This was a presentation by Doug Zell, Co-CEO of Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea held at the Nordic Barista Cup in 2012.

He talks about some fantastic ideas about customer perception and hospitality (as i guess the title would suggest ha) covering topics such as how baristas dress, the concept of treating your customers as if they where your pets at home and how the concept of coffee bars are based on the starbucks model and the fast food concept. I’ll go into this one in more depth in another post.

What I found really interesting was the focus around how barista’s have progressed and why they think the way they do, especially the idea (and i hope I’m not the only one who has come across this) the fussiness of “Third wave” baristas. I couldn’t find a way of articulating this annoyance until now and i know it’s a bit of a rant at only part of the industry but when I see baristas who take the approach of i know about coffee, you need to listen to me, even if you don’t want to, I’m the barista and the coffee is more important than you, the customer. They have lost the point. Human interaction is pretty much why i go to a coffee shop in the first place; try just seeing if the barista even looks up away from his espresso machine and toys to acknowledge you next time you get a coffee. It’s still a barrier between that barista and customer that’s being slowly broken down.

We had this debate with a housemate over a similar ideal being cocktails, one friend (who will be left un-named) works behind a cocktail bar, he said he got annoyed/offended when a customer ordered a Manhattan, as the customer didnt know what the drink is or a clue what goes into it so he couldn’t possibly appreciate what it is, this becomes apparent as the first question a bartender will ask is how would you like it served? The customer didn’t know. To which my other housemate turned and said “i see that as a huge opportunity to teach the customer, explain the concepts and recommend he try x-y-z, as after he tries a Manhattan made by me, it’s all he’ll want to drink for the rest of his life.”

I know we are moving past this coming through 2012 but i still keep seeing it, it’s good for a barista to be exceptional at what he/she does but remembering that its a hospitality business and the customer needs to be involved too in creating that perfect cup. People are only just becoming aware/accept just how complex coffee really is and are becoming more curious to find out more, not to be humoured for not knowing.

Here’s the video, however its more for the coffee nerd as opposed to friends following this as its over 45 mins but give it a go if you have the spare time, he’s a pretty good speaker.


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