vanilla latte, without confusing the customer that actually just wants a capp. I find that offering to sweeten it (and maybe a quick description of "our cappuccino") for them is a great way to do this. The capp people appreciate the hospitality, the latte people look a little confused and you can suggest a few alternatives. This is more appealing to me than offering to deviate from the house capp's microfoam texture. We're happy to accommodate this as a special request, but I don't like to suggest it.
I generally tackle the situation the same way others have mentioned, just enough foam for some art (to keep the 'wow' factor in play as a backup) and ensure proper drink volume, so if anything, they know they're getting their monies worth.

The origins of this request seem to be universal, stemming from negative experiences at franchised shops where they were given a drink with heavy lattice, 2/3 the volume and nothing which really convinces people that the latte as a beverage is worth the money.

Introducing the real assemblage of the drink to unknowing customers can be like walking on eggshells, depending on the kind of shop and what kind of clientelle you attract, not everyone is in to learn something new. At the same time its the knowledge that you're willing to share that attracts the real die hards and really helps to form a tight and devoted customer base.

Basically, the approach that seems to work for me is, make it how the customer wants it, and if they ask questions, indulge them.
My biggest pet peeve is when I request a latte and I receive a cappuccino. One of the issues is, as was discussed here, the foam is not that beautiful microfoam that you can make designs with but a thick foam that takes a huge portion of the cup. I recently have a barista tell me "A latte has 25% foam" when I watched my coffee drink be made like a cappuccino. I was like in what world? I have been drinking lattes for about 15 years and I just am sick and tired of receiving cappuccinos when I ask for lattes. Additionally sometimes people way overheat and scald the milk which makes the latte taste bizarre. There are many people who don't know how to properly make a drink so you should not take this drink order as offensive, or as the customer has an issue. They probably have just had tons of messed up "lattes" in their lives.
It is very, very true. I do believe that they should make them as they used to be in Italy for decades of years.

Let me try to explain it clearly, again.

It is something related to the [b]"standards of coffee drinks"[x], not tastes of espresso.

From the commercial point of view, specially for those cafes' owners, why do you like to make "hide-and-seek" iwth your clients? Why do you hide those preferable coffee drinks in your menu so as your clients not to find them? Why do you offer them with what they do not prefer so that they cannot get what they like? Is that business? Or, a joke?! If they can easily find what they want, is it better for your business? That is money!

I prefer that, you can change the recipes and processing procedures, but change the name accordingly, so that your clients can recognize them, and decide what to get.

I am still not sure whether I explain it well or not, but I hope that it makes some sense.


Maia said:
My biggest pet peeve is when I request a latte and I receive a cappuccino. One of the issues is, as was discussed here, the foam is not that beautiful microfoam that you can make designs with but a thick foam that takes a huge portion of the cup. I recently have a barista tell me "A latte has 25% foam" when I watched my coffee drink be made like a cappuccino. I was like in what world? I have been drinking lattes for about 15 years and I just am sick and tired of receiving cappuccinos when I ask for lattes. Additionally sometimes people way overheat and scald the milk which makes the latte taste bizarre. There are many people who don't know how to properly make a drink so you should not take this drink order as offensive, or as the customer has an issue. They probably have just had tons of messed up "lattes" in their lives.
Same thing happens to me often, just because Mongolians are not really into espresso drinks. Some they don't know the difference between cappuccino and latte or brewed coffee which added some milk or cream. I mean these people want something like their "milk tea".
So my answer is I do not give them flat like nothing. I do it with micro micro foams with thin layer- still on which I could do etching or sketching!
Cheers,
Nice to hear you, in Mongolia.


Oyuna said:
Same thing happens to me often, just because Mongolians are not really into espresso drinks. Some they don't know the difference between cappuccino and latte or brewed coffee which added some milk or cream. I mean these people want something like their "milk tea".
So my answer is I do not give them flat like nothing. I do it with micro micro foams with thin layer- still on which I could do etching or sketching!
Cheers,
Usually when someone orders a "latte-no foam" it refers to shops that scoop foam. If your using well textured milk and especially with art on top... you're gunna have a happy customer. Leave them room to explore custom coffee drinks, but make them aware of the goodness that comes out of a well crafted latte, capp, etc...
Matt Davis said:
Usually when someone orders a "latte-no foam" it refers to shops that scoop foam. If your using well textured milk and especially with art on top... you're gunna have a happy customer. Leave them room to explore custom coffee drinks, but make them aware of the goodness that comes out of a well crafted latte, capp, etc...

That's not entirely true. You've just made an absolute claim that has been proven to be non-absolute before it was even made.
I'd have to agree with Matt, for the most part. I would probably take the time to ask the customer to clarify his/her request if this were to happen to me.

Jason - Since when is the word "usually" considered an absolute? Give a fella some slack! :)

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