Coffee roasters have been providing decades of DISSERVICE to food service establishments. Most have NEVER taken the time to educate chefs, servers, restaurateurs and buyers alike about coffee and its brewing techniques; this has led to an uneducated coffee buying marketplace producing a lot of sub-par cups of coffee. Coffee is a commodity, but it should not be treated as one.
Here’s an example; I’ve been on sales calls at Brazilian Restaurants and sampled for them a beautiful coffee from Cerrado in Minas Gerais. They enjoy the taste of the coffee, but in the end they decide to buy inexpensive stale coffee blend from a restaurant wholesaler. I sit back and wonder, “If you have a Brazilian Restaurant, and the country of Brazil produces coffee, why wouldn’t you sell Brazilian Coffee in your “authentic” restaurant!?”
It’s not the chef’s fault; IT’S OUR FAULT!! The fact is, it’s the roaster’s job to educate the restaurateurs. When a restaurant chooses their coffee roaster, they should be their strategic partner, not just their salesperson. We’re the expert, we should teach about coffee, espresso, and educate their staff on how to prepare it. Now, when the decision maker is making a coffee selection, they’re making an educated one. And when their staff is making and serving the coffee, they are doing so properly.
Very often, the staffs’ training gets overlooked, and they don’t know how to brew and serve coffee. They are one of the most important people in the supply chain! If they serve a burnt drip coffee or under-extracted shot of espresso, all that hard work up to that point is for nothing, and now you have a disappointed customer. Over 54% of adults in the US are regular coffee drinkers, leading to 382 million cups of coffee consumed every day! With a large percentage of restaurant staffs untrained, that leaves a lot of room for poor cups of coffee!
My family has been in the industry for over 100 years. I’m sure at some point we were a part of the problem, just selling coffee and not taking the time to educate. But, the first step to correcting a problem is recognizing that you have one. We identified this issue and constructed a coffee training facility in our headquarters in Newark, NJ. We bring in groups of business owners and restaurant staffs to teach them about espresso, coffee, tea, equipment, brewing methods as well as beverage strategies. Our goal is to be a true strategic partner for our customers.
As educators, it’s our goal to teach you about brewing exceptional coffees & espresso, then help you strategize around that. If you own an origin specific restaurant, your coffee program should mirror that country’s coffee culture. For instance, a Brazilian Restaurant, should brew a Brazilian Coffee. Why would a Brazilian Restaurant brew a Colombian Coffee? If you have a French Restaurant, you should attempt to use French Presses coupled with a darker roasted coffee (synonymous w/ French Style Coffees). If you have an Italian Restaurant, you should ONLY have an espresso machine to extract perfect shots of espresso with a beautiful caramel colored crema. Then, with your newly trained staff, they can prepare lattes, cappuccinos, Americanos and even my favorite dessert; the affogatto!
Once you select the coffee and brewing method, it’s imperative to describe the coffee on your dessert menu. What’s the point of doing all this work if you don’t convey the message to your customer? Talk about the traceability of the coffees to educate the consumer on the “seed to cup” journey. Also elaborate about the table-side presentation (French Press or other). These points will enable you to command higher price points.
Restaurants that don’t do these things have decreased credibility amongst consumers. They may quickly find their Yelp and other social media reviews being very critical of their menu. To the contrary, if you do it, it ADDS to your credibility!! If you’re building your menu, or altering an existing menu, think about the coffee culture that’s relevant to your restaurant. If you’re not sure about it, then consult your roaster. They should be your strategic partner and help you develop an optimal coffee. With a category as important as coffee and in a marketplace as competitive as ours, you shouldn’t leave the success of your coffee program to chance. Now you can have confidence when your customers leave, they’ll leave with a great taste in their mouth, your coffee! You will see a positive response in customer feedback and profits!!
David W. Mendez is a 4th-gen coffee professional for WB Law Coffee Co. (www.LawCoffee.com). Focusing on sales & marketing for Mid-Atlantic foodservice accounts, his expertise in coffee from seed to cup has helped develop, implement and maintain thousands of coffee & espresso programs.