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  • Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

    Hi everybody

    I have been lurking on this site for some time but I thought it was about time I posted. My questions arent even totally about coffee but more about dealing with bizarre managers. I was wondering if anyone in the industry (or any industry really) had similar experiences and could give me some advice?

    I have recently started working as a maker of coffee (I dont dare call myself a barista) at a place which shall remain nameless, for reasons that will become obvious. The place I am working at isnt even really a cafe, its more of a sandwich bar that does tea and cakes in the afternoons. The manager, bless her, doesnt even like or drink coffee, and theyve only had the espresso machine for about a year - before that they used to serve heavily diluted stovetop coffee. Our coffee customers are mostly elderly people - there are office workers who come at lunch to buy sandwiches, but our coffee reputation is so bad they go and buy it from the place over the road instead.

    And now I am working here, despite not having any formal training. I am basically learning from this forum - with the useful tips I am getting here, at least I have got to the stage where I dont want to throw out 3/4 of the coffees I make (its more like 1/3 now). I cant thank you guys enough for that.

    Anyway, as you can probably guess, there are a lot of things that need to improve and Im really up against it. But right now my problem is that our coffee menu, and the way Ive been told to make coffee, is completely wrong and embarrassing.

    On our menu we have cappa, latte, flat white (so far so good) but also "muggachino" (this spelling), "long white" and a few drinks I think the manager decided to put on after walking past Starbucks once. I think I know the answer to this one -but theres no way were ever going to improve our reputation if these drinks stay on the menu, is there? Has anyone had to deal with this kind of non-coffee manager before - if so, what did you do?

    Secondly - what to do about non-standard preparations of drinks? We sell our flat whites - I call them "granny specials" - for $2 to people with seniors cards, and I have been told I "have" to make them "the way our customers like it". That is, by filling a cup 1/3 full with hot water, then adding a single espresso shot, then topping with stretched milk, no foam at all. We use quite big 250ml cups, so the coffee ratio is quite low - although at least they arent as embarrassing as the "long white" - which is 2/3 water, then a shot of coffee, then steamed milk.

    I would like to make flat whites the proper way - that is, like a latte in a cup - but our customers are the types that have no qualms in wrinkling up their noses and complaining to the manager if things arent exactly the same as they were last week. Should I just let this one go? I mean flat whites, to me, arent a real drink anyway, and asking around I have seen a fair bit of variation in how they are made, especially re the froth issue. Maybe I could put an asterix on the menu or something?

    Or should I just give up?

    sorry for the length of this rant, and thanks again for your invaluable advice so far

    Claire
    (novice coffee-maker)




  • #2
    Re: Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

    Welcome Claire to Coffee Snobs! Glad it has been helpful to you so far. I hope youre in for the long haul because even though it seems frustrating and you despair of your bosses now, you can certainly go on to bigger and better things in this industry! If you have the drive and determination.

    Ive read your post and sympathise with you. I think that youll gradually come to realise that it is actually a minority of the current population that appreciate great coffee, though that is slowly beginning to change, I feel.

    I think probably the best advice I can think to give you at the moment is: Have patience. I think you also need to keep reminding yourself that there is nothing wrong in giving the customer what they want. If they want half a cup of water with a bit of cold milk tossed over the top, give it to them. If they want a correctly timed and poured espresso shot, give that to them.

    As much as I hate having to make an instant coffee, I still do it. I may mutter under my breath about it but I also have come to the rather painful conclusion that the customers who come in regularly every Wednesday for their mug of instant cuppaccino pay the same price as those who get a beautifully timed shot with perfectly steamed milk! Yes, its true, most of the time they are getting the same for the same money. And if your boss decides to do the nice thing and give seniors rates or uniform rates or whatever, you still need to give the customer what they want. We are in a Service industry and I think at times it is easy to forget that. I believe that as a "maker of coffee" my job is to help make someones day. If it means burning the crap out of the milk because they like it so hot they cant taste anything, so be it. Theyre handing over the money which goes towards paying my wage after all!

    Anyway, stick with it Claire. I know it seems frustrating. Soon, you will find yourself building a following of like minded coffee fans who will in the end be the ones who sway your bossess thinking. It has happened with mine and they still cant figure out how I can get that perfect cup and they cant! We all know here its no magic trick, but having a passion and a method and an enjoyment for the results goes a long way towards that perfect cup!

    Im still a newbie in the industry myself but have been a long time sitter on the other side of the fence. (And I do have a background in catering too) I would consider it a pleasure to help you out anyway I can and if you want more info from me, I invite you to use the email address you see in my sig to contact me or just use the PM feature of the site. Of course, I am confident you will also find many others here who will offer the same!

    Cheers
    Scoots.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

      Welcome Claire from me too.

      I think Scoota said it well.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

        Perfect your espresso technique - you already know how to make the flat whites the way that cadre of customers like it, but I am sure your boss would see the value of a new menu if you start pulling customers who like the good stuff!

        If she doesnt then you can mark it down to good training for a Barista slot somewhere.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

          Originally posted by Thundergod link=1163237851/0#2 date=1163249715
          Welcome Claire from me too.

          I think Scoota said it well.
          Strange, I just tried to say the same as Scooted did here, but in a responce to a Scoota post re her own experiences :-) http://coffeesnobs.com.au/YaBB.pl?num=1145109525/105#105

          I think we are all in agreement..... If that is what they want, then as a service supplier we should be providing it. However it does not mean that you can not strike up a bit of chit chat with thos that buy there coffee across the rd and ASK them how they would like it made. You never know, you may increase the sales and add to your skills and experience.

