Sticking with specialty or making it up to the customer?

If one of your customers in your cafe would walk up to you one day and say: “Your coffee is sour…” or “Is your milk ok? My cappuccino tastes weird…”, what would you answer?

Maybe you’d answer, that your coffee was roasted a certain way to get out all the wonderful flavors. That the taste of those rather light roasted coffee might seem a little acidic to people who never tried such coffee before...

Have you ever had conversations with your customers about your coffee and the way it was roasted?

Sure, most of them are interested in the way the coffee beans are sourced and roasted that find their way in their very coffee drinks. But what about all the others that just want to get their daily caffeine fix or just like a certain amount of sugar and a lot of milk with their coffee or espresso? What about customers that just love a really ‘strong ‘shot in their Lattes?

Do you actually know what the preferences of your customers are, when it comes to their favorite coffee drink?

 Sterling Coffee Roasters, specialty roaster in Portland/Oregon: Serving single origin, espresso blends, light and medium roasted coffee. And, yes, to my surprise, they had Vanilla and Caramel Lattes on their menu...

Sterling Coffee Roasters, specialty roaster in Portland/Oregon: Serving single origin, espresso blends, light and medium roasted coffee. And, yes, to my surprise, they had Vanilla and Caramel Lattes on their menu...

I’m sure, you’ve faced one of these questions within your daily cafe business before. Sourcing high quality beans, even going for Direct Trade is a great way to show your customers that you care about the coffee you’re serving.

We all know, though, that going for specialty coffee does not just mean growing and sourcing great single origin coffees, it also means - to some extent - roasting the beans in a certain way in order to get as much out of that little green bean as possible.

Many of you would agree with me, that with roasting too dark, all the wonderful flavors are just gone. The beans are just roasted to death. Argh...

Roasting light, medium or dark

So a lot of the specialty roasters out there tend to roast rather light or bright or to a certain sweet spot to get out all the fruity flavors we find written on menus and coffee packages nowadays.

That’s wonderful, don’t get me wrong! I love my filter coffee, black, no sugar added.

But - and let’s go back to the beginning of this article real quick - does that count for all of your customers?

Depending on where you’re located with your cafe and who’s dropping by for a cup of coffee on a daily basis, think about it, are you selling more of those Lattes and Cappuccinos or more of these flavorful filter coffees?

Adding the feedback of your customers here, again, what would you do?

Sticking with specialty: Only offering single origin coffees, roasted light and bright? No matter what?

Or making it up to the customer: Offering (espresso) blends and maybe somewhat more medium roasted coffees?

Think about that as well: Why do you opened your cafe business in the first place? And for who?

Yourself and to express your love for specialty coffee? Or is it your customer that pays your bills at some point?

The question is, based on the feedback of your customers, would you change - wait, no, let’s not call it change, let’s call it ‘adjust’ - the way you’re serving coffee and the kind of coffee you’re offering?

Would you?

You’ll always have customers that just want to stick with their Lattes and a lot of milk and sugar with their coffee or espresso. And that’s alright.

You cannot force your customers to try something new. Remember, they’re still your customers that can decide from one good or bad experience within your coffee shop, if they’re coming back or not.

Based on the feedback of your customers - and your sales of course! If you’re selling more of those single origin sourced light roasted filter coffees, stick with it! - how about finding a certain middle way of offering that single sourced light roasted filters and some darker or, let’s say medium - we still want to have some flavors in there to taste - roasts and some blends for those who like to have that ‘stronger’ shot in their Lattes?

Your customer counts

I’m not telling you to give up the philosophy of doing your business. My suggestion is to making it up to the customers that find their way to your cafe and their palates to a certain extent.

I know you’re passionate about (specialty) coffee; it is a craft to source, roast and brew these little green and brown beans!

But, isn’t it the best way always, to not being too pretentious about what kind of coffees you offer and how you’re serving your coffee beverages?

Either if you’re roasting yourself or getting your coffee beans from a local roaster, try having the preferences of your customers in mind, not just your own nerdiness about specialty coffee, when creating your menu and preparing the coffee drinks for your customers.

You could even create two separate menus, one with, let's say, your house specialties (blends, medium roasts) and a 'Single-Origin Bar' with all your single origin coffee options (and the lighter roasts), filter as well as espresso and espresso based drinks, to show your customers the varieties of coffees they can choose from for their Lattes or Filter coffees.


How do you respond to the feedback of your customers? Are you ready to adjust your cafe business based on the feedback? Let me know in the comments below!