I was wondering if any of the coffee shop owners in Arizona do anything special for the Holidays? Contrasting against Starbucks, which brings in a holiday roast (probably just repackaged), a red cup instead of a white one, and a number of drinks like the eggnog latte and the gingerbread latte… It just causes one to stop and ponder what kind of financial impact those changes make. Check out what Starbucks is trying in Chicago and New York City.

Also, you know what would be interesting? If a bunch of the coffee shop owners got together and merged to create a new local chain. Maybe if 5 or 6 did this, and all shared ownership.

This could do two things: Maximize purchasing power, enable those with expertise in certain areas to share, and also create a mega local brand.

It would never happen.

Arizona Coffee

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  1. Would that type of “chain” kill independent culture? There is a group called the Indie Cafe Alliance that does just that — lets independents buy together to increase purchasing power so they can get the same great deals as the bigger guys.

    It is a great group so any locals in AZ that are not aware of it should check it out. They have everything from music to paper goods and equipment.

    ..be bold

  2. It could kill the independent culture, but frankly let’s look at the benefits: Innovation. Arizona’s coffee shop owners don’t know how to innovate. At least, a large number of them don’t. Pooling resources sounds like the best way to do that, to me at least.

  3. Larry

    Why not force them to concentrate on what’s important to their success? That is the quality of the products they offer, mainly coffee. With so few truly understanding the intricacies of their core product, no number of Holiday gimmicks will help them to get that right.

  4. That’s pretty much why I recommended the idea of merging. Maybe pulling together a few mildly successful coffee shops, and sharing talent would make this happen.

  5. Karen m.

    economies of scale…you have to love the concept.

    the independents could use it to their advantage in terms of paper goods, advertising…that sort of thing.

    beans, no way. what i want from the individual houses is to savor their choices, not taste the same coffees across the board.

    still, the houses could pick and choose which products to go in on together. i’ve done this for drugstores to home builders and it works.

  6. Larry

    Or be a disaster times five or three or however many owners have merged.

    With the sheer number of differences in coffee, one good quality roaster could supply every coffeehouse in a concentrated area with a coffee or blend unique to each particular shop. It’s difficult to savor low quality coffee just because it’s different. But you first need to recognize quality before this is possible.

  7. I had no idea this would be such a contentious issue. Wow. Anyways, my main point still holds.

    Question: Does a coffee shop have to have more than quality coffee to succeed?

  8. Answer: Yes, but quality in the core product of a coffee shop (coffee) is a start. The proper handling, preparation and service of the product is also important. Knowledge is key and with all the first rate free instruction just a Google click away, the only excuse is utter laziness or a complete disregard for the customer or both.

    I visited a shop that has gotten some play on this site and the forums recently. I was invited behind the bar to help diagnose problems with the espresso extraction. The things they didn’t know, the mistakes they are making from beginning to end in the drink prep is appalling. Complete amateurs. But make no mistake about it, they are very adept when it comes to taking your hard earned money. There is no great mystery, no voodoo, no magic or secret handshake to perfecting espresso/coffee. Just a desire to learn, do some research and take pride in your craft.

    That’s it – peace – I’m outta here!

  9. Steve Kessler

    Wow….where to start on this one. Quality. Yep, quality. I agree that if your a coffee house, quality should be a top concern. Who defines quality though. If the coffee and espresso being served is good, but not great, are we to say that this place is crap. If the owners haven’t graduated into a quality product yet but the cafe gets a lot of action, is the place a dive? If cafe “A” serves great coffee but gets little action, and cafe “B” serves a decent cup but is doing great business, who’s more successful? I think that as time goes on the cafes that are really important will last and the rest will fade away. That’s why things like the Barista Jam will be important. It will help increase the quality in the local coffee houses while building some community amonst the owners and barista’s.

  10. Steve Kessler

    Great article Larry. I agree with that 100%. My only question is what’s the correct way to go about it. I’m sure there’s right ways and wrong ways. Great topic though.

  11. Larry

    Well, enlighten us then…

  12. Steve Kessler

    Larry says:

    Well, enlighten us then…

    My postings are not meant to create negative debates. I’m just wondering if there is a right way or wrong way to do it. If we go up to owners and say their coffee and/or espresso sucks, do you think it will be well recieved. Do you think they’ll have a “come to Jesus” moment and suddenly change. That’s why I said earlier that the Barista Jam can be so helpfull. It could help them look at quality in a positive way. I’m not claiming to be an expert. I’m just asking the question on which way will help better the cause. Larry I respect you and your product, I’m just posing the question on how to do it.

  13. Steve, my request wasn’t made in a negative light. It was a simple query. By engaging in a dialog in this type of format we run the risk of misunderstanding the delivery.

    I’m very interested in hearing thoughts.

  14. karen m.

    there is a right way to encourage dialogue and there is a wrong way.

