Jay, thanks for linking that discussion. Some good thoughts.
On a side note (related to a previous side trip that this thread took), I'd like to take a second to applaud the SCAA's and BGA's recent decision to offer two opportunities for baristas in the Southeast region to earn BGA Level 1 certification. There's also now a chance to take the requisite BGA Customer Service class. These all happen in conjunction with the Southeast regional comp in Atlanta next week. Registration for all of those is now open, click here for more info.
I think that this is a smart move, and I sincerely hope that people are able to take advantage of these opportunities.
As reluctant as I am to resuscitate this thread, I'd like to add some thoughts, mostly positive, following last week's SERBC.
First off, it was great to see so many friends there. I love events like this because they give us a reason to collect in one spot for a couple of days. I see why Jason calls these "Coffee Family reunions".
I was happy to see a packed classroom for the SCAA Instructor Development Program class. This was a great class that I personally found useful (as I'm currently working on developing my own training material). The growth of this program also means that there is a growing pool of instructors for event organizers (like myself) to pull from in the future. Qualified instructors are the foundation for future regional events, so I was glad to see so much work being done in that area. Kudos to Ellie, Ildi, and Heather for a great program.
If you, like me, want to see the SCAA and BGA offer more local events in the future, watch for opportunities to take this class and then do it.
On the other hand, I was disappointed that more people didn't take advantage of the opportunity to seek BGA Level 1 Certification. Perhaps this speaks more to the late notice, or the fact that these events took place on an already jam-packed weekend... but I'm still kinda disappointed.
I'd also like to share an observation about the venue. Though the World Congress Center is a little removed, and "the bunker" not necessarily as attractive as some other spots, the spot worked AND this site represented a huge cost savings. I think that speaks to the notion that Marcus and co are working hard to reign in costs while still presenting a quality event.
As a first time judge, I did find the training class to be valuable. Scott, Dan, and Rob did a really good job. We were treated to a great lunch (at a slow restaurant) and I really felt that our time and effort was appreciated by everyone involved.
Finally, I did have some good discussions on topics that we've covered here with Dan and Marcus. There does seem to be genuine concern within both the BGA and SCAA on many of these issues, and I'm optimistic.
Re BGA certs - what's the real value proposition here? Let's just consider my base of business - Pittsburgh - for a second. It would be highly doubtful that any of the top 6-8 shops here would have anyone get certified. The baristas at those shops are either already trained well beyond BGA cert requirements - or the perception that they are trained beyond BGA certs exists.
I would think Pittsburgh is fairly representative of many non-coastal second or third-tier cities with a small, established base of solid quality shops representing maybe 5-10% of the total # of coffeehouses.
So is the market for BGA cert then the other 90-95% of shops or some portion thereof? If it is, what are you communicating as the value? Is it cost savings/better service & consistency/train-the-trainer-education to the owner (who may/may not have the money to sponsor an attendee) or professionalism of the barista (who likely doesn't have the money to register or travel to attend). And why would that barista want to attend, if, once they get back to their job, the infrastructure doesn't exist to really support their newly acquired knowledge/skills.
I'm thinking that maybe BGA should be aligning with roasters on selling this - when a roaster opens a new account, they subsidize this training as part of their value add. Or the roaster has a certified trainer in-house and does the certification themselves. It would seem a way to reach more people and at less expense to coffeehouse owners and baristas who are already cash-strapped.
The way our industry seems to work these days is that the relationship between the barista and roaster is almost, if not more, as important as the relationship between a roaster and the coffeehouse owner.
Just thinking out loud.
Great idea, Rich!
And good points also previous to that Paragraph.
Rich Westerfield said:
I'm thinking that maybe BGA should be aligning with roasters on selling this - when a roaster opens a new account, they subsidize this training as part of their value add. Or the roaster has a certified trainer in-house and does the certification themselves. It would seem a way to reach more people and at less expense to coffeehouse owners and baristas who are
Nothing wrong with "resuscitating" this thread. Obviously, the discussion is still very pertinent and on the minds of people within our industry. The shame is that certain types want to either keep the discussion contained or quelled altogether.
I wouldn't be too disappointed about the BGA L1 Cert attendance, the program is still young and it still has to prove itself to both baristas and shop owners that it's a worthy and viable program.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to discuss this issue with people "in the know." According to them, complete certification will cost about $2,000. I'm guessing this is on par with places like the ABC and other training places, but still $2,000 is a considerable investment for the workaday barista. And is a shop owner going to spend $2,000 per barista for training when that training is spread out sporadically over the country and over many months of time?
