What are your experiences in dropping the 20oz cup and limiting the variety of syrups you carry to the single digits?  Do customers care that they can't get a big gulp latte anymore or some unholy concoction of a five flavored 'latte'?  I really want to start getting a bit more strict and am a bit fearful over the reception.  Let me know your thoughts!

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Perhaps you ought to ask the question: why?

Why do you want to make the change? Because it's more "hardcore"? More "third wave"? More "cool"? Truth be told, these and other reasons are perfectly legitimate reasons because I presume it's your shop to do with what you please. That said, is it really the course you want to take?

We opened Spro on August 18, 2006 and offered 8,12,16,20z drinks. In February 2007, we dropped the 20z size and did not run into too many problems with our customers. By November 2007, we dropped the 16z cup and the backlash was so severe that I relented and returned the cup size to inventory and it has remained there as an "off menu" item.

When we opened Spro Hampden on March 19, 2010, we offered only the 12z cup for brewed coffees.

What I learned was that it is easier to give than to take away. Meaning that if you decide to eliminate, be prepared for a backlash and know how to handle it. We've never offered multiple flavors of lattes because we've only made and stocked vanilla and chocolate syrups.

Where we differ from the rest is that while we offer a limited menu, our focus is on excellent quality and customer service. We may only offer chocolate and vanilla syrups, but we make those in-house with the finest ingredients (and expensive) that we can find.

If you've been operating with multiple sizes and multiple flavors, streamlining can be daunting. It was for me. What turned me around was taking a serious look at our ingredient costs and how much it really costs us to make each individual beverage then making the commitment to price our offerings at a proper amount (typically our costs are thirty percent of our retail price).

Once I saw how much it really cost us per 16z/20z latte and how little we were making (or how much we were losing), the decision to change our pricing structure was very easy and clear. The choice then became to either: A) purchase cheaper ingredients, or B) maintain our quality standards and price accordingly.

Before you make a decision on cup sizes, I urge you to really analyze your cost and pricing structures first. It could be very revealing.
I've had several different latte jockey jobs in my 8 years of jockeying experience, and the sizes offered always varied. Indie places never usually offered the 20oz cups, save for my last job - we stopped offering that size (except for drip brew), and customers really didn't object. Most people would rather giant drips than giant lattes - something about the idea of that much steamed milk turns them off, understandably. Plus, we had a pretty big student population, and sitting for hours studying with giant cups of coffee was pretty popular. My current job is only offering 12oz and 16oz, but we're also offering discounts for people who bring their own reusable cups - if they're 20oz, we'll definitely fill them, but we won't offer that size for purchase.

I've had a few jobs who offered tons of different syrups, and a few who offer next to none. The places with tons of flavors had their pros and cons; cons (mostly) being that the syrups were expensive, and there were usually a handful that were never used, so they sat and sat and sat. On the other hand, lots of flavors gives you options when you're playing around with new drink ideas.

I'm working at a coffee shop/delicatessen right now that focuses on local, sustainable goods - so, we don't offer syrups at all really. I personally brew our chai syrup concentrate from local spices and herbs, using honey from a beehive that our owner has ownership in. We offer chocolate, caramel, and white chocolate sauces, because we source ingredients that allow us to brew our own sauces. (I should also mention that we're a catering company as well, which is why we have a kitchen with which we can brew things). There has been talk of brewing our own simple syrups seasonally, using local farmers market ingredients - which would be super cool. Brewing our own would allow us to play with different flavors without spending a ton of money, and we'd be able to offer only as many flavors as we see fit.

My suggestion? Forget about the 20oz cups, even for drip coffees. If people want that much, they'll come back for a refill. And, as far as syrups go, I'm a fan of making your own. It's definitely more cost-effective, and you can play with infused seasonal syrups. :)
I have a lot of reasons why I would like to drop the 20oz and flavors. The biggest reason is for quality and focus. I want the focus to be less on syrup flavor and more on the coffee. Less on quantity of milk and on quality of the coffee. My focus in doing so is not simply to copy like a wannabe 'third waver' or be more 'indie' or 'hardcore.' The reception was the thing I'm curious about (I suppose I could just give it a whirl) I would rather use it to educate people to appreciate something they would hopefully enjoy more than to overwhelm it with a ton of syrup. I want the coffee to be the focal point and not as an accessory or a source of caffeine. So it's definitely the course I want to take ... I just don't want to alienate people, but to ideally have them recognize they can't get this caliber of coffee anywhere else around here. Thanks for your reply, I'm kind of just thinking out loud here, I can see that dropping the 20oz won't be too big a deal, but limiting the syrups in this town may meet some resistance. All the more chance to educate I guess! I may loose some customers, but hopefully I will gain more loyals.
I don't know.

