Out of curiosity , In your shops respectively, what are some customer requests that you absolutely cannot/ will not comply with?

Do you make a 20 oz caramel breve with whip?

Do you pull a long shot?

Do you make a 200?

do you Ice the espresso or serve it to go?

Which rules are yours personally , which ones are store policy?

I've got a few of these myself but I would really like to hear from some others.

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John,
We probably grind 15% of our retail whole bean. I can flat our guarantee some of those customers simply can't afford a burr grinder at this point (surprised some can actually afford coffee!). I'm not turning those people away, regardless of what Schomer may think (and he couldn't succeed on our street with 1/3 oz shots).

Here's where Schomer is right: He's often said that if one is going to do what he does, they have to choose their location accordingly - urban/foodie.

Needless to say, we didn't do that in choosing our space. We're in an uptight 'burb. So flexibility and gaining customer trust is how we have to operate. Once we have them, we can move them toward our ideal. But if we turn them away because they don't have a grinder, it's simply another Yelp review on how precious and pretentious we are. And we have enough of those already, deserving or not.

And I think that applies to a lot more coffeehouses than us.

As far as James goes, I respect him dearly and agree with just about everything the guy has ever said. But it's one thing to offer up a peppermill analogy and another to watch revenue walk out the door because our recommended peppermills are $200. Our customers certainly get the analogy. We're ok letting them decide how important that is to them.


John P said:
Rich,

As James Hoffman wrote (on a thread you participated in) in his blog,"A couple of people seemed borderline outraged at the suggestion that they actually had to grind their coffee just before brewing to get a fresh cup. I asked if they had a pepper mill. They said yes. I asked if they used it and if they considered it worthwhile. They said they did, and I tried not to flog a dead horse."

James nailed a perfect analogy.

We rarely have anyone ask if we have ground coffee. I think I've had maybe three people ask this year, and two of them bought grinders on the spot. The third came back a couple of days later and said they were borrowing a grinder from their sister because they had to throw away the coffee they bought from another local shop.

As I wrote on my blog two weeks ago, "...Coffee should always be sold fresh-roasted, and whole bean. Quality is not an inconvenience."

I say, look to the heavens with demitasse on outstretched hand and as the light glistens off of your rusted chiffon crema, ask WWSD? "What Would Schomer Do?" - Whole bean only, of course.
Rich,
and to all BX'ers out there with shops like Rich and I have, it's important to stop in and see us to understand what it is like in a not so optimal location. Our doors have been open for going on two years come September.
My experience here mirrors what Rich just said. Stop in and check us out and you may have a better understanding of our customer base and what it takes to grow them.

Rich Westerfield said:
John,
We probably grind 15% of our retail whole bean. I can flat our guarantee some of those customers simply can't afford a burr grinder at this point (surprised some can actually afford coffee!). I'm not turning those people away, regardless of what Schomer may think (and he couldn't succeed on our street with 1/3 oz shots).

Here's where Schomer is right: He's often said that if one is going to do what he does, they have to choose their location accordingly - urban/foodie.

Needless to say, we didn't do that in choosing our space. We're in an uptight 'burb. So flexibility and gaining customer trust is how we have to operate. Once we have them, we can move them toward our ideal. But if we turn them away because they don't have a grinder, it's simply another Yelp review on how precious and pretentious we are. And we have enough of those already, deserving or not.

And I think that applies to a lot more coffeehouses than us.

As far as James goes, I respect him dearly and agree with just about everything the guy has ever said. But it's one thing to offer up a peppermill analogy and another to watch revenue walk out the door because our recommended peppermills are $200. Our customers certainly get the analogy. We're ok letting them decide how important that is to them.


John P said:
Rich,

As James Hoffman wrote (on a thread you participated in) in his blog,"A couple of people seemed borderline outraged at the suggestion that they actually had to grind their coffee just before brewing to get a fresh cup. I asked if they had a pepper mill. They said yes. I asked if they used it and if they considered it worthwhile. They said they did, and I tried not to flog a dead horse."

James nailed a perfect analogy.

We rarely have anyone ask if we have ground coffee. I think I've had maybe three people ask this year, and two of them bought grinders on the spot. The third came back a couple of days later and said they were borrowing a grinder from their sister because they had to throw away the coffee they bought from another local shop.

As I wrote on my blog two weeks ago, "...Coffee should always be sold fresh-roasted, and whole bean. Quality is not an inconvenience."

I say, look to the heavens with demitasse on outstretched hand and as the light glistens off of your rusted chiffon crema, ask WWSD? "What Would Schomer Do?" - Whole bean only, of course.
I'm honestly shocked that anyone would suggest refusing to sell ground coffee.

