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Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
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mattyj
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Posted Mon Jan 1, 2007, 12:16am
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

reading this article and all the posts (well, not really all the posts ... could someone bold the highlights for me please? :) ), I was reminded of Robo-Cop, and all the failure Robo-Cops.

Next, we'll be implanting the brain of previous World Barista Champions into Super-Autos ...
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gabi
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Posted Mon Jan 1, 2007, 1:16pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

..most café owners are reluctant to raise the retail price of their coffees! The sad reality is that most café owners continually watch their competitors pricing and refuse to raise prices unless their competitors do it first

I think it is absurd to think of espresso and its derivatives (cappuccino /latte..) as a "fix-price-commodity"

Even bottled beer which is the ultimate commodity ( since there is zero difference between a bottled Corona served in two places ) sells for different price in different places
The price for standard tea ( hot water + tea bag ) fluctuates by 30-40% between different places

Where I came from (Tel-Aviv) you can get an entry level cappuccino in places like Aroma (which is a bit better than SB) for about $2.5 while the upscale places (Illan's, Arcafe) will sell for about $3.5.
Sure the $2.5 a cup controls almost 90% of the market, but there is still a place for upscale coffee shops

I don't understand why it can not be done in the US
Come to think about this we do pay different price for coffee in Dunkin' and SB so why not go for the next level ?
When I buy Pizza in some upscale place (Figs/Upper-Crust) I pay 50% more than Pizza-Hut, what makes coffee a fix-price product ?

Places serving better coffee should be able to charge more for their coffee without loosing business.
They should be able to explain that they sell a superior product and charge more
I'm not a marketing guy, but I would use words like "artisan", "hand-crafted", "premium" or "specialty" to differentiate my business from the crowd
You can host coffee tasting events, feature "coffee of the month", special "late-night-latte" (maybe using decaff)  etc.
The one thing you should not be doing is try and live in SB shadow locked in the one-price-fits-them-all envelope
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alsterling
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Posted Mon Jan 1, 2007, 3:21pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

gabi Said:

I think it is absurd to think of espresso and its derivatives (cappuccino /latte..) as a "fix-price-commodity" Even bottled beer which is the ultimate commodity ( since there is zero difference between a bottled Corona served in two places ) sells for different price in different places
The price for standard tea ( hot water + tea bag ) fluctuates by 30-40% between different places

Good point and very true.

Where I came from (Tel-Aviv) you can get an entry level cappuccino in places like Aroma (which is a bit better than SB) for about $2.5 while the upscale places (Illan's, Arcafe) will sell for about $3.5. Sure the $2.5 a cup controls almost 90% of the market, but there is still a place for upscale coffee shops.

It's all about marketing, or before the fancy terms got thrown out there.....how to dress up a product and/or service so it looks better than the other guy's.

I don't understand why it can not be done in the US. Come to think about this we do pay different price for coffee in Dunkin' and SB so why not go for the next level ? When I buy Pizza in some upscale place (Figs/Upper-Crust) I pay 50% more than Pizza-Hut, what makes coffee a fix-price product ?

Places serving better coffee should be able to charge more for their coffee without loosing business. They should be able to explain that they sell a superior product and charge more I'm not a marketing guy, but I would use words like "artisan", "hand-crafted", "premium" or "specialty" to differentiate my business from the crowd You can host coffee tasting events, feature "coffee of the month", special "late-night-latte" (maybe using decaff)  etc. The one thing you should not be doing is try and live in SB shadow locked in the one-price-fits-them-all envelope

Posted January 1, 2007 link

In my opinion, you successfully answered your own questions and explained a typical marketing resolution of the challenge.

The key point of my short video observation of Suplicy Cafe in Sao Paulo was that they not only have trained baristas, great coffee product.....but they serve most coffee drinks with a short glass of cold bubble water. (agua com gas) They also add a biscotti. Marco Suplicy is a sharp blade in a drawer of many dull knives. In some marketing arenas that's called "increasing the perceived value." I've already faced off with a few on this site that say when they're out and about, thirsting for an espresso, they look for the espresso, and don't really care about the packaging. I also consider the service and atmosphere the packaging. I've never agreed, and would rather have an OK product from a great customer service person than an excellent product from someone who borders on insulting me. I may continue to search for another espresso bar, but while I'd give the first shop a second chance, I'll hold a grudge against the second!  