    CLUE: being a pompous ass isn’t the right way

  15. Steve Kessler

    Sorry for the misunderstanding Larry. I agree, it’s hard to understand the delivery when it’s just text. Some thoughts are:
    1) Volunteery Reviews by a mixed group of individuals (commitee of sorts)
    2) Coffee Fests and/or workshops
    3) Organize a free event for Cafe owners that focuses on the industry
    4) Offer a free training class at the cafes that need attention

    These are nothing new and in some cases might not even be reasonable. However, there just idea’s that might help open doors for conversation amonst owners and Baristas. Once again, sorry about the misunderstanding.

  16. No worries Steve, and you’ve made some excellent suggestions. I think it boils down to cafe owners who want to improve and those who don’t. The more I think about it, a review commitee seems like a very plausible idea. It has promise.

  17. RE:
    “there is a right way to encourage dialogue and there is a wrong way.

    CLUE: being a pompous ass isn’t the right way ”

    Karen, I don’t think Larry is trying to be a pompous ass. You have to realize how frustrating it is to do endless research, endless experimentation, and share the fruits of your labor only to be told that it’s better, but that the customers aren’t complaining, so why bother?

    It’s frustrating as hell to KNOW that you can help a shop to increase their quality, and as a result, their profit, at least 50% and be shot down with apathy.

    How long do we continue to strive for quality and then be told it doesn’t matter before those who DO care about it just roll over and give up? What happens then?

    Communicating with shop-owners is an art in itself. It takes sales skills, but at the same time, you cannot let go of the pride you hold in the coffee you offer. If you lose that pride, you lose everything necessary for a quality-driven success story.

    I don’t think Larry was being Pompous. I think he is letting off some frustration without meaning to. It’s hard to be told, “yeah, you’re coffee’s MUCH better, but no thanks.. our customers don’t seem to care”. They would if they had ever experienced anything better.

  18. Richard

    I think you have to respect a guy who puts his money where his mouth is! I got back into town after being gone for week and went to my usual morning coffee place. Orderd my usual large black coffee – took one sip and thought this isnt right. Instead of the Rocket Coffee sign by the machine there is bigger one with Ily written on it. I asked Paul whats going on and he said Rocket wouldnt sell him coffee anymore because he wasnt serving it the way the guy at Rocket wants him to. So I dont know – I think he may be an ass since I got to find a new place or drink the new stuff – but hes not pompos and for that he gets my respect for sticking to his guns.

  19. Carrie

    I’ve been reading AZ Coffee for well over a year and have always enjoyed the comments and resulting conversation…up until yesterday and the “pompous ass” slam…..just throwing that out there for effect was juvenile and inappropriate, not to mention extremely rude!

    As far as coffee & coffee shops ……someone please explain to me why I should be accepting of inferior coffee any more than I am accepting of inferior food or wine? When was the last time someone fixed you an espresso or coffee and followed up with “how was it?” They don’t want to know – they don’t care, they already have your money and they know you aren’t going to demand a refund! We’re not programmed for that. Why should it be any different than a restaurant where you return your
    meal when it is not right? I don’t expect to find a coffee sommelier in every shop, but think about it…..they bring your requested wine to the table, you take a sip and YOU decide if it tastes good –

    Perhaps if more people started walking back to the counter with their unfinished
    drink and the ability to explain why the drink is not acceptable?

    Chris – in regards to your question – the folks at Starbucks will tell you that they have very successful coffee shops! Financially successful that is…..

  20. karen m.

    i don’t have a problem with someone wanting their product to be the best it can possibly be. striving for perfection is the ultimate.

    what i do have a problem with is when a coffee house opens and an expert in the field is invited behind the counter to lend advice…and then he comes online and slams the coffee house. they asked for a little help and got slammed for it. yes, they are new. no they do not know everything about coffee yet. will they learn? hopefully, or they will go out of business. but giving someone a chance is kind of what it’s all about.

  21. I don’t recall saying they were a new coffeehouse. They aren’t. I spent quite a bit of time with the owner, after we were finished with what could only be described as a complete espresso 101, he informed me that while he probably should do these things, they were just too much trouble.

  22. Kent

    Quality is key, but quality covers several areas–coffee, service and community. You can have the best coffee, yet if you treat your customers badly, they won’t come back. Quality in all three will set that store apart from the competition significantly.

    To address Chris’ question on holidays, I think it can play a worthwhile role in the community of a coffee shop–which is not saying, “Go copy Starbucks”. It’s about capturing the uniqueness of that local shop’s community. It will, and should, look different than everyone else.

  23. Andrea

    I don’t know if you mean that Starbucks’ Christmas roast is the same as last year’s, or the same as one of the roasts already on the menu (such as house or verona); however, I wanted to inform you that if you mean the later, you are mistaken. The Christmas roast (which I will admit is the same as what is in the “Holiday roast” packaging) is a blend of beans from different regions of the globe, and even includes aged beans from Indonesia. It’s not the same as any of the roasts regularly on the menu. Whether it’s the same blend as last year… I have no idea.

    And yes, I’m a Starbucks barista. I love working there, the benefits are great, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate coffee from other shops. 🙂