No one here argues the merits of fresh-ground coffee, but I mean come on people. If I sold fine china and a customer requested that I smash a vase with a sledge hammer before selling it to them, I would ring them up, smash the vase with a sledge hammer, and then wish them a good day.

Educate your customers, then do whatever the heck they ask you to do. People don't usually come back when you turn your nose up at them.
Ummm... just so we are clear:

NO ONE said they wouldn't sell ground coffee, only that they didn't like it.

Pay attention.

I stand hard behind my corkscrew analogy... you wouldn't have your sommelier pop the cork just because "Oh it hurts my wrist to do it at home, would you pop the cork for me?"

Or how about a purchase at the super market... "Excuse me, would you cook this steak for me? I have a grill at home, but I'd rather not have to do it. Would you cook it for me so I can just heat it up later?"

People are pathetically lazy.

Rich you are jumping to a lot of conclusions and placing words where they do not belong. No one said that it had to be a Vario. No one said it had to be a $200 burr grinder. Hell, no one even said it had to be a burr grinder.

Yesterday I had a couple come in and eventually we got around to the grinder conversation. I suggested what I always do, "Just doing drip and french press? Get this..." as I show them a picture of a $70 refurbished Baratza Maestro. If they seem shocked by a $70 price tag then I tell them to pick up a cheapy blade grinder while they save.

I think a lot of the time we fail to inform our customers why they need to grind their own coffee. Again, I'll throw the number out there:

60% of a coffee's aromatics are lost in 15 minutes after grinding.

For me it lines up a little differently when selling ground coffee to a customer. Sometimes I work with a customer for 10-15 minutes presenting different coffees (we do lots of sampling with curious customers). If I talk about, "Juicy red fruit with cucumber sweetness and little bits of grilled pineapple" and they start to see light of that when tasting the sample I've prepared for them, I want them to taste that at home too. There's no way that's going to happen if I grind it a day before they brew it.

When someone asks, "Will you grind that for me?" I simply reply, "Absolutely, but I'd rather not. It's going to taste worse this way."

That simple line usually opens up a fabulous conversation about the importance of grinding fresh before brewing.

It's about clear communication. Once you have clearly explained why it's important, and have made the purchase seem like an exciting upgrade not a burdensome chore, most people look forward to purchasing a grinder.

2 of our locations are in the 'burbs. It's strange, but in our 'burbs fresh ground still tastes better than pre-ground... hmm? =)

Your geographical location shouldn't dictate your approach to education and quality.

-bry
I couldn't agree more.

Bryan Wray said:
It's about clear communication. Once you have clearly explained why it's important, and have made the purchase seem like an exciting upgrade not a burdensome chore, most people look forward to purchasing a grinder.
I have a gentlemen who comes in everyday and orders a 20 oz capp with only 2 shots espresso and no foam. I have mentioned to him several times that a cappuccino is a specific drink, he does not seem to care so everyday I sell him a $4.00 large capp with no foam. He must like all that milk and not like a lot of coffee flavor. Would i drink it no and I could correct him everyday until he gets tired of me telling him it is not a cappuccino and finds somewhere else to go where they don't correct him. but I need all the customers I can get so instead of correcting him I smile and sell it proudly because he must like it that way or he would not be back.
Bryan Wray said:
I stand hard behind my corkscrew analogy... 60% of a coffee's aromatics are lost in 15 minutes after grinding.


Bry, I think that GMTA, but I am on that beer budget.
I suggest that they don't open a sixer at the checkout counter, they keep the CO2 in it until they are ready to drink it. So why 'open' the bean before they're ready to drink it? I also equate the beans to produce. It is kinda what they are...
Babbie' Rule Fifteens* was basically invented for these folk. "If you're going to spend a premium on fresh roasted coffee, why ruin it by grinding it and letting it stale in the bag before you use it?

* Babbie's Rule of Fifteens:
Green beans last fifteen months;
Roasted beans last fifteen days;
Ground beans last fifteen minutes;
Extracted beans last fifteen seconds.

While there is a bit of sway one way or another depending on beans and environment, it's fairly accurate +/- 10%-ish.
Bryan Wray said:
Ummm... just so we are clear:
NO ONE said they wouldn't sell ground coffee, only that they didn't like it.

It was clearly stated that someone wanted to create that rule.

Bryan Wray said:
Rich you are jumping to a lot of conclusions and placing words where they do not belong. No one said that it had to be a Vario. No one said it had to be a $200 burr grinder. Hell, no one even said it had to be a burr grinder.

True that nobody said that specifically, but if one is going to be "purist" it's not a major leap to say no to blades. Hell, we won't recommend blades if someone is using a press pot as their primary brew method.