Click Here to See Espresso Cafes of Brasil: Suplicy, Jardins District, Sao Paulo


Best, Al

 
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RBFunk
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Posted Mon Jan 1, 2007, 6:37pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

gabi Said:

I think it is absurd to think of espresso and its derivatives (cappuccino /latte..) as a "fix-price-commodity"

Even bottled beer which is the ultimate commodity ( since there is zero difference between a bottled Corona served in two places ) sells for different price in different places
The price for standard tea ( hot water + tea bag ) fluctuates by 30-40% between different places

Where I came from (Tel-Aviv) you can get an entry level cappuccino in places like Aroma (which is a bit better than SB) for about $2.5 while the upscale places (Illan's, Arcafe) will sell for about $3.5.
Sure the $2.5 a cup controls almost 90% of the market, but there is still a place for upscale coffee shops

I don't understand why it can not be done in the US
Come to think about this we do pay different price for coffee in Dunkin' and SB so why not go for the next level ?
When I buy Pizza in some upscale place (Figs/Upper-Crust) I pay 50% more than Pizza-Hut, what makes coffee a fix-price product ?

Places serving better coffee should be able to charge more for their coffee without loosing business.
They should be able to explain that they sell a superior product and charge more
I'm not a marketing guy, but I would use words like "artisan", "hand-crafted", "premium" or "specialty" to differentiate my business from the crowd
You can host coffee tasting events, feature "coffee of the month", special "late-night-latte" (maybe using decaff)  etc.
The one thing you should not be doing is try and live in SB shadow locked in the one-price-fits-them-all envelope

Posted January 1, 2007 link

I'm no marketing genius but I am making money. :)
The reason that your Corona or generic tea fluxuates is that rent, taxes, salaries and other cost of business are very different in different neighborhoods but one of the biggest reasons is the atmosphere of the establishment.  
Unfortunatly business is not quality driven once you get past a certain level of quality, it's price driven. For example, there are a lot more Ford and Chevy dealers then Ferrari and Lotus dealers in the US. Both make cars that run but they are different as are their prices.  If you look at some retail coffee websites (including ours) you will see that they all have a list of superlatives so where is the difference?  Price and service.
Our store front is in a small town about 7 miles from NYC. We are towards one end of a 7 block downtown shopping area. Our main competitors are a convienence store directly across the street, 2 diners/luncheonettes mis way down the street, and another coffee shop at the other end.
Both diners use the coffee they get from the company that supplies their brewers. It comes to them pre- ground in 5 pound bags. You can get a 10 oz. cup for $1.00. No matter how long it's sat in the pot.  The convienence store coffee comes out of one of those push button machines. You can get tea, hot chocolate or a cappochino (sic) for $1.25. Plus they have your newspaper cigarettes, lottery tickets, etc. The shop down the street charges the same as us and is up for sale after being open 1 year. People have told me that the owners are not happy people and their service shows it.
We have a 12oz. cup ground right before brewing in to an airpot. If the coffee in the pot makes it to 2 hours, it gets converted to iced coffee. About  80% of our sales volume is coffee. Espresso and espresso based drinks are third.
So why do people come to us? Simple. We have plenty of parking so the morning rush can get their coffee quickly or the sit around and linger folks don't have to feed the meters. My wife or I are present 90% of the time so we know our customers, many by name, and how they like things. I have one early morning customer who is always late for work but needs 3 double espressos.  As soon as I see her car pull up. I am grinding the first one and have the last one is gettig a cap about the time she has her money out. But I still have time to chat with her.
As I mentioned further up, I would loveto be in a posistion to pay my people $700 a week, hell I would like to be able to pay myself that. The reality is that the shop does not, never will have or be able to support that level of sales in it's current location.
Bob

 
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RBFunk
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Posted Mon Jan 1, 2007, 6:45pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

mattyj Said:

reading this article and all the posts (well, not really all the posts ... could someone bold the highlights for me please? :) ), I was reminded of Robo-Cop, and all the failure Robo-Cops.

Next, we'll be implanting the brain of previous World Barista Champions into Super-Autos ...

Posted January 1, 2007 link

For those of us of a cetain age, the movie Westworld. "Nothing can go wrong"
Bob

 
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gonzogourmand
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Posted Tue Jan 2, 2007, 2:15pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

Someone ping me when a machine can :

Taste.

Smell.

Relate the previous two to human/customer preferences and control grind, dose, tamp, time, distribution, etc in order to make each shot taste right for each drink and customer. (i.e. pulling one ounce double ristretto for myself, a one and a half ounce double for one customers macchiato, and the same volume but at a lesser time for my fellow barista who prefers a sweet & sour shot...)

Control all of those factors to compensate for minute, moderate, or major changes in roast or bean type.

Pull the exact same coffee or coffee blend three, five, or ten different ways to make it taste good but completely different each time.

Steam milk so it tastes good. I believe it is possible at this point to make a machine that can have consistent texture as Mr. Sabados claims, but I note with interest he doesn't mention taste. It is relatively easy to steam milk to a consistent texture, but it takes an incredible amount of practice and skill to control all of the many variables in milk steaming to bring out the vanilla, caramel, sweetness, and other subtle flavors and aromas of properly steamed milk. Nor do I believe it is possible to have a machine steam milk to less than a millimeter less or more foam in order to get the proper amount of foam for a different type of latte art or slightly differently shaped or sized cup.

Etc.

