We are getting ready to open a quality driven coffee shop in Peoria, IL.  It's going to be called thirty-thirty Coffee Co. (look us up on facebook) This is very new to the area (the closest thing is Intelli 3 hours north and Kaldi's three hours south).  We are working on our training manual and are including how to respond to potential customer requests.  (i.e. why small sizes, why don't you offer skim, why don't you have French Roast, etc.)  While we have pretty good answers I feel to most of our questions, we are wrestling with how to respond to the no dry cappuccino rule we have.  Our entire staff believes that the one and only size of a cap is 6 oz. and that it's only made one way.  Does anyone have any customer feedback on why people like their caps dry?  None of us have ever liked or wanted a "dry" cap and we're just trying to get inside the heads of our potential customers who aren't used to this kind of coffee shop.  How do we explain something like this to them without being rude or annoyed?   Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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Ian C. said:

I personally think you should offer it.  You say you are a quality-driven shop, and when people expect quality they also expect to be able to customize their experience.  Your idealism is admirable but honestly, I don't know if it can cut it commercially, and as a customer I would be deeply disappointed if my request for something easy was rejected just because the barista or shop didn't want to do it.

PS: I wish you all the best but I don't know if there's really a market for a real coffeeshop in Peoria.

Personally, I disagree.
As a consumer, if I know I'm going to a coffeehouse, restaurant, bar, whathaveyou, that is known for quality, I'll typically defer to whats commonly offered, or the baristas/chefs/bartenders whim. The whole 'customize your experience' aspect seems to stem from places that lack in quality, and want/need to make up for it in some way. I could be completely off base here, but I dont find anything negative with shops not doing something because they simply dont want to. As far as this being commercially viable, I'd point to any number of "3rd Wave" shops that rock this policy.
As far as being able to do this in Peoria, I cant debate that, because I'm not familiar with the MidWest. I suppose in that respect, you should probably take my post with a grain of salt. If you're doing a honest, progressive work, people will dig it, regardless of locale.
My .02

I'm with Benza on this one. 

It's generally the chain restaurants and not the quality driven places that let or even encourage the customer to have it their way.  You have probably heard  people say about a great restaurant in your town 'Damn that place is great, they have the absolute best (insert dish here).'  You will not hear people say 'That place is my favorite because I can get extra pickles.' Pickles are great but no one will ever consider a restaurant great because they can get more of them.  Go the the best restaurant in any city in the world and you will eat what the chef has determined is the best preparation of his chosen ingredients.  Do some think this is snobby? Sure. But that's unfair. Anyone who appreciates quality and a unique experience should understand the chef's motives.  

The chef is not a snob because he wants people to enjoy his creations as intended.  The chef has spent countless hours and sleepless nights perfecting the dish.  Has the average customer done this?  No, and they shouldn't.  It's the chef's job to create interesting and delicious meals and if the customer enjoys the restaurant they should trust that the chef will use his ingredients in a way they will enjoy.  

This same approach applies to coffee.  We generally use 2 and no more than, I'd say, four ingredients in a drink.  If you are anything like me I'm sure you've spent tons of time and some sleepless nights trying to figure out the very best way to roast or prepare coffee. Therefore the way the barista chooses to prepare the drink is better than the way the average customer would.  This is not snobby it's just that if you dedicate a good portion of your life to making the best coffee then as long as you use good ingredients you will make coffee better than most.  

If the customer is a car salesman I'd expect them to be able to sell a car better than I could and probably wouldn't give them any tips on how to move a car off a lot.  Why should a customer think they are better at the craft of properly preparing coffee than a great barista?  It's nothing but rational to think that someone who practices a skill or craft daily, be it making coffee, selling a car or performing surgery, will be more skilled at that craft than someone who does not. 

I say all of this knowing that this is a peer group and would never have this conversation with a customer.  I think that is the key to the whole snob debate.  Just do what you do to the best of your ability and don't give off the vibe that you are better at anything than your customers.  Making awesome coffee is pretty cool but don't let that go to your head.  After all to most people, even those who really enjoy it, it's just coffee.  Really in the grand scheme of things it really is just a brown liquid that tastes good so who really gives a shit. :-) 

By the way, I wouldn't advertise this to my customers, but I'd make anyone anything they want as long as I have the ingredients on hand. I'd somehow let them know that if they enjoy the drink that next time they should try it my way and they will really like it.  Or you could always offer to make them the drink your way and if they don't like it replace it with their 'customized' drink free of charge.  Good luck!

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