- On March 25, 2017
- DC coffee, Full Service, Hyattsville
By: Austin Redington
In our short time as a company, we’ve certainly learned a lot. One of the most important things we’ve learned about in trying to curate an excellent coffee shop experience, is that it isn’t only about the coffee.
In today’s world of specialty coffee, we’ve managed to get completely wrapped up only thinking about the coffee. How can we source higher quality green? How can we roast this coffee better? How can we improve our brewing process? How can we make our drinks taste better? These are all very important factors that we consider each day, and factors that must continue to focus on. Coffee is, afterall, the central tangible product that we sell. If it’s in our company name, we’d better get that part right. But an experience isn’t solely based on quality of the product.
On this note, I’ve had countless visits to cafes where the coffee itself is great, maybe even exceptional, but the overall experience was horrible. From rude service and confusing menus to the ‘too hip’ ambiance and ‘is this place seriously even clean enough to sit in?’, I’ve experienced it all. And each and every time, the overall experience I walked away with completely overshadowed the quality coffee. Regardless of how delicious your coffee is, it matters how you present it, how you make it available to the customer, and how you serve the coffee, and how you talk to your customer about it.
What is it then that makes for an amazing coffee experience? This is a question I’ve obsessed over for the last couple of years and has led me on a quest to cafes all around the world. I’ve researched books, read article after article, and spent countless hours observing on this quest (consuming obscene amounts of espresso all the while). In the end, it’s not a simple ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer, but more so a balance of dedication. This balance is easily illustrated by the following formula:
Experience = Product Quality + Presentation + Service + Environment
Using this, it’s easy to see why my negative experiences left me overall feeling negative, even though the product may have been awesome. When the other elements lack dedication and focus, the overall experience suffers. In contrast, I have found that the best experiences are so flawless and make it so easy for the customer that you don’t realize that the whole thing is being intentionally orchestrated.
This is the type of experience i discovered in my travels throughout Australia and New Zealand. Melbourne, viewed by many as the capital of the specialty coffee world, delivered incredible experiences at nearly every cafe I visited. What is it that made these experiences so special? The coffee was, of course, impeccably roasted and brewed. But, the experience began before that ever arrived at my table.
I first entered each cafe and was greeted by warm, vibrant energy – from the employees as well as the design and plant elements integrated throughout (check our our plant life blog for more about greenery in cafes[link]!). But what came next, was vitally important. I was greeted by a friendly smile, brought to a table, and given a menu clearly describing the coffee and food offerings.
I was actually being given full service – at a coffee shop!
Over the course of each visit, everything I wanted was ordered from my seat and delivered directly to me. When items would arrive, they’d be beautifully presented, with coffee and espressos frequently accompanied by information about their origin, tasting notes, and stories. I never had to listen for my name to be shouted out, or wonder if an impatient patron would take my drink by mistake. I didn’t have to leave my seat. I didn’t even have to wait in line. It was like all of the sudden, I’d walked into a cafe and then was treated like royalty! This is how I want our customers to feel.
Cafes throughout Australia and New Zealand are nailing every part of the Experience equation.The product is nearly perfect, the environment is comfortable and well appointed, the service is unparalleled, and the presentation is engaging and memorable.
In some ways, this seems so simple and so obvious. We experience great service in restaurants all the time (depending on the restaurants you visit, of course). So why aren’t we doing this with coffee in our country?
Upon returning from this journey, I began plotting. How can we roll this out in our cafe? What will it mean for our business? Can we replicate this type of experience? Can we improve upon this experience?
Over the last few months, our team has been working through the challenges and began developing our new service plan. We’ve been honing in the details, strategizing, role playing, and really just setting the rules for what defines the Vigilante Coffee Experience. In the process, we’ve adapted our menu to include some new food items and combos. We’ve revamped our coffee presentation to be more appealing, informative, and educational.
And we also trained ourselves on how to interact and engage with our customers about coffee at the table, and continue to think and re-think how we approach service. No more name shouting, lots more relaxing. All this, of course, is done from the viewpoint of making a visit to Vigilante Coffee one that is easy, special, unique, and memorable.
While we continue to hone in and improve the Vigilante Coffee Experience, we hope you enjoy the new service style and really take advantage of your ability to come in, feel at home, and be served an amazing cup of coffee in a welcoming and enjoyable atmosphere.