A Restaurant Critic Finally Acknowledges the Coffee Problem

the business of coffee houses

A Restaurant Critic Finally Acknowledges the Coffee Problem

Postby Marshall on Wed Aug 08, 2007 8:58 pm

S.F. Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer finally acknowledges that overlooking bad coffee does the reader a disservice. This was written after a prompting by journalist (and friend), Richard Reynolds.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/detail?blogid=26&entry_id=19206#comme

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Postby Jeff Givens on Thu Aug 09, 2007 6:07 am

Awesome. I truly believe that restaurants are the next huge market for specialty coffee. Consumer awareness of good coffee is increasing and restaurants are going to have to respond to the demand.

In the past, I've been told that restaurants aren't worth the trouble. I don't think that's the case any longer. As a roaster, I see a world of opportunity opening up with high-end restaurants.
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Postby barry on Thu Aug 09, 2007 12:28 pm

one of the more frustrating events around here is to read reviews of new cafes or coffeehouses where the reviewer fails to mention coffee at all. there will be column-inch after column-inch about sandwiches or decor or music or desserts or what-have-you, and, maybe, just maybe, a single line about the coffee.

ggrrrr...

one reviewer in our shop was fascinated by one particular chocolate goodie that we make, and, i kid you not, i had to repeatedly refocus her on coffee, and not on the pretty little chocolates.
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Postby xristrettox on Thu Aug 09, 2007 1:26 pm

Clyde Common in the Ace Hotel has a unique opportunity that I have not seen so far with other restaurants. They are actually connected via a lobby to Stumptown. If you are a diner at Clyde (awesome restaurant btw), and order an espresso or cappuccino, the ticket is printed up for the Stumptown Barista to prepare, and it's just a short walk for the server to grab the drink and deliver.
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Postby Jason Haeger on Thu Aug 09, 2007 2:21 pm

xristrettox wrote:Clyde Common in the Ace Hotel has a unique opportunity that I have not seen so far with other restaurants. They are actually connected via a lobby to Stumptown. If you are a diner at Clyde (awesome restaurant btw), and order an espresso or cappuccino, the ticket is printed up for the Stumptown Barista to prepare, and it's just a short walk for the server to grab the drink and deliver.

Now that's insanely awesome.
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Postby Ryan Willbur on Thu Aug 09, 2007 2:49 pm

Next door to our silverlake store is a french bistro, Cafe Stella. Upon our opening (next week) there are plans to work out a similar system... Now, if we can integrate our POS, that would be awesome.
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Postby Marshall on Thu Aug 09, 2007 3:09 pm

I also found the blog comments interesting. It sounds like the target demographic for fine dining reviews (including the critic, himself) mainly orders decaf at night.

This follows my dinner party experiences at home: "Who wants coffee?" "Got decaf?" "Decaf please." "I woke up at 3am the last time I had your friggin' espresso." Etc., etc.
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Postby Deferio on Thu Aug 09, 2007 4:06 pm

I really do think it is simply a matter of time when all restasurants with true integrity will step up to the challenge that coffee presents them. In order to do this though you would have to admit that you have had double standards that's a blow to the ego. High end chefs are nutoriously stubborn.
Here's hoping for some consistant standards.
-CD

P.S.This is why I LOVE where I work!

http://www.carriagehousecafe.com
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Postby barry on Fri Aug 10, 2007 8:12 pm

Marshall wrote:"I woke up at 3am the last time I had your friggin' espresso." Etc., etc.



clearly, your parties end too soon. ;)
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yep

Postby barrett on Sat Aug 11, 2007 11:46 am

This is what I've been working on for the last few months. Building solid coffee programs tailored for the individual restaurant... and writing about it all on a local restaurant scene website. The main hurdle is explaining to them that they need to lay out some cash in equipment, that the free stuff their current company is providing is junk - and so is the coffee that they are hooked into buying. Restaurants also seem to want to have a push button solution, rather than training someone how to do things correctly - I always liken that to that they should build a machine to do all the cooking too - and then they'd really cut down on training.
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Re: yep

Postby Jeff Givens on Sat Aug 11, 2007 1:23 pm

barrett wrote:Restaurants also seem to want to have a push button solution, rather than training someone how to do things correctly - I always liken that to that they should build a machine to do all the cooking too - and then they'd really cut down on training.


For restaurants to do decent coffee, it will definitely require a major philosophical shift, but if the critics start talking coffee, the public will follow, and restaurants will respond.
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Postby barrett on Sun Aug 12, 2007 2:41 am

the wheels are in motion in vancouver.. slowly, but it will happen.
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Postby jmc on Tue Aug 14, 2007 9:02 am

http://www.suntimes.com/restaurants/reviews/493727,WKP-News-zealous03.restaurantreviews
This guy seems to mention coffee quite a bit...sounds like a nice place.
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Postby Marshall on Tue Aug 14, 2007 9:29 am

JMC wrote:http://www.suntimes.com/restaurants/reviews/493727,WKP-News-zealous03.restaurantreviews
This guy seems to mention coffee quite a bit...sounds like a nice place.

That's the first restaurant review I've read that took coffee seriously.
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Postby Bill Sze on Tue Aug 14, 2007 10:38 am

If someone reviews my shop, I would hope I will get a decent review on coffees and teas. But I don't know if my baked items will get anything but adequate rating. I simply don't have the room to do full scale baking, and I can't make a business case to have a top quality baker on staff. I imagine most restaurants have the same dilemma.

