Can I Have One of Those Little Cookies?

May 30, 2010

I’ve been following the comments on Brian Clemen’s blog regarding the use of syrups in coffee drinks by baristas.  If you follow the link, you can read some of my thoughts on the matter.  Naturally, I have much more to say on the topic, but I’ll leave that for another day.  The topic did spawn for me a thought about biases by baristas and shop owners, and how those biases influence the way we act and the products we serve.

At Echo Coffee, I have attempted to install a strong bias against post-consumer waste.  Essentially, I don’t want to throw anything away I don’t have to, nor do I want you, the consumer to have to throw anything away.  If it were possible to be successful, I wouldn’t offer paper or plastic cups at all.  Every drink would be served “for here”.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe Echo Coffee can be successful with that as a mode of operation, so I’ve compromised my personal biases in favor of attempting to be successful. However, I’m not going to stop trying to encourage customers to help me limit post-consumer waste, and in doing so, I devised a fairly simple enticement:  the 100% organic, shortbread cookie.

Short bread cookie with cappuccino at Echo CoffeeIf you order an espresso based drink for here (meaning, we serve it to you in a porcelain cup, with a saucer), you’ll get as a free bonus, a small 100% organic, shortbread cookie.  If you order that same drink to go, we’ll smile, put the drink in a paper cup, and keep the cookie.

The cookies haven’t been without their own problems, however.  For about a week, we had them in a spot on the counter where they were very visible.  It made them easier for the baristas to plate them, since it’s the last step in the process, and I hoped that customers would ask about them.  However, children would see them and ask their parents for one.  At this point, we’d attempt to as politely as possible say they were not for sale by themselves.  A 4 year child doesn’t understand that, and thus the parent is disappointed, and two people would leave Echo Coffee with a sour experience (regardless of how good the coffee was).

So we’ve moved the cookies to a less visible location, and the disappointment in children’s faces is now a thing of the past.  However, it also means that adults are less and less aware of our cookies, and when/how they might get one.

And thus the point of this post.  The cookies are there to encourage you to take a minute (or two, or five) to sit down and enjoy your espresso bases drink.  A straight espresso only takes a minute or two to enjoy.  A cappuccino takes perhaps five minutes.  Admittedly, a latte may take ten minutes or longer to enjoy.  We know if you are in a hurry in the morning, you probably won’t sit down for a couple of minutes to enjoy your coffee, but that’s why we’ve layered on incentives for doing so.  The first incentive is the beautiful porcelain cup (honestly, would you ever willingly choose to have a coffee or espresso in a paper cup?  Would ever make it that way for yourself at home?).  And the second incentive is the small 100% organic, shortbread cookie.  Either alone might be enough, but we are hoping that the two together tip the scale in favor of you choosing “for here” the next time we ask if it’s for here or to go.

Kona Coffee Special

May 18, 2010

On Arizona Coffee, Chris Tingom posed the question, “Who will be the first AZ shop to charge $12 for a cup of coffee?”  In response, it was found that a few shops have already offered fairly expensive coffees.

At Echo Coffee, we hadn’t planned to do a promotion of this sort so quickly, but Ron Cortez of Cortez Coffee offered us a micro lot of an award winning Ka’u Bourbon 100% Kona coffee from Rusty Hawaiian, which we roasted on Monday.  Reading over the cupper’s comments on Coffee Review you’ll notice phrases like “mind-blowing coffee”, “quintessential Bourbon”, and “a perfect 10”. Sampling it myself last night, I had one thought: “Yum”.

Today I had my chef, Carylann Wootton, whip up something decadent to pair with this amazing coffee.

And so it is that starting Wednesday, May 19, we will offer our Kona Coffee Special for $15.  The pairing includes a 12 oz cup of Ka’u Bourbon, brewed via our pour over drippers.  Alternatively, if you would like it as a double espresso or macchiato, we will gladly prepare it that way as well.  As a special incentive, the coffee will be paired with a 6 oz chocolate mousse with raspberry, crumb, and dark chocolate.  Either the mousse or the coffee alone would be a treat worth stopping in for, but together they shouldn’t be passed up.

Supplies are very limited (we have less than 4 pounds of this coffee available), so if this is something you are interested in, be sure to come by the shop soon.

