15 miles from here a new Starbucks opened a few months ago. It's a drive-thru/walk-up/stand-alone shop in the parking lot of an existing strip mall. There had been a small and successful independent in the main portion of the complex that sold just prior to the Starbucks' opening. There's also a Tim Horton's (big Cdn chain) across the street.

Last night I went in to the old shop to see how things were going. The new owner was there by himself cleaning up behind the counter. I asked for a double Americano.

He shot the espresso into a decanter because his small cups (he sells 12oz, 16oz and 20oz) don't fit beneath his machine's group heads, then he poured it into my cup and topped it with hot water. All three portafilter handles were sitting on the drain tray.

I asked if he'd mind some input into making better drinks than his new competitor, he said yup so I offered advice on preserving the crema and I told him the proven methods of tamping. Then we went through adjusting the grinder, steaming milk (all he had was skim) and we scratched the surface of latte art - which will be difficult for him when he's decanting single shots into the bottom of a 20oz cup.

People will patronize the perceived underdog but only if they're getting at least an equivelant drink and service as the chains. With a few excellent exceptions, individual shops don't have much of an impact on the chains. I feel an obligation to help out guys like this. It sucks that the landowner offered Starbucks space in the same complex as the independent. It sucks that he dosen't know how to make espresso drinks. I just want to help the dude make it, I want him to live his dream of running a little cafe. I also want better espresso when I'm in his part of town!

What's The Code? I guess The Code is to help out if you can make a difference...And if your help is welcome, of course.

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Comment by Peter Tam on July 4, 2008 at 9:30am
If only the cafe's owner know his espresso drinks are not good, that is quite good enough. Then, they may accept help. Here, people do not, in most cases.
Comment by Alun Evans on July 2, 2008 at 12:02am
I'd like to think thatif anyone gave tips to myself or my staff, we would accept them with open minds and thanks. The key to growing and maintaining any business (whether it is a cafe, a roastery or any other business stream) is to keep on learning and adapting. The day I stop learning will be the day they either put me in a box in the ground, or lock me up in some kind of asylum. Good work sticmkan, if you are ever in my neck of the woods....
Comment by Jason Dominy on July 1, 2008 at 12:39pm
That's great. I find myself in a dilemma when I go out of town to a coffee shop, and I see them make a bad drink, or like this weekend at a shop, the "bobbing pitcher" we all know. Do I help them? Do I just mind my business. I inevitably try and offer some advice in the most polite way possible. What they do with it is their business, literally. Good work, though. Us trainers don't have training hours. We are always in that mode.
Comment by Brady on July 1, 2008 at 12:12pm
Comment by Chris DeMarse on July 1, 2008 at 10:28am
Anyone who really wants their business to thrive and stand out will receive comments and take them into account when making decisions and structuring their practices. I think that, as long as you're not being an arrogant jerk about it, your input is a beautiful gift to a business with less knowledge. We were all at a point of not quite knowing what we needed to be great baristas/ cafes at some point. We need to educate people out of a profound respect for those who educated us. It's the only way things will grow.
Comment by Matt Milletto on July 1, 2008 at 10:05am
Good work my friend.

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