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Postby Marshall on Tue Aug 14, 2007 11:17 am

Bill Sze wrote:If someone reviews my shop, I would hope I will get a decent review on coffees and teas. But I don't know if my baked items will get anything but adequate rating. I simply don't have the room to do full scale baking, and I can't make a business case to have a top quality baker on staff. I imagine most restaurants have the same dilemma.
I wouldn't compare switching coffee suppliers, showing waiters how to grind fresh coffee and refresh the airpot more often with installing a bakery and hiring a pastry chef.

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Postby Rich Westerfield on Tue Aug 14, 2007 11:22 am

Bill Sze wrote:If someone reviews my shop, I would hope I will get a decent review on coffees and teas. But I don't know if my baked items will get anything but adequate rating. I simply don't have the room to do full scale baking, and I can't make a business case to have a top quality baker on staff. I imagine most restaurants have the same dilemma.


What makes you think the person reviewing your shop will even like coffee?

That one resulted in a letter to the editor :roll:
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Postby jmc on Tue Aug 14, 2007 11:27 am

I agree w/Marshall. My expectations for coffee are different (Not very high, but hopeful...) at a restaurant than at a coffeeshop.
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Postby Bill Sze on Tue Aug 14, 2007 1:44 pm

Marshall wrote:
Bill Sze wrote:If someone reviews my shop, I would hope I will get a decent review on coffees and teas. But I don't know if my baked items will get anything but adequate rating. I simply don't have the room to do full scale baking, and I can't make a business case to have a top quality baker on staff. I imagine most restaurants have the same dilemma.
I wouldn't compare switching coffee suppliers, showing waiters how to grind fresh coffee and refresh the airpot more often with installing a bakery and hiring a pastry chef.

Marshall

Switching coffee supplier is relatively easy, even if it means buying your own equipment. Getting wait staff to grind, brew and replace coffee every 30 minutes is a tall order. More likely you will need a barista to be in charge of coffee, not to mention make espressos and capps. It can be done, but you need to sell a lot of coffee. In the case of Zealous as reviewed by Chicago Sun Times. To have coffee quality matches his other offerings, I would think it will take some major commitment.

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Postby Jim Schulman on Tue Aug 14, 2007 3:25 pm

If 80% of after-dinner coffee sales are decaf, then even with all I know, I'd have trouble keeping the standard high.

Decafs stale quickly as green, as roasted, and as brewed coffee. So sourcing them and brewing them is a real challenge. One would need the coffee delivered fresh roasted twice a week and brew it to order rather than in airpots. Moreover, it would have to come from a roaster getting in fresh crops two to three times a year, or places like Terroir (are there any others) who freeze the greens.

So the blame may not be entirely with the restaurants. How many roasters are willing to spell all this out in their sales calls, and then commit to supplying decaf at this quality level?
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Postby Deferio on Wed Aug 15, 2007 9:58 am

A restaurant should hire a barista to work and consult just like they would a sommeliere. Forget training the waiters.
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Postby jmc on Wed Aug 15, 2007 12:38 pm

Jim Schulman wrote:If 80% of after-dinner coffee sales are decaf...

Jim, in my limited experience(I only work directly with a few restaurants.), here in Chicago, this is not the case, it is closer to 70Reg30decaf...
Deferio wrote:A restaurant should hire a barista to work and consult just like they would a sommeliere. Forget training the waiters.

If you can figure out a way for a restuarant to make even half the amount of money with coffee that they do from wine then this is a great idea. Establishing a culture of training is possible right now.
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Postby Deferio on Wed Aug 15, 2007 2:15 pm

JMC wrote:If you can figure out a way for a restuarant to make even half the amount of money with coffee that they do from wine then this is a great idea. Establishing a culture of training is possible right now.


True. But I am not saying you pay them the same. Coffee, at least in our lifetime, may never reach that level. What is evident is that maintaining high standards need more than training from outside sources. They need someone with a watchful eye making sure things go the way they are supposed to go. I kn ow Intelly has Charlie Trotters as an account and by reviews I've read they seem to be doing ok. But I doubt that it is at as high a level as the food. Why is the food at a high level? Because the Chef, in house, keeps it that way.

The more people that get "trained" as waiters/baristas the more likelyhood there is of a quality fall out, especially with turnover factored in. At a high end restaurant that is not acceptable for food,service, or wine therefore, if the quality ethos extends to all parts of the establishment (which it should) quality fallout should not be acceptable in coffee.
Its a small thing. Pick someone to work as a barista at dinner service, invest in them a bit and watch the customer loyalty go up as they truely can now find no fault with their experience.
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Postby onocoffee on Wed Aug 15, 2007 2:30 pm

The model for making more money with coffee is there. The question is whether or not any restaurant has the cajones to do it.

I visited a cafe in Tokyo with vintage coffees that were up to 1200 yen for a 50ml cup - that's about $10.16 per serving - or roughly $47.96 for an 8 ounce cup.

What lacks is respect. Both on the restaurant side and our own. We're too complacent and too happy to offer coffee that's marginally better than Starbucks. We're content with a perception that we're barely better than Starbucks. Heck, most indie cafes look worse and serve worse coffee than the average Starbucks.

Until we decide to get serious, no one else will take this seriously.
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Postby Robert Csar on Wed Aug 15, 2007 3:07 pm

coffeehouses barely do food well (choking on scones and bagels) so why should restaurants do coffee well?
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