          KM and Myself work in the same department, both of us like coffee, but we like it diferent. KM likes it HOT ... Steeming in fact and I am sure the milk must be almost too hot and scalded? Where as I like mine not so hot, but strong. KM usualy picks up two mugs on the way in to work and his mug is marked for 2 suggars. I have none. The staff know him and it is a social engaugement as well as service delevery. To boot, the staff rince with hot water and pre heat the mugs for us, so that the it is still the way he likes it when he gets to work. For me I like at least a double, if not a tripple shot in a standard cup, yet many find that strange. Another mate will only drink weak international roast or a single shot in a mug with 50/50 water and streached milk..NO froth.

          Every one is diferent and that is what can make your job so interesting. Get to know your clients, and their likes / dislikes and then when you have their trust, see if they are willing to expand their tastes a little. But do not be dissapointed if they try and then go back to what they know.

          Enjoy the experience, and remember the road you take has many twists, turns and at times you may even think you are going in the wrong direction. Do not fear the the unknown, but embrace it and remember. Coffee Snobs are always here to lend and ear or offer advice and encouragement.

          AM.

          Soz about the spelling... It is late and I missed my coffee today :-(



          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

            Originally posted by scoota gal link=1163237851/0#1 date=1163246027
            I think probably the best advice I can think to give you at the moment is: Have patience. I think you also need to keep reminding yourself that there is nothing wrong in giving the customer what they want. If they want half a cup of water with a bit of cold milk tossed over the top, give it to them. If they want a correctly timed and poured espresso shot, give that to them.
            You know, I never even thought of looking at it that way. That makes me feel better immediately. Thanks!

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

              And thanks to everyone else too - I will go back to work tomorrow with a new spring in my step, and will serve the weak-@rse drinks with a smile on my face!

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

                The fact that your here and open to new information sees you elevated to Barista even before you have the piece of paper.

                If I was still knocking pucks in Enmore, youd be behind my Cimbali on exchange(we often swapped with like minded establishments).
                I look forward to seeing your evolution on these threads!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

                  Perhaps you can put up a little sign saying: "feel free to tell me how you like your coffee made" ?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

                    Originally posted by Matt King link=1163237851/0#8 date=1163323595
                    Perhaps you can put up a little sign saying: "feel free to tell me how you like your coffee made" ?
                    Aint such a bad idea; if the place had a bad rap but someone still gets in there and sees that sign, they may be game to ask and be impressed! Imagine if someone on this site came into your shop without either of you knowing each other; they ask for a coffee like everyone else does and you serve them what you have to serve to everyone else. Theyd be back here and decry the establishment and the barista, when in fact you had the capacity to offer what they really wanted but you didnt know and they didnt ask!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

                      Good point Greg.

                      That coffee place I wrote about a while back at Wollongong Uni didnt seem as good as everyone down there was saying but it was supposedly "the best on campus" and maybe that part was true.

                      What I did though to give myself the best chance at a good coffee was to ask for my coffee how I wanted it not how they offered it on their menu board.
                      I know it had to be a little bit better my way than theirs.

                      To their credit it was made no questions asked.

                      So I too think the sign would be a good idea.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

                        Originally posted by Greg Pullman link=1163237851/0#9 date=1163383166
                        Originally posted by Matt King link=1163237851/0#8 date=1163323595
                        Perhaps you can put up a little sign saying: "feel free to tell me how you like your coffee made" ?
                        Aint such a bad idea; if the place had a bad rap but someone still gets in there and sees that sign, they may be game to ask and be impressed! Imagine if someone on this site came into your shop without either of you knowing each other; they ask for a coffee like everyone else does and you serve them what you have to serve to everyone else. Theyd be back here and decry the establishment and the barista, when in fact you had the capacity to offer what they really wanted but you didnt know and they didnt ask!
                        Your boss may have to approve, but the worse thing that they could say is NO.

                        A sign is also a way to "Get to know your clients, and their likes / dislikes " etc and as you hinted... They eat at your place but obtain their drink across the Rd... and that its self is like a Neon sign shouting out for attention.

                        Hang in there.

                        AM

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

                          Speaking of signs...

                          The one I really want to put up on the machine at the moment is...

                          "We heat our milk to 65-70 degrees. If you require the crap burnt out of yours please ask!" ;D ;D ;D

                          Ahem...scuse the momentary laspe of reason, Id probably not word it quite like that!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

                            "We heat our milk to 65-70 degrees. If you require the *%@^ burnt out of yours please ask!" would be better.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Embarrassing coffees at embarrassing cafe

                              I was prematurely impressed on the weekend. I was at a conference, and the two coffee options at the nearby shopping centre were Gloria Jeans and Michels Pattisserie. Since Michels had a better selection of breakfast foods, thats where we went. As I stood in front of the espresso machine, I saw a framed cutting out of a newspaper congratulating the barista on finishing 7th in the national barista championships. A quick comparison of the photo in the clipping and the barista behind the machine revealed it was indeed him. GREAT, I thought, I will get an excellent coffee this morning.

                              I thought I would have a conversation with him, so I said "You did pretty well to score 7th in the barista championships!" His reply - "Oh that was easy" should have given away that it may have been too early in the day to put a similar effort in to my coffee. Either it was, or he had different coffee and a different machine at the championships. Maybe someone even set up his grinder for him there.

                              Unfortunately the coffee had no wow factor. Was too hot for me - the milk wasnt burnt or boiled, just too hot. There was no freshness about the aroma or flavour.

                              Given the resources (barista, machine, experience) I should have been able to have a coffee with the wow factor. Unfortunately, as in scoota girls previous post, the general public dont appreciate good coffee. What I consider a good coffee often is met by "ohhh its strong" or "it could be a bit hotter" or even "i need an extra sugar for this one" by some of my friends and family. The father-in-law will always drink the top inch out of his homeroasted carefully prepared cappucino and top it up with boiling water.

                              Comment

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