Winning Customer Loyalty

Win Customer Loyalty
The growing demand for specialty coffee has made the food service industry fiercely competitive. As store owners, we often focus too much on consumer acquisition: that is, getting more people in the door. Although that’s undeniably important, customer loyalty has a substantial impact on profitability; that is, getting customers to come back.

Here at Stockton Graham, we understand the importance of customer loyalty. We recently asked Consumer Research firm Mintel to help us study what keeps customers coming back.

Their answer? Coffee drinkers are not only looking for a great tasting cup but the right atmosphere, service, and convenience. By focusing on these four key drivers of customer loyalty, you will be closer to creating a distinctive coffee experience that builds customer loyalty.

Coffee Customer Loyalty


The most important aspect of any coffee shop is the coffee. Our Mintel study found forty-five percent (45%) of out-of-home coffee drinkers listed “taste” as the top reason they frequent their favorite coffee shop. With that in mind, it is very important to pick high-quality coffee beans.


Having properly trained staff is invaluable. After all, a cup of coffee is only as good as the barista making it. The Mintel study found that barista expertise can make or break a customer’s experience. Eighty-two percent (82%) of coffee drinkers surveyed said “artistry of coffee preparation” was an essential part of their coffee experience and a key driver of customer loyalty.

To help your baristas advance their coffee artistry, Stockton Graham’s specialty coffee brand Dilworth Coffee offers beginner and certified barista training as part of the  Specialty Coffee Association Coffee Skills Program. This includes Barista Foundation, Brewing Foundation and Brewing Intermediate courses, all of which allow participants to earn credits toward an SCA Coffee Certificate.

Great service is hospitality that wows and delights customers. Team members are your brand ambassadors and can have a huge influence on whether or not customers return. Promoting a customer-centric culture will make your customers feel valued and appreciated, increasing the likelihood they come back.


In today’s always-on-the-go coffee-drinking culture, convenience is important. That means consumers will expect a great tasting cup of coffee wherever they buy it. Yet, even if your shop has the best coffee in town, consumers will go elsewhere if your baristas aren’t efficient in building drinks and moving customers from order to pick up quickly.

There are simple ways to streamline your staff’s workflow to help them work efficiently. And most often, this begins with the layout of your coffee bar and workspace. An effective coffee bar layout will group equipment, storage and cleaning tasks by drink type, which will eliminate unnecessary steps while preparing drinks and also make the workspace safer for everyone.

On the consumer side of the coffee bar, offering mobile payments and operating separate “express lanes” for simple coffee drinks during rush times will get customers in-and-out quicker. This not only creates a positive experience for your customers, but also allows your staff to increase productivity and improves the number of customers your staff can handle each day.


The Mintel study found that atmosphere vital to building customer loyalty. Your coffee shop’s atmosphere affects how customers perceive your service and quality.

Floorplan and decor have a big impact on customer experience. Leaving clear paths to registers reduces clutter, making your shop appear airy or spacious. Lighting, color scheme, and even background music can be the difference between an environment that feels warm and relaxing or one that feels cold and sterile.

When considering your store’s atmosphere, it is essential to understand your target audience and store’s location. For example, if your store is located on a university campus, you’ll want to consider modern tech elements like touch screens and charging stations as part of your design. Whereas, if your store is located in a financial center, you’ll want to include communal tables for business meetings and televisions so your patrons can keep up with market news.

Atmosphere is one of the few elements of a great coffee experience that can, and should, change over time. Always keep an eye on consumer trends. Visit competitor shops, and regularly talk to your customers about ways to improve their environmental experience.

At Stockton Graham & Co., we blend the art and business of coffee. We are committed to empowering all of our partners to maximize their customer loyalty. For more information about our Batch 0995 coffee or the Specialty Coffee Association Coffee Skills Program, email us or call us at 800 835 5943

From Stockton Graham Coffees to Dilworth Coffee

New Dilworth Coffee bagsThis is an exciting time in the world of specialty coffee. Starting in late May, Stockton Graham Coffees will be sold under the brand name Dilworth Coffee.

Those who know Dilworth Coffee, know that it is Charlotte’s Original Specialty Coffee brand and a leader in specialty coffee in North Carolina.

Why the change?

