Monday, November 28, 2011

Discovering Your Coffee Culture?

cul·ture/ˈkəlCHər/ Noun: The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. 

Coffee nerds know how to taste coffee. We know how to grind the coffee just right, use the perfect amount of water, smell, and slurp the coffee. We know how to pinpoint fine nuances in beans, and detect which flavors point to country of origin, roast degree, and processing method. HOWEVER, often coffee nerds are not very good in detecting what the culture of their coffee shop communicates.

Far too often coffee shops that have the best tools to bring people GREAT coffee have a culture that EXCLUDES those they could be teaching. This is almost never the intention of a coffee shop. After all who wouldn't want more customers? The problem lies in the reality that too often people don't recognize the culture of their coffee shop.

Asking a culture to describe their culture is like asking a fish to describe their bowl. They will point out everything in the bowl EXCEPT the water.

Culture surrounds all we do, and is one of the FIRST thing that someone notices when they walk through the door of your shop, however it's invisible to the people most empowered to change it.This doesn't have to be the case. Although we can never enter our coffee shop as an outsider, what follows are six questions you can ask about how your coffee shop runs that will help you figure out what your culture is screaming to everyone but you.
  1.  Do you encourage your staff, and yourself to pay attention? 
    You should have a system in place that encourages people to always look at the culture and setting in your coffee shop critically. Make sure your staff know how to look critically and report honestly, and make sure you pay attention at all times. Talk to people around you, and look for who is sticking around and who isn't coming back. Pay attention to why.
  2. What is the reaction to critical incidents?
    When there are problems, or even positive incidents that come up evaluate how are they handled. Make sure you take time for critical thinking about what in your culture may have contributed to the incidents. Put yourself in the shoes of all people involved. Put yourself in the shoes of as many customers as you can. Take note of what they might see in the situation.
  3. How do you allocate resources?
    Your wallet speaks volumes about what is valued in your culture. If you spend money on things geared for the coffee elite, but don't invest in things to help the average person understand people will notice. If you don't spend any money on things to make your coffee better people will notice. If you don't spend money on making the space inviting people will notice. Go over everything that you spend, and ask why you bought it. Then think about as many customers as you can and ask what they would think about the purchase.
  4. Who is put up as a role model in the culture?
    Create a list of your dream team of people you would love to work with. Figure out what about these people is attractive to you. Are these traits that form a culture that is welcoming to outsiders? Figuring out what you view as impressive will point out what might make people feel they are treated as unimpressive. Evaluate if these are good cultural values.
  5. How and why are people rewarded? Do you have any systems of rewards set up for customers? Do you have any systems of reward set up for employees. This is more then just punch card programs. Think about what sorts of things give your patrons and staff social capitol in the shop. What gives people a voice? What gives people power? Are the things that reward people focused on welcoming people in, or do they exclude people?
  6. Why were people hired?The people you choose to hire are one of the strongest ways culture is formed. What were you looking for in your hires? When you look at applications what things stand out to you? Do these values put the customer first? If they don't your shop might look like the video I have posted at the bottom!
Hopefully these question will have helped you recognize the culture of your coffee shop. Next week we will talk about how to create the culture you want.