If You Don’t Love Coffee, Don’t Bother to Open a Café

Coffee in a handled mug

Coffee in a handled cup

After months of buildout and “Opening Soon” signage, a new café opened around the corner. It’s situated in a fabulous location in my bustling, hip neighborhood, and I waited impatiently for the paper to come off the windows and the lights to go on. I imagined walking a short block to a buzzing, cozy little spot where I could grab a great morning coffee, satisfy my evening sweet tooth with my family, or sneak in an hour of emailing on a Sunday afternoon.

Boy, was I off base.

Imagine a coffee house without a shred of sincerity, and you can catch a glimpse of my neighborhood dream gone sour. The place is completely devoid of personality, and doesn’t even smell like coffee when you walk in. The physical space is three times bigger than it should be, filled with strange arrangements of uncomfortable wooden tables and chairs. The few upholstered pieces are backless, stiff stools that are impossible to sit on. They use coffee from Costco (displayed prominently on a shelf) and don’t know how to make a latte or a cappuccino (let alone a macchiato or something more exotic). Their cakes are decent, but are outrageously expensive and previously frozen. There is no station to lighten and sweeten your drink–you only get one of those little plastic buckets of cream, a packet of sugar, a packet of artificial sweetener and a cheap swizzle stick–but only IF YOU ASK FOR THEM! The café is open the most inconvenient hours imaginable (open at 11; closed at 8). This way, they miss the early morning work crowd, the mid-morning mom crowd and the evening crowd….

And perhaps most disturbing of all is the fact that when I enter the café, there is no joy in the staff, and I don’t immediately know who the owner is (that’s assuming that he/she is even there….). Quite the contrary. I always feel that I am a nuisance, and that the people working behind the counter are intimidated and slightly annoyed by customers.

So what’s the point here? The point is: why in the world would you bother to open a coffee house if you don’t love absolutely everything about coffee and the people who drink it? Here we are back to the brand discussion again….in other words, how can you build a brand that resonates with a group of passionate consumers if you don’t share the passion? Isn’t authenticity at the very core of creating a powerful experience?

Home Photo Credit: Columbian Coffee