What’s in a Name: Echo Coffee

May 15, 2010

Throughout the day, one of the more frequently asked questions I’m posed is what’s the significance, meaning, or why “Echo”?

There’s a short and a long answer to that question, and today I thought I’d give the long answer.

In my search for a name, it obviously had to be a name that was available as a coffee shop.  I wanted the name to be “Something” Coffee, where “Something” was relatively short (no more than 2 syllables, and 6 or less characters).  The complete name had to be available as a dot com.  It also had to be available for trademark and incorporation in Arizona.   The dot com requirement significantly limited the number of potential names, given that candidate names could now potentially be used by any shop in the world, not just Phoenix or Arizona.

My next desire was to in some way incorporate my passion for cycling in the name.  I immediately looked at parts on a bicycle as candidate names.  Names like “spoke”, “crank”, and “hub” seemed cool.  Of those, Hub was my favorite, but unfortunately for me, there was a Hub Coffee in Colorado when I did my name search (it appears to be available now, however).

Along the way, Echo Coffee kept popping up as a potential name.  For a long time, it was a name I liked, but didn’t love.  The name Echo only has a cycling related meaning for me personally, because I once raced with a friend as Team Echo in the 24 hrs in the Old Pueblo.  That race is a Le Mans style race, where teammates take turns making laps around the course (at the time they were 17 mile laps).  My friend John and I entered as a duo, and he came up with the name Echo for our team.  He noticed that between us we had 4 daughters: Emily, Charlotte, Hayley, and Olivia.  And thus Team Echo was born.

Finally, I did extensive testing on the name Echo Coffee amongst my friends, family, and complete strangers, asking for their opinion of the name.  This testing is what finally swayed me to choose Echo Coffee.  Overwhelmingly, people were either very positive toward the name, slightly positive, or neutral.  Essentially no one disliked or hated the name.  Clearly it’s important that whatever name is chosen be a name that the public can view in a positive light. Echo vaulted to the top of the list as a result of this focus group name testing.

Today, I couldn’t be happier with the name.  It’s short.  It’s simple.  It lacks ambiguity.  And it’s fun to say, “Let’s meet at Echo”.  Try it on a friend, and see what I mean.

Support From Unexpected Sources

May 14, 2010

In my previous life as a REALTOR, cooperation was key.  In fact, back in 2008 on my real estate blog, I wrote about the importance of cooperation as a success criteria for a real estate agent.  While every real estate agent is essentially a small independent company, competing against every other agent, to succeed (and thus earn a living) cooperation amongst agents is essential.

As I embarked on my new career in the coffee business, a trend established, which I never, ever expected, but am indefinitely thankful for: Independent coffee shop owners are extremely willing to support each other.

You can see some evidence of this support scattered around the comments on this blog, but honestly, a comment is an easy thing.  The owners of these shops have literally taken time from their day, driven across town to Echo Coffee in Scottsdale, and spent an hour or three here talking coffee and sharing secrets that have made them successful in their local market.  I’m stunned by the free exchange of information and sincere offers to help.

So to get to the point of this post, I want to personally thank Ron Cortez of Cortez Coffee, Mike Funk of Firecreek Coffee, Joe Johnston and David and Kiersten Traina of Liberty Market, Steve Kraus of Press Coffee, Jared of Sola Coffee, Jen and Brian of Cartel Coffee Lab, Steven of Steve’s Espresso, and Chad of Solo Coffee.

Each of these owners have taken time out of their busy schedules to help make Echo Coffee a better place.  Each has offered to help in the future in any way reasonable, and for that I am grateful.  I strongly believe that independent coffee shops in the Phoenix area can only benefit by supporting each other, and am extremely pleased to find so many like minded owners.  I know there are many more independent coffee shops throughout the valley that feel the same way, and am excited about the opportunity in the future to reach out to them.

Again, thank you.

Looking back at the first two weeks

May 10, 2010

Echo Coffee in Scottsdale at night I wanted to share some insights into how things have transpired through our first two weeks as an open and operating coffee shop.  I had aspirations of providing these types of updates far more frequently, but those dreams have been dashed by the sheer quantity of work I leave for myself to do.

