Gourmet Restaurants and great espresso--How?

the business of coffee houses

Gourmet Restaurants and great espresso--How?

Postby Greg H on Mon Apr 26, 2010 9:38 pm

Anyone out there pulling off a great espresso program in a high scale restaurant?

Say one that wants to give you no more than 36-48 inches of counter space?

Let's also say that a GS3 is out of bounds and the goal is great shots on a budget--primarily because you don't have 20 years to recoup your investment on the 20 drinks a night they sell.

Chefs want ease of execution, cleanliness, and consistency, (super-auto, pods,); roasters want quality taste and brand protection/recognition.

I'd love to read this community's thoughts on this dilemma.

Best I can come up with is a decent one group with two mini e's (or one mini e and a major e) and an intense training program for a passionate candidate/candidates.

I know there is disagreement on roasters loaning equipment etc. Let's table that for this thread.

Thanks for any contributions.

-greg
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Re: Gourmet Restaurants and great espresso--How?

Postby Alistair Durie on Mon Apr 26, 2010 10:43 pm

Always a good phenomena to discuss. Restaurants should stay away from espresso as we should stay away from fine dining. We don't have the focus or training for fine dining, just as they do not for espresso. Though we can probably make a great sandwich, and restaurants could likely brew a great cup of coffee.

With little investment, some basic guidance, good water and some great beans its possible to make world class coffee just about anywhere. Espresso is unforgiving... the investment is large, the training is extensive, and the program is 100 times more likely to fall apart, brewing bad coffee even with good beans. There's only so much damage a waiter/bartender can do with a brewer or french press... give them an espresso machine and they might loose the customers.

Espresso can work - I think having a key person in the restaurant who is passionate about the product is key to the success. other than that its just the commitment of time, energy, labour, and money (the easy stuff!). If the restaurant does lunch / brunch this is often very worthwhile.

same topic previously discussed here:

restaurant french pressing

the coffee problem

there are probably more
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Re: Gourmet Restaurants and great espresso--How?

Postby nick on Tue Apr 27, 2010 6:54 am

Yeah. There was talk at one point that they were going to make and sell a smaller, single-hopper La Marzocco Swift grinder (grind-and-tamp) with improved dosing, so the middles of the pucks wouldn't be so mushy (=uneven extraction). I don't know what happened to that project, but something like that, paired with something like a GS/3, could've been a nice restaurant setup. Alas.
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Re: Gourmet Restaurants and great espresso--How?

Postby phaelon56 on Tue Apr 27, 2010 8:48 am

Greg H wrote:restaurant?
Say one that wants to give you no more than 36-48 inches of counter space?


It can be done in that amount of space.

Let's also say that a GS3 is out of bounds and the goal is great shots on a budget--primarily because you don't have 20 years to recoup your investment on the 20 drinks a night they sell.

Great shots on a budget are possible in home environments and perhaps even in a very low volume cafe setting, but the prosumer E61 machines one would use require skill and experience from the user in order to deliver optimal results. Furthermore, the steaming capabilities of such machines are inadequate when multiple milk based drinks are ordered. This points to another issue - it's time consuming to make milk drinks for a table of 4 to 6 people - a dedicated on-staff barista is needed.

Chefs want ease of execution, cleanliness, and consistency, (super-auto, pods,); roasters want quality taste and brand protection/recognition.

Two incompatible goals.

Best I can come up with is a decent one group with two mini e's (or one mini e and a major e) and an intense training program for a passionate candidate/candidates.


I'd lean towards a GS3 with two SJ's, a small sink with a pitcher rinser, and a dedicated undercounter fridge. The training program would have to target a reliable and stable person on-staff who will be available to do nothing but make the espresso drinks and the press pot or pour-over coffee. Opting to assign the barista duties on a "whoever is available at that moment in time" basis (e.g. a busboy, waitstaff or bartender) is a recipe for failure.

