here's our setup: we keep an airpot filled with one type of coffee in the morning (from a fetco 2031e) until 11am for folks who bring in mugs or just want a caffeine fix. after 11am we only do pourovers on our hario v60 brew bar.

we usually have 4-5 regular coffees plus a decaf available on the pourover bar. all are light to medium roast. currently we have an ethiopia sidama guji gr. 4, a sumatra permata gayo, an el salvador santa rita SHG, a decaf brazil serra negra, a kenya gaturine estate, and a rwanda rushashi duhingekawa from coffeeshrub.

point being, it's a good variety of coffees to suit different tastes. they're all accompanied by three tasting notes in a succinct format - the kenya, for instance, reads "winey, clean, citrus." all the coffees take roughly four minutes to brew and are $2.00 for a twelve ounce. i like the layout and it's pretty simple to see what the options are and choose one.

 

here's my dilemma - lately we've had an increasing number of people walk into the shop in the afternoon and say "can i just get a regular coffee?" when i explain to them our method of brewing coffee and show them the coffee menu, i often get a look of exasperation - like they don't have the time or inclination to pick one of the coffees. i can understand how they arrived at this mindset, considering how most places brew coffee. i understand it even though it's ludicrous in any other context - you'd have to be an idiot to walk into, say, the crappiest of bars and refuse to pick between bud light and miller lite.

one of my employees has recently started to give people an americano, no questions asked, when this situation occurs. an americano is probably closest to what they want anyways - it tastes like coffee and most of the notes in our coffees will be lost by the time people dump cream and sugar into them anyways. it's simply a waste of our time and coffee to make exasperated people choose a varietal and spend four minutes brewing it when they just want something vaguely coffee flavored into which they can dump additives.

 

so my question is twofold, i suppose: 1) how do other shops deal with this quandary? 2) should i just start giving them americanos, no questions asked - or should i try to educate them?

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I think it just takes some time. If they're coming into your shop then they must have some notion of the quality so I wouldn't write them off but I would give them time to warm up to a different notion of what coffee can be.

Build the loyalty through customer service and rapport and then they will care what you have to say.
Its been my experience in the past that when trying to educate without interest from the customer typically it only ends up getting on their nerves. Definitely educate but wait for that "opt in" moment that James Hoffman wrote about in one of his blogs a few months ago. Most all of our devout handbrew customers started as the "16 oz coffee room for cream" persona.
At our cafes we only serve pour over coffee by the cup (we aren't cool enough to have hario yet, still using good ol' melittas). When the typical (and frequent) "I just want a coffee" guy/gal comes in, I usually default to the "OK, do you like a lighter or darker roast?" or "Do you have a roast preference?" At this point I use their response to gauge how many more questions to ask before I just get one started for them. If they don't seem to care too much, I will use one of our house blends according to what roast they said they preferred. So often these guests are the ones who just want "something in the middle, like a medium roast" that our blends typically tend to taste like what they are looking for. If they do seem interested then I'll try to give a bit more info on our other offerings(FTO or single origin brews), brew method and so on, and as far as educating the guest? I will usually use the time that their coffee is brewing to educate them on what I chose/recommended for them (if that was the case) or why we brew the coffee this way etc...Obviously there are times when I'm getting more than just that persons coffee going on our bar for up to 10 at a time, but any guest who seems even slightly interested I try to give them something to take away and hopefully it will bring them back.

Very similar to what we do here.  We keep an airpot of "house blend" all day (it used to be a featured single origin, but most people who want "just coffee and right now" want "dark roast bite" so we roast the blend differently, which also forces people who want a lighter roasted single origin to opt for brewbar).

We usually have 3-5 single origins available on the brewbar (12oz Clever or 16oz press).  But we also have failed miserably to get customers to move to the brewbar and, in fact, have lost at least a dozen regular drip customers by being so outlandish as to suggest waiting for a hand brew.

So now, after lunch we do 1/2 pots of house blend on the Fetco. Fortunately very little waste. All decafs are Americanos.

It's frustrating. Especially when there are a couple of shops downtown having success with handbrewing. Such is life in the 'burbs.

The bright side is that since we started roasting our own in October, whole bean is up a bunch, so that offsets some of the lost drip revenue.  We have great conversations with those folks. But not the people who just want some coffee, quick.

jared, those are some beautiful offerings!  wish i could do something similar, but the majority of my customers are usually rushed for time, especially first thing in the morning when they are trying to get themselves and their horses ready for competitions and the show ring.

but, i kind of heard you answer your own question.  i think the best you can do is educate when you can--when you see/feel a customer has the time, interest, and appreciation for coffee quality and barista skill. to me, that particular customer is what this industry is all about.  that particular customer keeps me interested in trying to learn and share all that you have mentioned in your discussion opening.

and sometimes, i believe so many people/customers are simply maxxed out on daily, sometimes trivial (not coffee subject matter!), and sometimes repetitious (not coffee subject matter!) questions, that they simply want someone else to make the decision or choice for them.  it sometimes just boils down to that.  when you have this customer, just make the decision for them.  you're going to sell them a great cup of coffee regardless of the choice, right?...including an americano.  so, do that, and smoothly inform them (briefly) the roast type or the bean/blend combo you've chosen for them.  i believe that customer will be relieved of not having to impose on their brain one more choice/decision, and i believe when they return again, they will ask you to offer them the same choice.  win-win. bravo!

(those are great comments, chris/dale...wish i could have summed it up so succinctly!)

Maybe you should just make a decision to go with the Fetco or the pourover?

 

By doing this morning one way and afternoon another you're creating the situation of confusion and irritation with your customers.  By doing this herky jerky approach you place in the minds of your customers that your coffee is equivalent to the Bud Light and Miller Lite in a crappy bar.

