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So what the heck is wrong... by Mark Prince
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paulsdatter
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Posted Mon Feb 7, 2005, 12:39pm
Subject: Re: So what the heck is wrong... by Mark Prince
 

Does anyone remember "Coffee Journal" - the short lived magazine that Mark pines for? So collectible now that my issues have been outright stolen by previous employers! Tim Castle had a column in it, if I remember correctly.

Anyhow Mark, I want to thank you for that article. I could not agree more. And to Fortune, thanks is in order also. When it got too hot in the SCAA kitchen for Mark, you took up the slack (an obvious dig on Mark, but only meant in the most good-natured and loving way. As one of the handful that tried to jumpstart this Barista Guild and having worked with the Roasters Guild, I know that new ideas are difficult for the association....I have theories about why, but that requires another article!)

What SCAA members forget is that, while a small - but growing!- band of extreme coffee enthusiasts won't help you get the premium shelf space at your local gourmet grocer or get that high profile restaurant to stop asking for a price break on your best stash, they ARE THE OBJECT AND PURPOSE OF EVERYTHING WE HOPE TO ACHEIVE.

It makes sense that the exhibition floor at the SCAA conference is not a warm and fuzzy experience for the C-member - it's a brutal place. I have heard the same from baristas who make the choice to label themselves as such instead of "cafe owner" on their name tags. They are ignored and even shunned by the exhibitors. Truth be told, I hate the exhibition floor.

In my opinion, however, I think that the consumer movement is right where it is supposed to be.... pushing and proding away at the industry. We are not all so quick on the uptake, but it is progressing and it won't be silenced...
(visions of Glen Close, "I won't be IGNORED!")

We in the industry owe you all massive props. When and in what form, I can't say. But we are listening...more and more of us are. Rest assured!

(Patti, I think your analysis of wine is a tad off the mark, but maybe we don't need to be so literal in our comparisons. I don't think that is what Mark was trying to do anyway.)
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bxntrk
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Posted Mon Feb 7, 2005, 1:01pm
Subject: Re: So what the heck is wrong... by Mark Prince
 

paulsdatter Said:

. . . (Patti, I think your analysis of wine is a tad off the mark, but maybe we don't need to be so literal in our comparisons. I don't think that is what Mark was trying to do anyway.)

Posted February 7, 2005 link

Sorry, didn't mean to belabor the analogy, but Mark is concerned about the lack of consumer-orientation of the specialty coffee industry, as well as the absence of an enthusiasts' magazine.  It seems to me that coffee is treated more as a commodity than a specialty beverage.  I was just saying that (1) some wine is also treated as a commodity, and (2) I wonder if there really is a way for the industry to treat it as anything else but a commodity.  By delineating the differences with wine, I wanted to point out that industry will not have the answer; but it will probably be found in smaller, specialty providers, like the role microbrewers fill in the beer-enthusiast niche.

Lest I didn't say it plainly enough - "Great article, Mark! It really gets me thinking.  Thanks."

Patti
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Posted Mon Feb 7, 2005, 1:34pm
Subject: Re: So what the heck is wrong... by Mark Prince
 

bxntrk Said:

IQuestion:  If people pay about $3 - $4 retail for a latte, how much does it really cost a good vendor to prepare and offer it?  I've never does such a price/cost analysis, but I'm sure someone in the business has. Patti

Posted February 7, 2005 link

The cost of a Latte and I can't find the size of the cup here but this is the best I can is:

Latte (they state milk usage and costs based on 6.5 oz of milk further down in their example of milk costs breakdown) $0.304 Total cost. 84.2% profit based on a selling price of $2.00. So you could loosely figure something out from there.

Unfortunately, the paper I have doesn't say who figured thios out or what year it applies to. It only states "Projected Profits For: US Shops"

I was given this sheet when tossing around the idea of opening my own shop by a local Roaster where I live. Don't know if this will help or not.
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brentling
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Posted Mon Feb 7, 2005, 1:38pm
Subject: Re: So what the heck is wrong... by Mark Prince
 

Hi Mark!

Here in little old NZ we now have the NZ Coffee Festival.

We were talking with the organiser - Michael Guy of Cafe Magazine recently about the festival.

He seems to be doing a pretty good job of tweaking the show for all concerned. The first one last year incorporated a competition for roasters, and I think that went pretty well.