As a shop owner, I need to get a new hire trained up as a barista in the shortest amount of time possible. And when you start to look at the different "Levels" the skillets are spread out a bit too much for me to consider it a viable training alternative.
Good to hear that you found the judges training to be worthwhile. Scott, Rob and Dan are top-notch instructors. Now, when you say you were treated to a great lunch - who paid? The SCAA? I mean, one should expect that since they're charging a fee to take the class.
And for those of you interested in "alternative" discussion regarding the competition, its expenses and the attitudes of those so-called SCAA "leaders", check out this thread:
And while you're reading, consider this: membership to post to coffeed is at the discretion of Alistair Durie and Robert Goble, owners of Elysian Coffee in Vancouver, BC. It's the epitome of the "Third Wave Cool Kids Club" where transparency is touted but censorship and "circling the wagons" is the reality.
How do I know? I was censored and banned a couple of years ago for publicly criticizing the coffeed, the SCAA and Nick Cho's tax fraud convictions.
In the thread, Rita Kaminsky of Albina Press gives a simple (and lowball) breakdown of the costs involved for judges. Zak Rye asks a question on the board only to have his answer received offline (away from scrutiny and public discussion). Anthony Rue challenges assertions.
The rest of the participants are the usual "Defenders of the SCAA Faith", but the most interesting and perhaps most telling is the response from the current SCAA President, Peter Giuliano:
"I would love it if the system allowed us to help cover some travel expenses for judges and other volunteers. But that's simply not a reality, and it probably won't be."
I mean really, if anyone were in a position to actively make changes to the SCAA and the way it handles things, it is Peter Giuliano. His post demonstrates that he's neither interested nor cares about the people that spend their hard-earned money to volunteer and make the events successful.
Take Rita Kaminsky's example of judging two regional competitions per year (one within driving distance), she says her lowball figure is $2,000 - that's a heck of an expense.
With that in mind, let's take a look at what it might cost for someone to judge the NERBC in Manhattan, New York City, the weekend of April 8th. I'm using this as an example because it's the regional that I was encouraged to judge by some friends.
First off, New York is within driving distance of my home in Baltimore. Google Maps says it's a 187mi, 3h37m one way trip. Round trip and I'm driving 374 miles and taking under eight hours. According to the IRS 2011 Mileage Reimbursement of $.51/mile, that drive will cost me: $190.74. Add to that the cost of parking in Chelsea with Central Parking at $30/24 hours and that's easily another $120 plus taxes (maybe $140).
Or I could hop a Continental flight from BWI to EWR (Newark) which today costs $213, plus the cost of parking my car at BWI ($7/night) and the transfer from EWR to my hotel in Manhattan (taxi: $50-75 one way, $100-150 round trip).
Now, where to stay? The event is being held in the meatpacking district so I want to stay someplace relatively close because judges training usually starts by 9am and I don't want to commute very far. Priceline lists 23 hotels in the Chelsea area. I would want to stay at the Holiday Inn, Four Points, Wyndham Garden or Hilton Garden, which would be about $144.20/night - that's a base rate of $576.80 for four nights (presuming I'm checking out and leaving the city immediately after the competition on Sunday).
And that price does not include the 14.75 NYC taxes, the $3.50/night surcharge, which brings the hotel total to: $675.88.
What about meals? With the plethora of eating opportunities, it's difficult to figure out just what you're going to eat, where and how much it will cost. So, we'll use the GSA Meals & Incidental Expenses chart to guide us. http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/101518
New York City hits the highest category (no wonder, it's a very expensive city) with an M&IE allowance of $71 per day, and since Wednesday and Sunday are the travel days, they are rated at 75% allowing you $53.25/day for a total M&IE of $319.50.
Seventy-one dollars per day. In the Greatest City in the World. Gotham City. $71 really isn't that much. The SCAA President can easily blow more than that in one meal (and to be fair, so can I). Heck, we've had meals where $71 wouldn't cover half the cost of that bottle of wine! So, $71/day is a generously low figure but you certainly can eat nicely with a bialy & coffee for breakfast at a cart, Gray's Papaya for lunch and the vatapa at Ipanema on 46th for dinner.
