Most shops I know offer coffee from a single roaster, no matter how many origins or blends they feature at a time.  But the coffee shop I'm sitting in right now has a retail shelf with beans from three different roasters, a couple of different blends or origins from each.  Behind the bar they're doing espresso from one roaster while drip brewing a single origin from another.  

Does anyone else do this?  What would be the advantages or disadvantages of featuring coffee from different roasting companies?  Advantages/disadvantages of choosing to affiliate with a single roaster?  

I realize that training and support would be an issue.  That aside, it seems like this particular shop is maybe trying to cater to a perceived preference of customers when it comes to bean offerings.  How much does this decision affect a shop's identity or image?

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Sounds like a great new shop Jay. Congrats and good luck!
Stefan Hersh said:
If your model is strictly business then the multiple roasts concept is difficult to defend.

Why do you say that?

In many industries, it is recommended practice to source multiple suppliers for purchased goods. It gives you options when you have availability issues or price disagreements with one supplier. That's a pretty sound business policy.
Here's a related question for you multiple-roaster shops... Do you sell beans and coffees under the roaster's name, or under yours? I can see benefits of both approaches, and am curious what the experiences have been.

Another item to add to the discussion - there are some very good roasters that only do exclusive arrangements.

Good discussion.
Why would anyone settle for one roaster?
How could having multiple roasters put a business at a disadvantage?

On our 'today's coffees' menu we identify the coffee by estate / farm / co-op /whatever, certifications, region & country of origin, varietals, sometimes processing and tasting notes. We leave the name of the roaster out, and have for several months. We didn't like when the roaster's name or location effected purchase decisions. Not to say that the roasters are unimportant, the info is just left out in preference of other information we deem more important.

On our retail shelf, whole bean coffees are offered in bags using the roaster's packaging. Sometimes we get people who look at the shelf and ask "who roasts your coffee?" but most people get it. It's a good conversation starter. Dialogue is soooo important.

In the 10 months we've been open, we have featured coffees from at least as many roasters. I don't see this as "confusing our brand". It is a very integral part of our brand. Like a roaster, we seek out and sell coffee we like... it's just roasted. The strength of those offerings easily surpasses that of a shop using a single roaster. If not, please tell me the name of the roaster that does it all well all of the time.
As articulated elsewhere here it is simply much more economical to buy quantity from one source at as steep a discount as possible. That means one coffee order instead of many, a training regimen suited to one coffee and presumably a volume discount. To manage accounts with multiple roasters is a commitment of much greater resources: time and money both.


Brady said:
Stefan Hersh said:
If your model is strictly business then the multiple roasts concept is difficult to defend.

Why do you say that?

In many industries, it is recommended practice to source multiple suppliers for purchased goods. It gives you options when you have availability issues or price disagreements with one supplier. That's a pretty sound business policy.
We sell beans from each roaster they way the sell them. We even go as far as having our baristas wear shirts from other coffee houses and we have been toying with the idea starting a "disloyalty card" here in Chicago.

Brady said:
Here's a related question for you multiple-roaster shops... Do you sell beans and coffees under the roaster's name, or under yours? I can see benefits of both approaches, and am curious what the experiences have been.

Another item to add to the discussion - there are some very good roasters that only do exclusive arrangements.

Good discussion.
One could argue that the additional expense in terms of time and money is buying competitive advantage. We brew EVERY cup to order. Sure it would be easier and more cost effective to brew a big urn of swill, but would I have as many customers?
Stefan Hersh said:
As articulated elsewhere here it is simply much more economical to buy quantity from one source at as steep a discount as possible. That means one coffee order instead of many, a training regimen suited to one coffee and presumably a volume discount. To manage accounts with multiple roasters is a commitment of much greater resources: time and money both.
Brady said:
Stefan Hersh said:
If your model is strictly business then the multiple roasts concept is difficult to defend.

Why do you say that?

In many industries, it is recommended practice to source multiple suppliers for purchased goods. It gives you options when you have availability issues or price disagreements with one supplier. That's a pretty sound business policy.

Theoretically, yes. Real-world, not so much.

Have you actually found that the difference between being a 80lb-a-week and being a 40lb-a-week customer severely changes your bargaining position with your supplier? Is there any PRICE bargaining power at all in the volumes that your average shop buys?

Buying in volume works great for cups, but for perishable product?
How about a "Loyal to The Bean" card with your logo on the front and the roasters you feature on the back?

Stefan Hersh said:
We sell beans from each roaster they way the sell them. We even go as far as having our baristas wear shirts from other coffee houses and we have been toying with the idea starting a "disloyalty card" here in Chicago.

Brady said:
Here's a related question for you multiple-roaster shops... Do you sell beans and coffees under the roaster's name, or under yours? I can see benefits of both approaches, and am curious what the experiences have been.

Another item to add to the discussion - there are some very good roasters that only do exclusive arrangements.

Good discussion.
Depending on the roaster I can unequivocally say Hell Yes. Especially in this economy. He asked, I crunched the numbers. It hurts the bottom line and my own struggle to keep my doors open but I just gave a struggling wholesale cafe customer a temporary 20% recession discount even though my actual cost of greens has gone up 18% in the last year and 10.3% just since the end of October '09. I'm in it for the long haul and will bend over backwards helping a loyal customer survive, whatever it takes. I would not give the same discount to a onsie twosie account.

Brady said:

Is there any PRICE bargaining power at all in the volumes that your average shop buys?

Buying in volume works great for cups, but for perishable product?
miKe mcKoffee aka Mike McGinness said:
Depending on the roaster I can unequivocally say Hell Yes. Especially in this economy. He asked, I crunched the numbers. It hurts the bottom line and my own struggle to keep my doors open but I just gave a struggling wholesale cafe customer a temporary 20% recession discount even though my actual cost of greens has gone up 18% in the last year and 10.3% just since the end of October '09. I'm in it for the long haul and will bend over backwards helping a loyal customer survive, whatever it takes. I would not give the same discount to a onsie twosie account.
Brady said:

Is there any PRICE bargaining power at all in the volumes that your average shop buys?

Buying in volume works great for cups, but for perishable product?

Hmmm. Very interesting, Mike. Thanks for adding that.

For the record, I should say that we've used the same roaster exclusively since we opened. As a good friend of mine has said, coffee is a relationship business.
Well the potential volume discount is only part of the equation but in fact that aspect of the "theory" is indeed unproven in my experience. Offering choice is certainly a competitive advantage in mature markets like San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, but that advantage is less evident in our relatively immature market in Chicago.

Brady said:
Stefan Hersh said:
As articulated elsewhere here it is simply much more economical to buy quantity from one source at as steep a discount as possible. That means one coffee order instead of many, a training regimen suited to one coffee and presumably a volume discount. To manage accounts with multiple roasters is a commitment of much greater resources: time and money both.
Brady said:
Stefan Hersh said:
If your model is strictly business then the multiple roasts concept is difficult to defend.

Why do you say that?

In many industries, it is recommended practice to source multiple suppliers for purchased goods. It gives you options when you have availability issues or price disagreements with one supplier. That's a pretty sound business policy.

Theoretically, yes. Real-world, not so much.

Have you actually found that the difference between being a 80lb-a-week and being a 40lb-a-week customer severely changes your bargaining position with your supplier? Is there any PRICE bargaining power at all in the volumes that your average shop buys?

Buying in volume works great for cups, but for perishable product?

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