I recently witnessed an exchange at my local coffee establishment that reminded me of the joys of passionate people in the coffee industry. A lovely lady in line ahead of me ordered a ‘large, extra foamy latte’. The barista thoughtfully looked her over and asked her how she was hoping this drink she had ordered would taste. She explained she had recently experienced a traditional cappuccino with a colleague in New York City and while she enjoyed it, it was a bit overwhelming to have to ‘spoon’ through her cup to get to the coffee. Because of this, her colleague recommended an ‘extra foamy latte’ to allow for more milk. The barista smiled knowingly and began to explain the differences between a wet and dry cappuccino. She then did the unthinkable… she offered to make the lady a wet cappuccino as well as the foamy latte so she could experience the difference for herself. She lit up like a Christmas tree.

pic_latte.pngWhen the drinks were created, the barista took a moment to scoop a sample of the stiff foam topping her latte to show what ‘extra foam’ meant. The lady’s nose crinkled. The barista laughed and handed the lady the cappuccino. At first taste she was in heaven. She oohed and ahhed at the rich, silky drink and thanked the barista extensively promising to return every chance she had. Thus a regular was born – right in front of my eyes. The barista was just as excited to give this customer the gift of coffee she truly wanted.

It reminded me that it is easy to get into the groove of the conveyor belt when you are a popular place with a constant line, but it’s important to remember how that line was built. With the slower part of the year upon us, why not take the time to educate your customers on what exactly your menu offerings are? Tastings don’t have to just be for coffee roasts. How fun to let your customer’s explore the difference between a macchiato and a con panna! Just think of how it can help build their excitement about a beverage and lower your shrinkage because you don’t have to remake a drink a customer didn’t like…

By teaching your customers how to order the perfect cup of coffee they didn’t even know that they wanted, you not only surprise & delight them, you help your business grow one loyal customer at a time. The key here is to tap into the talent your baristas already have and take advantage of any teaching moment that might arise. You can probably tell which customers know their order and exactly how they like it made…so you can also probably tell the ones that would be open to getting to know their taste buds a little better!