The show side of it I didn't really see, as I was involved in judging (with Inny as head job, this was a great experience), but everyone seemed happy.

This years festival is I understand including the NZ barista champs, which should make it more interesting again.

While I don't think the perfect event has been staged, and many people dismiss cafe magazine as not serious enough, I think they are great - and something along the lines of what appears to be missing in north america? At the end of the day - we have them, they promote the coffee and cafe scene, and we have to support them if we want to keep them.

Personally, we have committed to continuing involvement with the festival - I do want to see it get bigger, better, tastier!, and we have committed to advertising in the magazine also. If we don't who is to say they will survive? then we would be writing the same comments that Mark did.

my .5 cents

Brent
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bxntrk
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Posted Mon Feb 7, 2005, 1:46pm
Subject: Re: So what the heck is wrong... by Mark Prince
 

Geekess Said:

The cost of a Latte and I can't find the size of the cup here but this is the best I can is:

Latte (they state milk usage and costs based on 6.5 oz of milk further down in their example of milk costs breakdown) $0.304 Total cost. 84.2% profit based on a selling price of $2.00. So you could loosely figure something out from there.

Unfortunately, the paper I have doesn't say who figured thios out or what year it applies to. It only states "Projected Profits For: US Shops"

I was given this sheet when tossing around the idea of opening my own shop by a local Roaster where I live. Don't know if this will help or not.

Posted February 7, 2005 link

Thanks for the info, Geekess.  Can I assume that includes contents only, and does not include trained labor and overhead?  

What I was trying to figure out is how feasible it would be to provide good coffee priced to attract people away from the mass-marketed Starbucks-type places.  Or do the "pretend coffee enthusiasts" who frequent those stores think that paying more is part of the pretension?

Maybe a coffee-enthusiast publication could show "real" people, and encourage people to abandon all the coffee mystique.

Patti
(just more rambling)
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malachi
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Posted Mon Feb 7, 2005, 2:01pm
Subject: Re: So what the heck is wrong... by Mark Prince
 

nice work Mark.

i've often thought that "specialty coffee" is simply too broad a category.

i agree with so many of the points in this piece - and love the wine analogy (though it seems a bit forced at times).
at the same time, i have to say that i feel for your average coffee shop owner. right now, in the US market, it's hard to make a business argument for doing quality coffee. if you're looking at a slim margin business (like most indy shops have) it's hard to justify spending the money for very fresh, high quality coffee when you can make more money selling over-roasted cheap beans. it's hard to justify spending money training your staff when you can instead upsell the sort of sweetened supersized drinks in which coffee quality is not noticable (and with which you see larger margins). it's all too easy to look at the short-term, to take the cash and run.
the sad truth is that the sort of people who post here represent the 2%. yes, it's the 2% that matters to a lot of us, and it's the 2% who i think can change a market over time. but right here and now... it's just 2%.
it takes a special kind of person to spend all the extra money when it's not really justifiable at a business level in the current market.

my hope is that these special people in the business - the lunatics who are committed to quality above all else, who are committed to customer education and who have a long-term view of the business -- my hope is that they can work with the 2% to change things.
and then perhaps the 2% becomes 20% and the media starts to pay attention.
but it's going to require communication and committment from both sides. the business folks who are committed to quality need to work to establish communication with the consumers who appreciate quality and need to work with them to spread the gospel. and the consumers need to invest time and energy to establishing communication with the businesses who care -- and they need to support them financially.
if we work together this might all work out in the end.
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MarkPrince
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Posted Mon Feb 7, 2005, 3:05pm
Subject: Re: So what the heck is wrong... by Mark Prince
 

Thanks for all the great feedback so far!

My bad: not talking up the Aussie / NZ situations. You know, I'm such a fan of Australia and New Zealand in so many ways. As part of the "neo European" world (sorry guys and gals!) you have the benefit of being so far removed from US influence or European influence, you go your own way at times, and truly lead the pack in so many ways with innovative and trend setting ways. I knew of Crema magazine, but didn't write about it in the article (I should have).

Australia's cafes are literally 100% espresso shops - no drip coffee machines. This isn't a number for high end shops either - it's all cafes. AFAIK, they are the only country in the world (maybe outside of Italy) that can boast this.