 

There is no "educating" a customer unless that person wants to be educated. 

Jay, suggesting that a well extracted Fetco brew is the "bud light" of specialty coffee is ridiculous. Regardless of your decision to build your own shop around manual brewing, small batch brewing is an efficient solution for shops wanting to handle their volume with consistent quality at reasonable staffing levels. I've tasted a lot more decent brews off batch brewers than I have from manual brewers in many shops. 

 

Jared, your post suggests to me that it's not the wait that they're most confused  by, but rather the choice. There's a simple solution: just as you choose one of your coffees to batch brew in the morning, choose one as a default offering for those customers who aren't inclined to make a choice from the menu. 

Jay Caragay said:

Maybe you should just make a decision to go with the Fetco or the pourover?

 

By doing this morning one way and afternoon another you're creating the situation of confusion and irritation with your customers.  By doing this herky jerky approach you place in the minds of your customers that your coffee is equivalent to the Bud Light and Miller Lite in a crappy bar.

 

There is no "educating" a customer unless that person wants to be educated. 

the reason for the single airpot in the morning is that we actually use them up in a 45 min - 1 hour timeframe. in the afternoon that's not the case. pourovers are available any time - if someone doesn't like the bean we're brewing in the airpot in the morning, they can get a pourover. also an airpot coffee is $1.50 with $.50 refills, while a pourover is $2.00 with full price refills. most great bars around here have a lot of microbrews for $3.50/4.00 a pint, then a PBR tallboy for $2 for people who just want to get drunk. i kind of view it that way. i don't think it's confusing, as everything is clearly labeled. 

 

my question is more whether or not it's appropriate to give someone an americano instead of a "regular coffee" because you know that's what will best suit their needs.

Jared,

 

We've never done "regular coffee".  It's always been Americano... and siphon the past two and a half years for those who want both an exceptional coffee and and exceptional experience. I'm in line with both you AND Jay here.  For now, offer the Americano is a good solution. 

 

But...

 

...make a decision on who you want to be. You either cater to the "everyman" or you don't. Decide what kind of shop you want to be and be it. Everyone doesn't have to have their coffee NOW. There are places for that...  called "gas station" and "convenience store". You are neither. Remember that, and reward the customers who care about what you do. 

 

Oh, and $2.00 for a pourover... too cheap. I would raise your prices. Your offerings and the time you take to make coffee properly warrant it.

Why not just make them a coffee you feel fits the typical profile of what they are looking for. Usually coffee that is syrupy, slightly darker , and neutral will do the trick. Just make them the coffee as though it were specifically requested. Any more complication and you will see them glaze over and you will lose a customer. As amazing as a coffee may be...to many it is JUST coffee. So instead of finding your personal satisfation in their "aha" moment. Find satisfaction in satisfying them...then in the fact that you are supporting great coffee whether the customer knows it or not.
Great thoughts here btw

Chris/Dale said:
I think it just takes some time. If they're coming into your shop then they must have some notion of the quality so I wouldn't write them off but I would give them time to warm up to a different notion of what coffee can be.

Build the loyalty through customer service and rapport and then they will care what you have to say.
Its been my experience in the past that when trying to educate without interest from the customer typically it only ends up getting on their nerves. Definitely educate but wait for that "opt in" moment that James Hoffman wrote about in one of his blogs a few months ago. Most all of our devout handbrew customers started as the "16 oz coffee room for cream" persona.

"Jay, suggesting that a well extracted Fetco brew is the "bud light" of specialty coffee is ridiculous." 

Keaton, since you actually quoted my post, I would have expected you to have actually read what I wrote.  Allow me to refresh your memory:

 

" By doing this herky jerky approach you place in the minds of your customers that your coffee is equivalent to the Bud Light and Miller Lite in a crappy bar."

 

The impression that the coffee is little more than "Bud Light" is inherent in the incoherent approach to presenting the coffee and not the brew method itself.

 

"Regardless of your decision to build your own shop around manual brewing, small batch brewing is an efficient solution for shops wanting to handle their volume with consistent quality at reasonable staffing levels. I've tasted a lot more decent brews off batch brewers than I have from manual brewers in many shops. "

Without a doubt, it is much more simple and easier to grind a predetermined amount of coffee, plop it into a paper filter lined basket and hit the brew switch.  A properly calibrated batch brewer can consistently deliver a great cup of coffee.  

 

That said, it takes great skill and practice to craft consistent hand-brewed coffee.  It is very difficult to execute consistency and completely understandable that it is not the right fit for all shops.

 

The difficulty inherent is the "batch in the morning, by the cup in the afternoon" is that the product and the experience is inconsistent.  First off, why bother with the hand brew anyway?  If you've got a great batch brew program, why give your customers reason to be confused and dissatisfied with their experience?

 

Jared-

Again, it's not about whether you (as the operator) thinks it's confusing, it's about the impression that your clientele has about your business.

Man!  I yearn for offerings like yours in coffee bars! 

I reckon you could do what you're doing but maintain a 'coffee-du-jour'.  Rotate through your available offerings and make one available as that day's fall-back position.

 

At our shop we offer a french press of the day that we brew by the 1.5 litre press and decant into airpots as our coffee of the day.  Today was a Sumatra Permato Gayo (did you get yours from Atlas, too?!).  Tomorrow is a funky natch Sidamo, something else the next day...When someone really presses their point of wanting, "just a regular coffee..." we brew the Americano but we usually give them a few ounces of the daily choice while we're making their shot.  We say the Americano is like scotch and the FP is like wine and they can usually see what we mean within a minute or two.

 

Education happens in funny ways.  I'm always surprised by who becomes regular at the shop.  I gotta say though, a good attitude sells a lot more coffee than a huge selection and a wide variety of brew methods.

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