20 Ounce drinks pay the bills. I'd rather be making enough money to keep us in business, have nice equipment, and pay my baristas and myself a living wage.
The thing about statements like this is that you have to remember that your cost in is affecting the cost out. Sure the drink costs $5, but often it's one of your lowest profit drinks. I know I'd rather sell 100 8oz pour overs than 65 12oz mochas. At the end of the day, the mochas are going to look better on the tape, but they're going to look a lot worse when it comes time to restock ingredients.

-bry

Ryan Matthew Bugg said:
I don't know.

20 Ounce drinks pay the bills. I'd rather be making enough money to keep us in business, have nice equipment, and pay my baristas and myself a living wage.
Do it.
20oz don't pay the bills because they don't have the same profit margin as the smaller sizes. (Unless of course you're charging $5-6 a pop).

We took over a shop, dropped the 20oz and limited the syrups. We're already doing better than the previous owner.
Jay and all--

Do you think the fact that high quality coffee often changes dramatically as it cools provides any justification for large sizes? Or does the "Big Gulp to Go" symbolism simply de-value the product, trumping any opportunity for the appreciation of complexity?

I'm not sure myself. Twenty ounces in a vac pot with ceramic at a table is cool; 20 ounces in a paper cup while driving to work . . . not so much?
We serve Chemex, Press, and others with yields of 20+ ounces. I'm more referring to espresso based drinks.

Matt B said:
Jay and all--

Do you think the fact that high quality coffee often changes dramatically as it cools provides any justification for large sizes? Or does the "Big Gulp to Go" symbolism simply de-value the product, trumping any opportunity for the appreciation of complexity?

I'm not sure myself. Twenty ounces in a vac pot with ceramic at a table is cool; 20 ounces in a paper cup while driving to work . . . not so much?
I would love to drop our 20oz size, but we are in suburbia, and suburbia demands coffee in MASS quantities. I have on customer that complains that our large is too small. He says, "your large is a small everywhere else!"

I think it depends on your clientele and your region - in DFW, people want more, more more. Bigger cars, bigger homes, bigger cups of coffee. The women would rather get a 20oz sugar free nonfat whatever than a 12 or 8 ounce regular coffee or latte. Everyone adds splenda. I don't know why you would ruin amazing fair trade, organic coffee with splenda...

Sorry, a little vent there.
Limitations on size and flavors are easiest if this is something you start with from the inception or is an obvious direction your business has pursued by refining and upgrading your model on an annual/regular basis.

I would look at your sales over the past year and, if you have the ability, chart how many of each size are being sold. If the trend and percentages favor smaller sizes, make the change, but if it favors larger sizes then for the time being you may have to stick with it. Flavors are an easier fix. Really, beyond vanilla, caramel, and chocolate, you really won't piss off many people.

My belief is if you have to sell your customers on the idea, then you really don't believe what you are pushing.
Actions and results in terms of product quality, design, and business philosophy will lead your customers in a particular direction. Be true to who you are. If you are changing who you are, then who were you before?

Best of luck.
I dropped the 20 oz cups early in the year. We're planning a reduction of our cup sizes again this winter to bring our shop to strictly traditional sizes.

So far, we've had very little opposition. Go for it. : )
Just thought I would give an update on my experience.
I moved my coffee kiosk to a different location and used the change to tune up some things. So far, it seems that most people don't care if there isn't a 20oz. I have experienced slight resistance to limiting the flavors; I am the only kiosk/shop that doesn't have dozens of flavors. But so far, I've only had one person who left because I didn't have Macadamia Nut. However, it really just reinforced my convictions on dropping them. People like that don't like coffee, they like syrup. You can get syrups at any crusty coffee shop or gas station, but you can't get quality coffee there. Of course I'll sell them a drink, but I don't have to cater to them. For the most part it seems, with limitations on size and flavors, customers are prone to try new things more focused on the coffee.

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