The NZ Coffee show for consumers is awesome news.

I remember Alan posting pictures from a coffee trade show in Australia that seemed very consumer oriented as well.

As for wine, the innovations and quality coming out of both countries is nothing short of impressive.

My article was geared mainly at what I know best - the N. American coffee scene, N. American media, and N. American coffee professionals. What's ironic is that I've been thinking about writing this article for a while, had a draft of it on my computer for several months, and literally the day I finalized it, I caught a show on the new Fine Living channel in Canada... the show's called Tricks of the Trade, and they had a special episode on coffee that featured the likes of Ken Davids, Bruce Milletto and other coffee pros from the west coast saying all the right things about quality coffee and espresso.

Maybe there's hope yet. Then again... when I emailed Ken to congrats him on his good show on the tv program, he wrote back saying he wasn't sure what show it was, and the last time I did an interview it was a year ago, and it wasn't for a show called "tricks of the trade".

Mark

 
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Geekess
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Posted Mon Feb 7, 2005, 3:06pm
Subject: Re: So what the heck is wrong... by Mark Prince
 

Labor cost is not factored in.
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brentling
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Posted Mon Feb 7, 2005, 3:15pm
Subject: Re: So what the heck is wrong... by Mark Prince
 

malachi Said:

it's all too easy to look at the short-term, to take the cash and run.
the sad truth is that the sort of people who post here represent the 2%. yes, it's the 2% that matters to a lot of us, and it's the 2% who i think can change a market over time. but right here and now... it's just 2%.
it takes a special kind of person to spend all the extra money when it's not really justifiable at a business level in the current market.

Posted February 7, 2005 link

First off, all that extra money???? In NZ it appears that the difference between good and indifferent is fairly minimal. The real costs - as I am discovering rapidly is in the milk, food and soft drinks. The coffee is a big part of our cafe, but relatively a small cost. OK admittedly I haven't done the books for it yet.

As for the lunatic fringe, or the 2 %. Well, our whole model is based around serving those people. When I get someone in who knows coffee, I want to know what they think, I want to make sure they enjoy my coffee. Everyone else is equally important - because surely my customers will learn to drink espresso??

By that - the customer education kicks in - yeah, I understand that at x cafe you need ten sugars, but at mine you don't - the coffee should be fine without it. Hesitation follows, but they try it, and a common comment I hear from returning customers (who are bringing friends and family etc) is "oh, you won't need the sugar here, the coffee is really good..."

One cup at a time, we learn the difference between OK and great coffee. My plan is that people will have to buy mine, becasue it is so hard to find something as good elsewhere - and tell them as I find those other places, hey we all love great coffee right?

malachi Said:

my hope is that these special people in the business - the lunatics who are committed to quality above all else, who are committed to customer education and who have a long-term view of the business -- my hope is that they can work with the 2% to change things.
and then perhaps the 2% becomes 20% and the media starts to pay attention.
but it's going to require communication and committment from both sides. the business folks who are committed to quality need to work to establish communication with the consumers who appreciate quality and need to work with them to spread the gospel. and the consumers need to invest time and energy to establishing communication with the businesses who care -- and they need to support them financially.
if we work together this might all work out in the end.

Posted February 7, 2005 link

I think I covered this above. But the flip side to trying to serve the best possible cup to a customer is customers who are out finding other cafes to serve my coffee. I have been given one lead already from a regular who frequents several cafes - he wants our coffee in all his haunts, and is telling the cafe owners so.

Not sure if we want all the cafes, but it makes the job of finding the cafe accounts easier.

Brent
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brentling
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Posted Mon Feb 7, 2005, 3:27pm
Subject: Re: So what the heck is wrong... by Mark Prince
 

bxntrk Said:

What I was trying to figure out is how feasible it would be to provide good coffee priced to attract people away from the mass-marketed Starbucks-type places.  Or do the "pretend coffee enthusiasts" who frequent those stores think that paying more is part of the pretension?

Posted February 7, 2005 link

There are, and always will be a lot of people who don't know or care about the coffee they drink. There are also plenty of people who assert to know about coffee, but happily keep the worst cafes afloat... and that is with the cafe owner admitting the coffee sucks.

But there are those for whom great coffee is more than important - it's essential.

Brent
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