We’ve all heard of “passing the buck”. Chances are, most of us have done it, plenty of times. Sometimes, there is a legitimate reason to pass said buck, especially to someone higher in authority than ourselves. However, there are certain times when someone must decide where they stand, and why, and plant their feet firmly, bracing for the inevitable onslaught of those who see things differently.
I recently got involved in a “spirited” discussion with my wife about who decides what coffees are “good” in a cafe setting. Her point was that my palate’s preferences in coffees don’t necessarily represent that of my potential customer base. My point was that customers often don’t know the difference between good coffee and bad coffee, simply because they haven’t been exposed to good coffee.
This discussion arose as part of a larger discussion about a roaster who had sent some coffee that was, what seemed to me, overly dark-roasted. Now I have to make a clear positional statement: I. Don’t. Like. Dark. Roast. Coffee. Period. I don’t mind a coffee with a natural lower acidity and chocolatey body, such as a Mexican Altura. But a coffee bean roasted to the point that all I taste is smoke, char, and the roast profile, rather than the natural fruit qualities of the bean? Not interested.
But that puts me in the minority, when it comes to what customers are used to drinking. Most people have become accustomed to 20+ years of dark roast coffee, and people resist change, by and large. Introduce a person to an amazing coffee, and chances are they’ll still buy that can of Chase and Sanborn on their next trip to the grocery store. And let’s face it: for reasons I can’t explain, much less fathom, some people LIKE dark roast. And for the record, “dark roast” encompasses slick marketing terms like: “French Roast”, “Italian Roast”, or “Espresso Roast”, or even (unbelievably!) “Expresso Roast”. Apparently, it just sounds cooler to say “French Roast” rather than “burnt sub-par coffee”…..oops, lost my grip on my non-politically correct bias momentarily.
Anyway, the question comes down to this point: Who decides what coffee, or roast profiles, are “good” and deserve to be stocked in a cafe? The customer or the owner/manager? Customers will vote with their dollars. The owner will decide based on his own preference, or principle, or pragmatism.
I say the owner decides. The owner needs to have a clear idea of what he wants his shop to be, how hard to pursue excellence, how much to differentiate between his cafe and his competition. The owner needs to establish the image he wants his cafe to have, and not deviate, even if it means a few customers don’t find what they’re looking for. I don’t see any point in opening and running a business where I have to sell what I can’t make myself drink.
What are your thoughts?