By Iain Evans and brought to you by Hostex
Hostex 2020 ambassador, Owner Publisher of Coffee Magazine, and coffee aficionado Iain Evans, uncovers the key components that make a truly memorable come-back-for-more coffee moment.
Have you ever had a really amazing coffee experience where everything was just perfect and you felt the warm fuzzies cover you from head to toe, pure joy radiating from your being? Achieving that kind of customer satisfaction for someone who takes their coffee seriously can radically affect their perception of your business. It doesn’t matter if your business is a car dealership, a wine-farm, a cruise ship, a hotel, restaurant/bar or an ice-cream parlour. Similarly, a terrible coffee experience can have the exact opposite effect, even if coffee isn’t your primary business. You see, most people, if you ask them, love coffee. It’s not the kind of subculture where there’s any middle ground.
I once had an incredible coffee experience in the most unlikely place. It was a garage forecourt in the middle of nowhere – I needed caffeine, I needed a break and I needed someone to share my troubles with. It’s not just the coffee (of course that’s a major factor) it’s the coffee experience. And we can break this down into simple modular components that fit like a warm fuzzy jigsaw puzzle when they all come together.
This is pretty damn important so I’ve put it first on the list. Do you serve instant coffee? Do you serve filter or drip coffee? Do you serve espresso based beverages from a fully-automatic machine? Do you have a human making coffee and other beverages and then serving your customers? These are the easy to answer questions. Now let’s start getting a little uncomfortable… Do you serve a cheap, commercial grade blend of robusta and Arabica? Do you serve an international brand because of the name? Do you serve the cheapest possible coffee you can find from a local supplier or do you spend premium money on speciality coffee for your customers?
In my experience, there are businesses that are in the business of coffee or have a person in a high up position who prioritise excellent coffee as a core part of their service. These are the businesses that create a reputation for the coffee they serve, and they usually have the rest of the criteria below in order too.
Then you get businesses, even those in the business of serving coffee as a main part of their offering, that just want to tick a box. Usually people will end up lacing the coffee with milk and sugar to hide the taste. Yes, there are costs, but there is also an opportunity to create an unforgettable experience. If I go to a hotel and there is a speciality coffee and a plunger – I’m more impressed than I would be by a Swiss capsule machine. It says the hotel cares about supporting local businesses, the environment, freshness of coffee and the people behind the coffee (farmer, producer and roaster).
The Equipment (and maintenance!)
I recently visited Australia and Japan and I drank a lot of coffee. I didn’t get a bad coffee on either trip and every single outlet – from the airport kiosks to the hotel bars, from the restaurants to the oceanside cafés. The coffee was consistently well made. Good equipment was proudly displayed and visible to the customers reading like a billboard: “We serve great coffee here!” Consistency, stable temperatures, even pressure and perfect extraction shot after shot. Not to mention a beautiful showpiece right bang on the counter. And I’m not just talking about espresso machines. I’m talking about grinders, cold brew stations, drip set-ups, manual brew bars and shameless coffee retail. Stack ‘em high, watch ‘em fly! Having top quality coffee equipment that is well used, well looked after and maintained often show that you respect your customers because consistently replicating that amazing coffee is paramount to you in their experience of your establishment.
You’ll notice that I’ve deliberately used the words “coffee experience” and not just coffee. Having a well-trained barista, waiter or person who serves you a coffee can be the difference between a coffee that you drank and an experience that changed your life. That doesn’t happen with a machine or a self-service situation. Investing in staff and staff training says you value your customers beyond just the beverage being served. It is welcoming them with warmth, making them feel special, giving them an experience they will talk about and want to share over and over again.
If you are going to charge anything upwards of R30 for a cappuccino, you really need to deliver better than a standard coffee experience. This can be tricky if you’re not in a traditional coffee serving space, but if you adhere to the three points above: Great coffee, Top equipment and Excellent staff – you are close to justifying that kind of price point. On the other hand, serving a great coffee as an added value or added benefit will send a strong message to your customers that their money spent on your primary services is valued.