As far as everything else you've said, that's nothing different than what we do here, except that we don't stock electric grinders. I'll match our staff's conversations on coffee with anyone from downtown. Or your shop.

Bryan Wray said:
2 of our locations are in the 'burbs. It's strange, but in our 'burbs fresh ground still tastes better than pre-ground... hmm? =) Your geographical location shouldn't dictate your approach to education and quality.

-bry

Your snarkiness is showing. If you were paying attention, I never claimed it would taste otherwise.

FWIW, we also do a farmers market downtown each week. All Clever pourovers for $3 per 10oz cup. Night and day the amount of ready acceptance we get at the market compared to the 'burbs. And the market condiments are goat's milk and agave syrup. Both of which would be considered subversive communist plots at our home base.

One's geographical location shouldn't matter regarding training and education in a perfect world - we put direct trade coffee on the map here as far as press goes, had a bunch of regional barista competition finalists and a champion, did the town's first jam, did the first free cuppings, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.... but what we can effectively execute and get accepted in our location definitely is impacted by location. Not a doubt in my mind or the minds of any of our staff that we'd have a much easier time of it in the city proper.

I'll end with noting it's a bit disingenuous to imply that suburbs of Vancouver have similar behavioral patterns vis a vis coffee culture as do the suburbs of Pittsburgh.
Rich,

It's always a great sign when people choose to spend what little they have on the comfort you offer. Kudos on that! But I am certain that compromising to make coffee of your caliber more accessible won't improve your sales. Great product+unwavering principle highlights the coffee and creates more understanding than Great Product + sometimes wavering principle. If they are great customers, gift them a hand grinder and build the relationship that way. Maybe an odd thought, but just a thought.




Rich Westerfield said:
John,
We probably grind 15% of our retail whole bean. I can flat our guarantee some of those customers simply can't afford a burr grinder at this point (surprised some can actually afford coffee!). I'm not turning those people away, regardless of what Schomer may think (and he couldn't succeed on our street with 1/3 oz shots).

Here's where Schomer is right: He's often said that if one is going to do what he does, they have to choose their location accordingly - urban/foodie.

Needless to say, we didn't do that in choosing our space. We're in an uptight 'burb. So flexibility and gaining customer trust is how we have to operate. Once we have them, we can move them toward our ideal. But if we turn them away because they don't have a grinder, it's simply another Yelp review on how precious and pretentious we are. And we have enough of those already, deserving or not.

And I think that applies to a lot more coffeehouses than us.

As far as James goes, I respect him dearly and agree with just about everything the guy has ever said. But it's one thing to offer up a peppermill analogy and another to watch revenue walk out the door because our recommended peppermills are $200. Our customers certainly get the analogy. We're ok letting them decide how important that is to them.


John P said:
Rich,

As James Hoffman wrote (on a thread you participated in) in his blog,"A couple of people seemed borderline outraged at the suggestion that they actually had to grind their coffee just before brewing to get a fresh cup. I asked if they had a pepper mill. They said yes. I asked if they used it and if they considered it worthwhile. They said they did, and I tried not to flog a dead horse."

James nailed a perfect analogy.

We rarely have anyone ask if we have ground coffee. I think I've had maybe three people ask this year, and two of them bought grinders on the spot. The third came back a couple of days later and said they were borrowing a grinder from their sister because they had to throw away the coffee they bought from another local shop.

As I wrote on my blog two weeks ago, "...Coffee should always be sold fresh-roasted, and whole bean. Quality is not an inconvenience."

I say, look to the heavens with demitasse on outstretched hand and as the light glistens off of your rusted chiffon crema, ask WWSD? "What Would Schomer Do?" - Whole bean only, of course.
To be clear. We don't have bulk grinders. We only do espresso and siphon by the cup, so we don't use that type of grinder for us and selling whole bean only is quite different from "refusing to grind". We simply don't do it.

Most places will have things they simply don't do. Whether it's blended drinks, or 20 oz drinks, or flavored drinks... there are many things that a number of places just don't do. It's not about what you don't do, it's about what you do that's important, and WHY.

to paraphrase what Chris Deferio said, "Be proud of what you DO offer and get customers excited about that."

Maybe a better thread is "What things do you get new customers to say YES to?" :)
"goat's milk and agave syrup. Both of which would be considered subversive communist plots at our home base."

heh. reminds me of my home town... ;)
John P said:
and selling whole bean only is quite different from "refusing to grind".

Definitely an important distinction, I completely agree with stocking whole bean ONLY. Grinding at point of sale is, IMO, sometimes a necessary evil. But grinding BEFORE point of sale is ludicrous if you care anything about quality.

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