As I mentioned in the Start Line post, Friday, April 23 was a pivotal day.  The building inspection presented a couple of problems, most notably with the specific location of the women’s bathroom sign (we are now required to hang that sign on the mop room door, which is very confusing for the sighted, but apparently where a blind person would expect it).  With the sign location fixed, we received our Certificate of Occupancy at approximately 10:30am Friday.  At 11:00am the health inspector arrived, and while there were 2 minor corrections she would like to see, she was a pleasure to work with and happily printed up the report that allowed us to open our doors to the public.

A quick run to the store to get milk (the health inspector wouldn’t allow any perishable food in the shop until after the inspection was complete), and we were suddenly open for business right on time (ha!) at around noon on Friday.  The service counter wasn’t even cleared of tool bags, but we were pouring our first drip coffees for everyone in the store (namely our staff and contractors).

It seemed like we were only “open” a few minutes when our first customer came through the door.  On the spot I decided we were certainly too rough around the edges to charge full price for our drinks, and simply gave away every drink at no cost on Friday.   I wanted to start serving customers right away, but charging them for something when we were so slow and inefficient seemed wrong.  As luck would have it, it seemed every new customer wanted a new menu item that required us to find a missing component in the back that had yet to be stocked.  We were horribly disorganized this first day, but fortunately our first customers were very understanding (and free certainly didn’t hurt).

Saturday morning, I once again made a snap decision and decided that although things had improved a bit, there was still too much to improve and set the price of our entire menu at $1 an item.  Given the Point of Sale system had not yet been fully programmed, charging $1 for everything made it quick and efficient at the register, and once again put smiles on the faces of our newest customers.

Sunday afternoon came one of the better surprises of the weekend.  A customer that had visited Saturday had taken one of our menus home, redesigned the menu on his Mac, and brought it back in for me to see.  It was AMAZING.  I was stunned by what he had done.  Best of all, he offered it to me with no obligation.  He was simply happy that Echo Coffee was now available to him, and presented it as a welcome to the neighborhood gift.  To J, again, my thanks.

The first half of the first week we were a bit busier than I expected, which was certainly a welcome surprise, but not super busy by any stretch.  I used these days to finish moving into the shop, train, familiarize, and generally settle in, while attempting to meet as many new customers in person as possible.  The majority of customers commented that they had seen the building go up and then sit vacant and were just hoping something cool would be built.  They all seemed very excited that we were a local, independent coffee shop in south Scottsdale.

We received our first meat, bread, and cheese shipment on Monday, which enabled us to begin lunch service on Tuesday.  On Tuesday, I was also interviewed by a reporter from the Arizona Republic.  The resulting story ran in the Scottsdale Republic section of the AZ Republic on Thursday and featured Echo Coffee in a favorable light.  That Thursday we did triple the business of the day before, literally selling out our entire lunch menu.  Business has been quite healthy ever since.  As I write this post, nearly two weeks later, people still occasionally mention that they saw Echo Coffee in the paper and that’s why they are visiting.

The next day (Friday), I realized we were woefully understaffed, and insta-hired two more baristas, one of which came in and started working the very next morning.  Completely gone were my personal fears that I would sit in the store alone for weeks, wondering if a customer would ever walk through the door.  Now my worries could properly focus on providing the best possible customer experience.

This last weekend we had our Grand Opening event.  Once again the drink menu was set to $1 / item.  Most customers throughout the weekend had no idea it was our Grand Opening, since they were “regulars” by now, but it was fun just the same.  Many people won free Echo Coffee T-Shirts, and most walked away with a card for a free drink on their next visit.

Throughout these two weeks, I’ve focused as much as possible on improving consistency and efficiency.  We pour our drip coffees much faster now.  We deal with a line of customers much more smoothly.  We have processes in place to eliminate serving an order to the wrong customer.  And best of all, the staff gets along amazingly well.  A happy staff radiates outward a positive energy — something I saw in the smiles of so many of our customers this morning as they started their week at Echo Coffee.

Grand Opening

May 7, 2010

Our Grand Opening event will be this weekend, May 8th and May 9th from open to close (7am – 10pm).  Throughout the weekend we will offer all of our espresso bar drinks (teas, coffees, espressos) for $1 each.

We have a number of secret surprises planned for your visit, but we are keeping them under wraps.   Think of them like foursquare badges…you’ll never know what it takes to unlock a secret surprise.

See you in the shop.