Stockton Graham & Co. previously sourced, roasted, blend and packaged specialty coffee under two brands: Stockton Graham Coffees and Dilworth Coffee. After extensive market research and customer feedback, we have decided to consolidate our specialty coffee under our single strongest brand: Dilworth Coffee. This will allow us to streamline our business and improve our customer experience. Customers will receive the same high-quality coffees and outstanding service they have come to expect from Stockton Graham & Co. Plus, wholesale customer get the added benefit of offering a Top 3 coffee brand with a growing retail presence.*

In addition to an entirely new look and packaging, all of our coffees, both wholesale and retail, will soon carry the prestigious Dilworth Coffee name. Retail coffee orders will now be handled exclusively through the Dilworth Coffee website. There will be no change to how wholesale coffee orders are handled.

What does this change mean for me, a wholesale customer of Stockton Graham & Co. Coffees and allied products?
All our wholesale coffee buyers now have access to a leading specialty coffee brand with a strong retail presence. Our new curated coffee list includes 60+ coffees, including USDA-Certified Organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified, single-farm microlots, rare harvests, Swiss Water® Processed decaffeinated and flavored coffees. The coffees are designed to appeal to a broad array of consumer palates from casual coffee drinkers to coffee connoisseurs.

What’s the history of Dilworth Coffee?Dilworth Coffee
While visiting Italy in 1989, Charlotte NC resident and Dilworth Coffee founder Don Keen had a memorable coffee experience. He wanted to share that wonderful coffee and outstanding service with the residents of his hometown so he returned home to Charlotte and opened the first Dilworth Coffee. Stockton Graham & Co. began a relationship with Dilworth Coffee in the 1990s and eventually became the exclusive roaster for the company in 2010; in 2016 Dilworth fully became a part of Stockton Graham & Co.

As we’ve mentioned, the brand refresh includes a new logo but if you really want to get a feel for all the changes, visit the new Dilworth Coffee in Charlotte’s Fifth Third Center or one of our other locations. You’ll find a new menu focused on espresso and other hand-crafted coffee preparations, a new in-store design and, of course, personalized service based on old-fashioned Southern hospitality. For one of the changes we are most excited about, check out the Shop section of the site to see our new retail packaging. Our coffee already sets us apart from the competition but now our look will do the same. In addition, we are expanding our licensed store program to help spread the Dilworth Coffee name and experience to new markets.

“The new Dilworth Coffee is a modern interpretation of the brand’s original mission of providing exceptional quality and service in a comfortable neighborhood coffee shop,” said Lane Mitchell, Director of Creative, Brand & Marketing at Dilworth Coffee.

“In creating the new logo, we wanted to retain the equities of the old logo, especially in the representation of the coffee bean; but we also wanted to bring it into today’s 4D world by making the logo more iconographic,” Ms. Mitchell said. “In fact, the entire logo centers around the iconic coffee bean, which reinforces the bean as the company’s focus: its heart and soul.”

The new brand visuals include a signature pattern rooted in the natural colors and textures of the Piedmont region of North Carolina. This pattern is integrated into the new store through signage, menus and wearables. It is also now appearing throughout the company’s brand assets.

For more information about the Dilworth Coffee brand or how Stockton Graham & Co. can make your coffee experiences better, please call 800 835 5943 or email

A Simple Money Saving Tip: Barista Training Equals Reduced Milk Waste

Try an experiment: have your barista save all of their leftover milk during a shift (with the goal of reducing milk waste). You’ll probably be shocked at how much it is–then think about how much that milk cost you!

Coffee shops waste a lot of milk. No one should re-steam old milk, which tastes burnt, doesn’t foam right, and is just plain disgusting. Therefore, you need to use fresh milk.  The key is to manage its usage through proper training of each barista. A good one should be able to steam a perfect latte with zero waste.

Sometimes milk wastage stems from overstretching the milk, sometimes it is as simple as overfilling or using a steaming pitcher that is too large.

Says Alex Jeans, Stockton Graham & Co.’s resident barista trainer, “Always be sure to use the right pitcher for the job. Knowing which pitcher corresponds to which size drinks is always extremely helpful.”

Barista Pouring MilkTo prevent that problem, don’t let baristas use the same pitcher for a 6 oz. cappuccino that they would for a 20 oz. latte. Pouring milk and making beautiful and elaborate designs on top of coffee drinks is always an appreciated skill, but a barista should also focus on consistently stretching the right amount of milk to the exact amount needed. It makes them much more efficient as they work and no time is spent trying to figure out what to do with leftover milk.