The only real restaurant (vs. a true coffee establishment that serves light meals as a sideline) I've seen that meets your criteria is Carriage House Cafe in Ithaca NY. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it is a real full service restaurant, although not in the "fine dining" category (but the food is very good). The important point to note is the fact that they planned a full coffee/espresso bar service into the structure from the onset. Chris Deferio (a regualr on this board and now based in Muncie Indiana) was brought in from his previous position as Barista Trainer at Gimme Coffee. My recollection is that he was involved in the planning and execution during the build-out phase and also implemented/managed their ongoing training program. I don't think it's possible to truly do justice to espresso in a restaurant setting without making that kind of commitment and investment.
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Re: Gourmet Restaurants and great espresso--How?

Postby Marshall on Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:01 am

It can be done. I had the first truly superb restaurant espresso of my life last year at Bar Bambino in San Francisco's Mission District. Writer and fellow espresso fanatic Richard Reynolds took us there specifically for the espresso (though, the food was wonderful, too).

Coffee from Ecco. Waiters trained by Ecco to pull the shots. Restored and customized La Marzocco with PID on the bar counter. It altered my view of what could be done when the owners have the desire.
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Re: Gourmet Restaurants and great espresso--How?

Postby nick on Tue Apr 27, 2010 1:12 pm

phaelon56 wrote:The only real restaurant (vs. a true coffee establishment that serves light meals as a sideline)...

The "there are zero restaurants that have great coffee programs" thing hasn't been true for years. Talk to Counter Culture, and the amazing coffee program at the amazing Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore. Talk to Intelligentsia and some of their awesome restaurant folks they work with in Chicago and elsewhere. There are role models out there... there do need to be more, and people need to be more aware of the ones that are rockin it.
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Re: Gourmet Restaurants and great espresso--How?

Postby ErinMeister on Tue Apr 27, 2010 6:28 pm

I love this thread and am so glad it's happening. That means that I need to apologize in advance for what will likely be a run-off-at-the-mouth response. (This is why I never post to Coffeed.)

Fine dining and good coffee don't have to be mutually exclusive by any means, though they certainly haven't seemed a natural pair much in the past. It certainly takes more than just a conversation about what equipment and space requirements a restaurant has, because as we all know the best espresso machine in the world won't make a good shot if the barista doesn't know what he or she is doing. There are a zillion considerations to take in, and in my opinion the equipment is almost the least important aspect. (Almost.)

Some of the most rewarding professional relationships I have are with restaurants, and the ones that are the best from an execution standpoint are almost always small, quality-driven, and seasonality-focused from the starting gun. Which is to say: You absolutely have to pick your battles here. No denying that.

In my experience, there are several things that make a huge difference when it comes to instilling a quality focus on the coffee service in a restaurant:

1) Enthusiastic, engaged, mature and dedicated servers who have support from their GMs and from the kitchen. I always tell the servers I work with (in restaurants that don't have dedicated baristas -- which, let's face it, is 99% of restaurants) to take special care of and pride in the coffees they make, because it truly makes them part of the operation as a whole. As a server, the espresso you make for Table 4 is the only thing that *you* prepare for Table 4, and that is a heavy and a beautiful responsibility. It completes the dining experience. A great coffee is a gift. I have been pleasantly surprised by how many servers take this note very seriously.

2) A logistical understanding of the difficulties involved in preparing and running several different delicate coffee drinks to the same table at the same time while everything else is going on. If the person who is making the coffee isn't given some sort of clue about how to make the service work, it's a losing battle straight away. There always has to be a strategy, a game plan -- regardless of the type or size of restaurant.

3) The ability to make compromises, and to explain how compromises can work in a restaurant's benefit. That means discussing the language around "We don't have decaf," or, "Your coffees might not all come out at the same time, to preserve the quality." This is another reason that small and specific types of establishments have worked better than larger, more broad-menued ones: You have to be feel confident and be able to say no sometimes.

4) Continued communication. I am always checking in on my restaurant accounts, either by stopping by for a coffee or by bringing folks around for dinner. It shows that I'm committed, that I care, that I'm there to help, and that I'm interested in protecting my brand. I try not to be the obnoxious customer relations rep; I try always and every day to be their helpful, caffeinated friend -- to be on their side.