Machines easily beat out an untrained, uninterested, uncaring PBTB, but the cost of developing and producing a machine that can control the dozens of factors involved in making a great espresso shot or drink as well as la mano  is prohibitively expensive and unlikely in the foreseeable future. I welcome all improvements in super auto's because they have the potential to raise the average quality and interest in quality and may lead to new advances in understanding the science behind espresso.
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xristrettox
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Posted Wed Jan 3, 2007, 1:36pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

Let the Luddites unite.

Kind of a straw man George made there.  His whole article was passed on the proposition that this machine does exist or will exist very shortly.  All of about two paragraphs were dedicated to this machine, and the rest was about the implications said machine would have on the market.

So, uhh, what machine is it?

Oh right, it hasn't been invented yet.

And what's that? "The only skill required by the operator was knowledge of the characteristics of the machine." No coffee knoweldge necessary? The machine is going to smell and taste that shot and tell you whether the extraction needs to be changed or not? These things are what makes up over half of what being a barista is.  A monkey could be trained to pull a shot (no, not literally) and steam milk... these things are not too hard.  It's the trouble shooting and the constant obsessiveness of the barista that makes them what they are. I can't stress enough that knowing how to pull shots and steam milk is not what makes a great barista... it is only the base requirement.  So by (theoretically) taking away that base requirement, we are somehow going to lose the barista as a profession? I think not.  

Australia may be going the way of big box, no customer service, replicating robots for all their consumer needs. America has been there, done that... it was called the 80's and 90's.  What were seeing in Portland and other coastal cities is a step back, towards customer service and neighborhood craftsmanship.

Love,
Billy

P.S. Please don't wake me up out of my cryogenic sleep if the robots ever do take over the world.

 
billy wilson
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed Jan 3, 2007, 3:07pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

The machine George was talking about in most of this article is the Azkoyen Xpession machine.

I heard some talk about this machine in Bern last year, but have not seen one in person.

Here's some additional marketing stuff about the machine.

Mark
PS - I remember some Aussies are high on all things Azkoyen. Back in 2003-4, this forum was abuzz over their grinders, mostly from satisfied Aussies.

 
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RBFunk
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Posted Wed Jan 3, 2007, 9:06pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

gonzogourmand Said:

Someone ping me when a machine can :

Taste.
Smell.
Relate the previous two to human/customer preferences and control grind, dose, tamp, time, distribution, etc in order to make each shot taste right for each drink and customer. (i.e. pulling one ounce double ristretto for myself, a one and a half ounce double for one customers macchiato, and the same volume but at a lesser time for my fellow barista who prefers a sweet & sour shot...)

Control all of those factors to compensate for minute, moderate, or major changes in roast or bean type.

Pull the exact same coffee or coffee blend three, five, or ten different ways to make it taste good but completely different each time.

Steam milk so it tastes good. I believe it is possible at this point to make a machine that can have consistent texture as Mr. Sabados claims, but I note with interest he doesn't mention taste. It is relatively easy to steam milk to a consistent texture, but it takes an incredible amount of practice and skill to control all of the many variables in milk steaming to bring out the vanilla, caramel, sweetness, and other subtle flavors and aromas of properly steamed milk. Nor do I believe it is possible to have a machine steam milk to less than a millimeter less or more foam in order to get the proper amount of foam for a different type of latte art or slightly differently shaped or sized cup.

Machines easily beat out an untrained, uninterested, uncaring PBTB, but the cost of developing and producing a machine that can control the dozens of factors involved in making a great espresso shot or drink as well as la mano  is prohibitively expensive and unlikely in the foreseeable future. I welcome all improvements in super auto's because they have the potential to raise the average quality and interest in quality and may lead to new advances in understanding the science behind espresso.

Posted January 2, 2007 link

Consider yourself pinged. There currently are sensors that can taste, smell, temperature, measure weight, particle size, color of beans, and then control all of that accurately on the fly time after time.  Right now it, would be too expensive to build except as a proof of concept but 40 years ago a cell phone cost $2,500 and filled half the trunk of your car. The expected reliability of the current cell phone system is on the order 99.999%.  It isn't hard to build a machine that will work for a long time without breaking down.
But I really take exception to your "untrained, uninterested, uncaring" characterization of the people that are trying to make a living serving coffee and espresso. That you can make a living as a barista is great and I am not taking  thing away from you and the skills you have developed but please remember that not all of us have a customer base that will support that skill level.  All our employees do there best to give each customer the best experiance in our shop that they can.  Yes they do learn more about coffee and try to improve their skills everyday but not one of them deserves your label.
Bob

 
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ant
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Posted Thu Jan 4, 2007, 4:18am
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

While I love the profession of a barista and have many tales of customers 'getting it' and many more interesting times ahead.  If the super duper automatic forces the mainstream to focus on coffee bean quality and the net effect is the end of the coffee crisis I would be happily redundant.
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