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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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.
We invested in a 3phase Mahlkonig top of the line grinder. Given our freshness theme ( grind only before brewing, pulling shots etc. ) I fiqured it we might not ever pay back this investment. I was wrong. If I can't sell them a grinder I will grind from them today, tomorrow, and the next day. Of course with copious amounts of education while they watch this beauty fly through there beans. Like how you need to drink all this today to fully enjoy the sweet notes I roasted in. etc.etc.etc. ;^p
Do I stop there, hell no. They get the same story next time. I tell them I will not let up till they start grinding at home.
Cheers,
Joseph

Adam Wilson said:
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.
I am more saying that "refuse" has a negative connotation. How about, "No, we don't grind our coffee to sell. If you don't have a grinder, I can sell you one, recommend one, or you can borrow one. We want our coffee to be the best it can be when it leaves our store, and whole bean is something we can take pride in. We care too much about our customers to do otherwise." And time after time after time everyone comes back or makes arrangements. If we care enough to maintain our principles, our customers get it, and love us for it. It is these kinds of decisions that build and solidify our base. Please excuse any rambling. Just returned from surgery and I am a little loopy.

Adam Wilson said:
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.
Ohhhh, surgery. Been there had to do it too. Get well John. I laid in the hospital bed for 7 weeks back in '78. Boy did the coffee taste good when they let me have some. Mostly good memories.
Coffee education begins with the first cup of the day and starts over each and every day. I love to spread my passion.
Joseph

John P said:
I am more saying that "refuse" has a negative connotation. How about, "No, we don't grind our coffee to sell. If you don't have a grinder, I can sell you one, recommend one, or you can borrow one. We want our coffee to be the best it can be when it leaves our store, and whole bean is something we can take pride in. We care too much about our customers to do otherwise." And time after time after time everyone comes back or makes arrangements. If we care enough to maintain our principles, our customers get it, and love us for it. It is these kinds of decisions that build and solidify our base. Please excuse any rambling. Just returned from surgery and I am a little loopy.

Adam Wilson said:
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.
Rich Westerfield said:
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.

Again, no one said they wouldn't grind beans for their customers... just that they didn't like it. If you read the thread you'll see that I am correct. The only thing that was said was "There's one thing I wish I would say no to, but don't: Grind whole bean coffee to go. I have a tough time turning away the sale to a customer that doesn't have or want to grind coffee at home. If I were the purist I aspire to be, I'd flat say no." (Steve Belt)

My "snarkiness" was said with a smile, hence the smiley... I know you can't tell voice tone in text, but emoticons generally help give a pretty good idea. If you didn't catch that I was joking I'm sorry for coming off as a jerk, it wasn't my intention.

Trust me, I understand what it's like to come from "the burbs." I've only been in Vancouver for 6 months. Prior to that I was from a "suburb" of Kalamazoo, MI (Paw Paw, MI- population 3,222 in 08, trending downward). I stood by the same principles then as I do now and it worked just as well then as it does now. Certain things I couldn't do there that we do here (stocking only a couple syrup flavors), but my approach to educating a customer before grinding their coffee was the same then as it is now.

There is no such thing as a 10oz cappuccino. If ratio is the only thing that matters then I could fill a 30 gallon bath tub with 10 gallons of espresso and 20 gallons of frothy milk and call it a capp. Conversely, a vanilla capp is still a capp, it just has vanilla in it. I had a capp with some muscavado sugar in it yesterday and it was delicious, not at all like push button crap from a gas station.

Sorry... rambling and ranting where not necessary. I'm not trying to go against everything you're saying...

The only thing I wanted to get across with that post was that we never said we wouldn't grind coffee for customers, just that it was a tough compromise, that's all. I don't think anyone was implying that a $200 burr grinder was necessary except for you.

One of our baristas said to me the other day (actually on his first day):
"Imagine you are looking out at a pasture and you see dozens and dozens of black and white cows. Suddenly, something strange catches your eye: a purple cow. Chances are you are going to be immediately drawn to the purple cow and focus only on the purple cow, simply because it's different and fascinating. Something completely new and unknown. Let's strive to be a purple cow."

So... everyday since I have made it my mission to be a purple cow, haha. I explain why pre-grinding is a poor practice (without it being a lecture) to every customer that asks for their beans pre-ground. If that makes me a purple cow, then I'll wear that badge with pride.

-bry
John P said:
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?" :)

What do you use to grind for siphon then? Just curious.

-bry
I reply yes to any request my customers have. =)
Bryan Wray said:
There is no such thing as a 10oz cappuccino. If ratio is the only thing that matters then I could fill a 30 gallon bath tub with 10 gallons of espresso and 20 gallons of frothy milk and call it a capp. Conversely, a vanilla capp is still a capp, it just has vanilla in it. I had a capp with some muscavado sugar in it yesterday and it was delicious, not at all like push button crap from a gas station. One of our baristas said to me the other day (actually on his first day):
"Imagine you are looking out at a pasture and you see dozens and dozens of black and white cows. Suddenly, something strange catches your eye: a purple cow. Chances are you are going to be immediately drawn to the purple cow and focus only on the purple cow, simply because it's different and fascinating. Something completely new and unknown. Let's strive to be a purple cow."

So... everyday since I have made it my mission to be a purple cow, haha. I explain why pre-grinding is a poor practice (without it being a lecture) to every customer that asks for their beans pre-ground. If that makes me a purple cow, then I'll wear that badge with pride.

-bry

On the capps, technically you're right, if invoking Italian custom. But it's extremely easy to do 10-12oz as the volume allows one to still steam and texture milk properly for a capp. Beyond that volume it becomes impossible in practice if not in theory. But we don't budge on flavors.

This is supported all the way to menu design. Espresso/macchiato/capps are on the main menu. Lattes are not, even though the margins are better. Our capps are our #2 best seller (both 5.5 and 10.5oz) and it's what gets us to switch people from flavored lattes to non-flavored drinks (as well as from 16oz to smaller sizes). We hold the line on flavors as it's appreciated by those who drink the capps - they believe they're more sophisticated than the hoi polloi who go for the syrups (and we encourage that perception).

Thus, the 10.5 capp is an extremely strategic drink offering for us. We argue about a lot of stuff that we "shouldn't" be serving, but that's not on the list. If we starting blurring the line between lattes and capps, our staff would be pretty pissed as it's the capps they're most proud of.

Btw, if you didn't already know, the "purple cow" is from Seth Godin. It's a good book.

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