company - education - coffee

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Gimmicks and designs

Interesting bit if you can sit through it.

I wonder about the small shops who market themselves as the alternative to Starbucks and all it's corporate fury. Is their lone redeeming quality simply falling into a gimmick too? Being an indie shop is good, I guess, but if your product is no better than Starbucks... does it really matter? What if the McCafe on the corner has better lattes than both but with none of the emotional satisfaction purchased from either the branding at big green or the emotional comfort of rejecting the big bad corporation?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Attitude at the counter

iPod, originally uploaded by synecdoche.

I hate running into the holier than thou attitude with people behind the counter. Snarky signs demanding or shamelessly begging for tips along with generally indifferent service don't have a place in a profit seeking business.

When I was working behind the bar, I found out one simple fact. The environment you create will determine the customer base.

Over time, I ran across less demanding customers, less impatient people, and less nonsense than when I first started working because of a simple fact. We tried to act like professionals. Not everyone, but there was a sense behind the counter of conviction and pride among what felt like a majority. It felt like people were more patient and you had fewer people trying to take advantage of you. People knew how the system worked, they knew you knew, and it was a comfortable place to work.

Sure, this is just an empirical observation that was reinforced over a painful but short stint in a cafe not too long ago where I realized, it really is a delicate mix of personalities. It may not hold truths for everyone but I believe quality service and professionalism attracts better customers.

The problem is that it takes that majority to establish a sense of what the shop is. One out of a dozen has no effect. Especially if the other eleven are the type that think they can do a better job than the owner just because they show up when scheduled.

I feel like there are fewer and fewer shops here in town where you can just go in and have a coffee and you don't get attitude. Attitude when you tear them away from their scintillating conversation. Attitude when you watch them make the drink or show any interest in it being made correctly. Attitude for simply being there at all.

On top of that, the sighs, the impatience or flat out pretending you don't exist, there is the lack of care. That's what tops it off for me. hearing stories of friends going into shops where they have good equipment and access to real training but they simply don't care.

There's no excuse for that but I don't know who to blame.

I don't go into many shops these days because it wouldn't make any sense but every conversation I have had lately seems to center around this issue. It's like coffee shops don't try to hire people who actually like coffee anymore! There is nothing worse than hearing someone complain about a shop you have no control over. Even if I did say something, it's not clear I would get enough respect to be taken seriously.

At this point, you are probably wondering why I am writing this so here's where I pass the responsibility to you, the reader.

If anything, I have learned that it is you, as the consumer, who should speak up. Things don't change if nobody speaks up. Pull a manager aside and mention a missed detail, a careless mistake, or downright belligerence. What have you got to lose?

Otherwise, you could just keep putting money in that tip jar and hope that some day the service gets better.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Weekly Dig Photo

dig photo, originally uploaded by coffeedirtdog.

I dropped in to visit friends and someone pulls out the weekly dig and asks me, when did they take this photo?

Jeez, seriously?!? Since I haven't worked in a cafe in months, this must have been at the Hsieh espresso event. The photo I get doesn't include my name, the shop we are in, or anything about coffee. Just another day in Boston where the press talk all day about oversized couches and cupcakes making the coffee shops but nothing serious about or reviews of the coffee.

There is a lot of dirt in coffee to be dug, pardon the pun, but it takes a serious approach and probably more time invested than most generic student focused assignments. Believe me, I understand that there isn't much to write about in the local coffee scene, very little to romanticize really, so it's not like I can point to some great grievance of overlooked quality.

I'd love to be out there and doing some tastings, really rocking the game with brewing events, and creating a scene but my newest project right now is bogged down in an insane catch 22. If anyone knows higher ups or has some sway with Arlington local government or is a local and just wants to help, drop me an email. Aside from that, everything these days is in limbo for the moment.