Respecting the Bean

Coffee love (and more).

I was in an indie coffee shop a few weeks back and asked about a bean they were selling – out of pure interest. I liked the cup I was drinking and wanted to know what it was.

The barista asked one person, who asked another person, who asked fourth person before the first person took a guess. I almost laughed out loud.

The shop has a great local rep and participates at Specialty Coffee Association conferences, barista championships, etc. Still, no one knew. I realized that in the end, at every business really, the product you provide is second to the service the people you’ve hired to sell it can offer. At Starbucks, Howard Behar was famous for saying, “We’re not in the coffee business serving people. We’re in the people business, serving coffee.”

At your business much do your people know about the services you offer? How skilled are they at helping meet the needs of your customers? These things may look different shop to shop. Store to store. Business to business. The fundamental issue is the one Behar was addressing at Starbucks: How much do your folks respect your bean?


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