With time we start to have a better understanding of our customer’s needs and their behavioural patterns. As we mature from baristas and/or roasters to a more knowledgeable specialty coffee professional, we all dream of owning a coffee shop at some point.
I recently opened my own shop, alongside my business partner who has shed new light on what the administrative needs of a shop are. Her admin skills are easily rubbing off on me, and together with our shop manager, we are building our own little empire, fueled by the brown liquid we call specialty coffee. We have always focused on the quality of the coffee and the sensory experience of the customer.
How do we improve it? How can we read the customer’s needs and offer him the sensory experience he wants, without compromising the quality of coffee and still be an educational environment?
One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered as a young barista was who should I share the knowledge with and how do I tailor a complex experience like specialty coffee.
We mostly end up harassing our customers with constant informational flows, repeating ourselves 12896362.5 times a day, and I am not even gonna mention the “sugar shaming”.
Actually, I am. I used to sugar shame people, I was an obnoxious barista that would in the end take away from their personal experience.
The first day I spent at Colonna & Smalls, I was shocked to see how helpful effective communication can be in preserving the quality of the cup, without pestering, sugar shaming or upsetting our customers. I get to do what I do because of the people that are willing to pay the extra penny for a higher quality cup.
Colonna & Smalls weren’t denying anyone their sugar, but still people ended up not adding sugar to their coffee. I won’t get into it too much, but the system worked, and that made me think about how can we obtain the same results when it comes to customer interaction.
How great would it be to be able to know the level of interaction a customer is seeking, even before he would place an order?
When we designed the shop, we wanted to create the perfect layout for an accurate interaction.
Behavioural patterns are the way people are visually influenced by the layout of a shop in concordance to their needs and in exchange it gives us a guide to how reserved or complex the interaction should be.
We wanted to create a layout that could lead to the ultimate sensory experience, but first we needto define what a sensory experience might be.
The ultimate sensory experience is a very subjective matter. We accept and embrace that concept and we strive to understand the patterns in every interaction.
This is our shops design.
We have separated the shop in two major groups of interaction.
A- Front bar: * We wanted to have a wider bar to create the illusion of closeness to anyone sitting across from the bar, without crowding the order area and ensuring an efficient service whilst still being able to interact with the customers. Customers looking to interact will naturally sit in the front area and by doing so the behavioural patterns increase flexibility in carrying out the communication.
B- Rear bar: * Considering not everyone is looking for an intense coffee talk, we have to take in account the fact that sometimes less is more. From what we notice by reducing our level of interaction, we are actually improving the sensory experience by letting the customer engage us at the moment they find appropriate and letting the coffee do the “talking” . A lot of people will look for the quiet place in a coffee shop so they are able to work or enjoy a private conversation with their family and friends so that is why we created a minimal visual separation in the layout.
In the second part of this article we will split the major groups of interaction and get into more details about how a more minimal approach can actually lead to a better sensory experience.