April 11, 2017

5 Ways Roasteries & Cafés Can Keep Quality High


High-quality products and service means more loyal customers, more customers passionate about coffee, and more customers willing to pay for quality. But how do you ensure quality remains high – both in terms of your coffee and everything else?

I visited Dawson Taylor Coffee Roasters, Boise, USA with photographer Christina Birkinbine to find out more. Opened in 1995, the company is a roastery with its own coffee house (Downtown Coffee House) and coffee bar (Roast Slow Bar). Owner David Ledgart kindly agreed to give us a tour, as well as share his tips on how to keep quality high.

Spanish Version: 5 Formas en que las Torrefacciones y Cafés Pueden Mantener Alta Calidad

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Dawson’s Downtown, Boise, USA.

1. Put People First

“I am in the business of people,” says David. This attitude shows in the welcoming environment he’s created at Roast Slow Bar and the Downtown Coffee House. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. The baristas are attentive to detail.

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Thadius, a barista at Dawson’s Downtown, makes a coffee for a customer.

Investing in training is key, whether your staff are learning artisan coffee roasting or espresso machine maintenance. But it’s not just technical skills that you should teach: it’s also people skills. You’ll reap the rewards in more satisfied, loyal customers.

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Customers Paige and Fran unwind with a game of chess at Dawson’s Downtown.

2. Develop Employee Skills

Speaking of training, help your employees to actualize their career development goals. Stephanie, Dawson Taylor’s Head Roaster, has both skill and passion for her craft. But her job goes beyond roasting: she also works with staff like Trent, a 17-year-old high school student who is currently an apprentice roaster.

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Stephanie, Dawson Taylor’s head roaster, inspects the beans during roasting.

The two San Franciscan® European-style drum roasters are manual; Trent needs to learn to use all his senses to operate them.  Until he has mastered this, Stephanie will be there guiding him.

By helping your staff to develop new skills, you get better employees, more loyal employees, and more efficient employees. While it may be an expense in terms of time, effort, and money now, it’s an investment for the future.

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Trent trains after school at Dawson Taylor Coffee Roasters.

3. Think Fresh

Just as important as staff is, of course, the coffee. And for David, freshness is paramount. He tells me that he guarantees their coffee will be delivered or shipped to wholesale clients within twenty-four hours of roasting – and, of course, all coffee served on his premises is at optimum freshness.

coffee roasting

Just roasted coffee, still too fresh for consumption, but in a few days it will be perfect.

During our visit, we saw roasted coffee beans being weighed, packaged, and sealed for delivery to the Boise Co-op, a community-owned natural foods grocer. They receive twice-weekly deliveries of coffee, ensuring that there are always fresh beans to hand.

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Warehouse manager Danny packages coffee beans for retail sale.

Freshness is important for both roasting and brewing. David expects no more than a ten-second delay between coffee being ground and brewed – no matter the brewing method. Stay on top of your roast dates and/or deliveries, and structure your bar for good workflow.

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Slow brewing, quick operations means maximum freshness.  

4. Choose Your Wholesale Partners Carefully

Even if you have a roastery-café providing all the coffee, if you’re planning to serve food (or tea or juice) you’ll still need wholesale partners. And, of course, for cafés without in-house roasters, you’ll need to work with a roaster that suits your vision.

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The Roast Slow Bar, with coffee from Dawson Taylor Coffee Roasters and food from wholesale partners.

David tells me that he works closely with local restaurants to develop a coffee roast complementary of their menu and food-coffee pairings. Roastery-cafés should do the same when looking for food partners.

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The cupping table at Dawson Taylor Coffee Roasters, where clients can try different coffees.

SEE ALSO: Training Tips: How to Improve Your Coffee Career and/or Business

5. Inform Customers

Encourage guests to explore the nuances of coffee from around the world. You’ll help them to appreciate the quality in their cup, ensuring loyal customers willing to pay for better coffee.

The baristas at Roast Slow Bar invite customers to sample their eleven single origin coffees. They guide them through the aromas and flavors of each particular one, whether it’s a Central American, East African, or Asian one.

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Diverse coffees with diverse profiles.

As Christina and I sipped on an Ethiopia Harrar Longberry, brewed as a pour over, David encouraged us to notice the subtle changes in the coffee’s notes over time. There was a pronounced berry flavor at first, followed by a light chocolate undertone. Yet as the coffee cooled, a bright lemon flavor became noticeable.

David’s explanation brought together the points he suggested: putting customers first, training skilled staff, valuing freshness, and providing customer education. It made for a better coffee experience, one that demonstrated to us the value in our drinks.

All photo credit: Christina Birkinbine.

Perfect Daily Grind is not affiliated with any of the individuals or bodies mentioned in this article, and cannot directly endorse them.

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