Anyway, yeah. That's my 2cents. And if any of you are ever in New York City and want to have an incredible dinner followed by an awesome coffee, I know plenty of places we can go.
Meister
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Re: Gourmet Restaurants and great espresso--How?

Postby Greg H on Sat May 01, 2010 10:20 am

Thanks everyone for all of your great input.

Erin, your response was so helpful and encouraging--huge thanks!

Greg
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Re: Gourmet Restaurants and great espresso--How?

Postby Dan Streetman on Wed May 05, 2010 1:43 pm

In Austin there is a place called Frank...



They turned 48 inches of counter into a quality coffee destination in Austin. They were the first place in Austin to offer pour-over and siphon coffees. In the morning they serve breakfast and the baristas usually fill the bar and serve right up until the lunch rush. The afternoons are steady but Brunch is where the magic is.

At Brunch on of the baristas Chemex coffee non-stop from 11am-3pm (no brewer). The other barista rocks out their 2-group GB-5, and Mazzer MajorE and usually has a line of tickets 2-3 deep. The servers are all taught how to sell the coffee in exactly the same way the sell the rest of the food in the restaurant.

My point being that if a restaurant is willing to invest in doing quality coffee, they can make it pay-off with a little effort...

but did I mention, Frank is a hot-dog restaurant?
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NYC Restaurants that have great coffee

Postby afnylander on Wed May 05, 2010 6:08 pm

perhaps meister can jump in with a few more CCC accounts:

Grammercy Tavern (Blue Bottle)
Mialino (Four Barrell)

I also want to give some big cred points to Danny Meyer who's been focused on quality/local ingredients all along and has been a loyal customer to Dallis for a long time. Now he's stepping things up even further at some of his new restaurants to delicious results.

Bubby's in Tribecca recently switched to an all french press and espresso-to-order program. Great coffee despite huge brunch volumes.

Obviously the Breslin which has integrated with Stumptown at the Ace.

And then there are cafe/restaurants that are slightly more casual but also have great coffee quality. Places like Fort Defiance, Milk Bar (both CCC) and Ortine (Intelly) come to mind.

Come to NYC and try the coffee at your restaurant!

One other common myth, while I'm on the topic, is that a quality coffee investment should be measured based on past performance. "Previously I made 20 drinks a night, how can I pay x dollars more per pound?" When roasters help accounts understand how to price their drinks and train their staff to sell the coffee, past performance is usually blown out of the water. Some other areas where you can make serious savings is by eliminating timed coffee, which reduces waste significantly, and by revisiting the menu, deleting items like "free refills" (do craft beers get free refills?), and 3- or 4-shot espresso based drinks. Also, a simple investment of time to regularly clean your equipment significantly improves the flavor of coffee - any coffee!

I do agree that espresso is a serious challenge and restaurants should be wary of the significant investment they are making. That being said, there are all kinds of ways to achieve delicious coffee in any restaurant. A visit to any of the places I've listed is a testament to that.
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Re: Gourmet Restaurants and great espresso--How?

Postby Rich Westerfield on Thu May 06, 2010 7:35 pm

Instead of wondering "how", personally I'd wonder "why".

Yes it can be done. But if you're only going to do say, 40 espresso drinks per night, why would you invest in an quality espresso program? Doing a great custom brew program is much easier - and as it turns out, much cheaper.

In Italy, it's simple. Coffee = espresso. We don't have that culture.

Besides, by the time the espresso is ready, unless my waiter is standing right there to pick it up and can get it to me in under 30 seconds, I probably won't want it.
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Re: Gourmet Restaurants and great espresso--How?

Postby nick on Thu May 13, 2010 9:45 am

Allie Caran, superstar barista at the aforementioned Woodberry Kitchen comments:
Here's our formula.. Subtract your highest grossing table at a restaurant that feeds 300 a night.. Subtract bartenders.. Maintain great coffee.. Add killer baristas with laser-like focus.. and you have really good restaurant coffee.


If the proof is in the cup, the proof is at Woodberry Kitchen! :D
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