Oh, and lest I forget, there's the $50 judging fee since I'm not a BGA member and my company is not an SCAA member. Of course, they'll encourage me to join so the judges certification is "free" but that cost to the SCAA remains - which makes me wonder how a non-profit association can afford to operate in the red like this?
So, let's look at the basic costs for a person to participate as a judge in the 2011 NERBC:
Travel - $310.74 (car), $425.00 (air)
Hotel - $675.88
M&IE - $319.50
Judging Fee - $50.00
Estimated Total: $1,356.12 - $1,470.38
Nearly fifteen hundred dollars for a judge to volunteer and participate in making the event a success. Considering that the majority of the people who volunteer their time and effort are not being funded by an Intelligentsia, Counter Culture or syrup manufacturer, we're talking people who work in or own small coffee companies. Not multi-million dollar powerhouses spending untold hundreds of thousands recruiting "talent" or sending their people around the world buying coffee and mugging for the camera.
For these people (including just about every head judge within the USBC that I know personally), fifteen hundred dollars is no small expense. It is a considerable amount of money - and then the SCAA "leadership" has the gall to complain about the expenses and give thin reasons why they are "charging" (but still work at a deficit with membership prices) an increase in fees?
Obviously, based on these numbers, it would be tremendously expensive to pay for an entire slate of 14 judges, but how about treating them to a "thank you" dinner? For the cost of one trip ($1,500) the SCAA could take everyone out to show their appreciation for making the event successful. Or a few rounds of celebratory drinks at the bar? These are the people volunteering their time, money and expertise and the SCAA can't afford to show even a little appreciation and gratitude?
The truth is that the SCAA does currently cover some of the expenses for the head judges. Two Head Judges are specified for each regional competition. Each of those Head Judges is given a $500 stipend to defray their expenses. For someone like Dan Streetman (based in NYC), that stipend can actually help him pay his rent for April (a plus), but for someone like Scott Conary (or any of the non-NYC head judges), that judge is still looking at a thousand dollar bill for volunteering.
If we're going to talk about the costs of the competitions, let's start talking about the true costs - the costs to the people that make it happen. The costs that affect the most people.
Quite honestly, jack up the entry fees to $1,500 per competitor if that's what it's going to take to make these a professional competition. It matters little if only the Intelligentsia's and those baristas sponsored/funded by coffee roasters can afford to compete. Maybe it will push the competition to higher levels. Maybe it will start to get interesting. Entertaining even?
Perhaps the USBC should be dominated by well-financed teams and sponsorship, like the NFL. In the NFL, not everyone can play the game. But the game makes money for the NFL, the owners, the players, the advertisers and can be wildly entertaining - and in the NFL, eve the referees get paid too.
Well that's good to hear. But (and I do have to ask) are you sure the SCAA paid? Usually it's the generosity of one (or more) of the judges that foots the bill and not the SCAA.
However, if it was the SCAA then all this hoopla we're doing here is making a change - and that's a change for the better.
Of course, when you "make disparaging remarks" about the SCAA President, this happens:
It is time to elect new BoD members, I'm not sure why it is not on all the Blogs, SCAA web site, roasterguild or any other fourm but it's not.
Do you really want to make a change you need to get involed. This can be done by emailing your Bod rep and asking him or her what he or she is doing. Ask SCAA for the minutes get a couple of years worth read them and be armed to to ask them to make changes or dont re-elect them to office. You all have the right to nomenate someone all it takes is 34 signatures of voting members.
Go to the web site and download the by-laws it is in the resoucre area. I have worked very hard to get these items avaible for all you to use. Know it is time you help me and ask for them and read them you will be amazed at some of this stuff.
Get a copy of Roberts rules read them and use them to help you understand how the board works.
Their has been some great things happening, we have gotten better class. We gotten Protocols but we the people need to keep asking for what you want Im listening and doing what I can at what ever cost it takes. Im a big boy and I really dont have agenda other than make the SCAA the best it can be. But I do need your help as you start putting pressure on the people you elect than we can make change but it will not work if you dont get involved and ask them to stand up for you. You get to vote for more than one person and if only one person is standing up and asking it is not going to change but if get 6 or 7 Bod memeber asking than we can get change and make a difference.
Ask for more live board meeting yes they are boring but you get a chance to see your Bod memebers in action.
Please get involved and you will see the difference if enough unite togehter
This is only the personal opinion of Marty G Curtis