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How to Order at a Coffee Shop for Dummies

By Eddie Long - Genesis Hub

Ordering at a coffee shop can be intimidating. A couple of years ago, I walked into a small coffee shop in Greeneville. As I walked in the doors, I began telling myself, “Eddie, you own a coffee shop… you can do this without looking stupid!” But then there was no line, and the Barista was looking at me and the pressure was on.

“Do they make traditional cappuccinos? What kind of milk do I get? Are there different espresso options? What do they call their sizes? Oh no, there’s somebody behind me. Don’t say something stupid, don’t say something stupid.”

If that was my experience after owning a coffee shop for over a year, then I know the ordering experience is, even more, intimidating for someone who doesn’t know anything about coffee. What compounds things is that different coffee shops use different terms for the same thing, or even worse, they use traditional terms to name non-traditional drinks. Take, for instance, the macchiato. The traditional drink is very small and very strong. It consists of a double shot of espresso and a dollop of milk foam on top. But at some other coffee shops, it’s a large upside-down latte loaded with sugar. The problems don’t end there. I am now close to my fourth year of owning a coffee shop and I am seeing more and more that there just aren’t any rules to this game. Some shops do this ratio, some do that... some make the milk foamier on this drink, others don’t. We’ve worked very hard to try and simplify things and make things less intimidating, but this is no easy task.

Our best approach is to make the ordering process as relational as possible. I know this can be non-intuitive as a customer. Your first instinct might be to just try to order on an app so that you don’t sound stupid in front of others. But we have frequent conversations about how to help customers tell us what they want. No need to be intimidated, our baseline assumption is that a customer probably doesn’t really know WHAT they want, but they do know what they LIKE. “Do you like something sweeter or more coffee or in between?” We ask lots of questions. We try to read customers’ expectations and guide them in the right direction.

Trust your baristas. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know what to order.” If you get something and it wasn’t what you were expecting, let your barista know so that we can fix it. That won’t offend us, instead, it will help us make you happy, which makes us happy because it increases the likelihood that we’ll see you again!


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