From a training perspective, if you or your baristas are not starting and ending with the right amount of milk, it’s just not being done correctly. Training for it from the very beginning is the best. If baristas need help hitting the mark with milk, have them join you for an extra training session. Milk waste and the associated costs can definitely be greatly reduced with just a little practice!


Roaster’s Views on the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel

Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel Stockton Graham & Co. Roasted CoffeeIn January, for the first time in 21 years, the original Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel published by the Specialty Coffee Association of America was updated and refined. The new flavor wheel is a groundbreaking tool that is already shifting the way coffee lovers think and talk about coffee.

“The new Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel is a great collaborative tool,” explained Stockton Graham & Co. and Dilworth Coffee roastmaster Brandon Riggs. “Although the original Flavor Wheel was a breakthrough, this new wheel is more approachable to the general public because it describes flavors in a way that is more common and accessible to everyday coffee drinkers.”

For example, Brandon notes that the old flavor wheel identified Nippy and Piquant as subgroups in the Sweet flavor group. The new flavor wheel, instead, uses more common words like Honey, Maple Syrup and Molasses. Brandon points out that industry veterans and coffee patrons alike can more easily recognize the tastes of honey or molasses than nippy or piquant.

In addition to more common language, the new flavor wheel introduced gradients in the outer flavor groupings to accommodate more subtlety of tastes. For example, with the addition of gradients, the flavor of blueberry can range from sugary jam-like blueberry to tangy freshly-picked-off-the-bush blueberry.

“By adding gradients to the flavor group, it provides more possibilities in taste and more ways to explore flavor in coffee,” Brandon said.

New Flavor Wheel Facilitates Collaboration

As an instructor of Stockton Graham & Co.’s Coffee College, Brandon also appreciates that the more accessible flavor wheel makes it easier to communicate about coffee.Improve Customer Service At Your Store

“It facilitates communication at the cupping table, whether the cupping is an internal one among roasters or whether roasters come together at a cupping table with customers to discuss coffee,” Brandon said. “The new Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel helps us talk to our customers and others who enjoy coffee about their flavor experience.”

Here at Stockton Graham & Co., the iconic Flavor Wheel is a key discussion tool we use during our internal cupping sessions, as well as when we talk to customers about coffee.

“We’ve spent a few weeks working with the new flavor wheel at our Raleigh coffee roasting facility, and we are speaking with customers about using it to guide the way they talk about coffee,” said Brandon said. “Our customers are finding the wheel to be a very helpful tool, whether they are thinking about adding a new coffee or simply talking to their patrons about the coffees they already serve.”

New Flavor Wheel Improves Training Experience

Coffee College 2016 from Stockton Graham & Co.At Stockton Graham & Co. we have begun incorporating the new tasting wheel into our regular internal training sessions, as we grow the expertise of our junior roasters and customer service teams. We will also begin incorporating it into our monthly Coffee College program designed for coffee customers and operators.

“This new wheel is an opportunity to unite all around the cupping table, and to facilitate learning,” Brandon said. “Whether you are a coffee industry expert or you have never cupped before, the new Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel is a valuable contribution to any coffee tasting experience.”

Click here for a copy of the new Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel and call a customer care associate at 800 835 5943 to explore how you can use the flavor wheel in your store.

Registration is open for Coffee College 2016

1/5/16 UPDATE: The January and February classes are full and closed to new participants.

The most profitable coffee businesses are those that are known for expertly crafting espresso-based drinks. Stockton Graham & Co. offers a one-day course on Coffee & Espresso Basics, commonly called Coffee College, to provide you and your staff the knowledge and expertise necessary to differentiate your coffee business.Coffee College 2016 from Stockton Graham & Co.

The first course in 2016 will be held on Friday, January 15 at our Raleigh facility at 4320 Delta Lake Drive. Led by our roastmaster Brandon Riggs and our lead barista Alex Jeans, Coffee College is usually scheduled for the third Friday of every month. The first quarter 2016 Coffee College schedule looks like this:

January Friday, January 15
February Friday, February 19
March Friday, March 18

According to Mintel, more than 35% of all coffee beverages sold in America are lattes, and 27% are coffee frappes. An additional 20% of all coffee beverages sold are espresso drinks like cappuccino, café Americano, espresso and macchiato. That’s why formal coffee and espresso training is paramount to a successful coffeCoffee Collegee business.

Is Coffee College for me?

Coffee College was created for business owners and their staff who are newly involved in coffee or who have not participated in any other formal coffee training. It is held at our Raleigh coffee roasting facility at 4320 Delta Lake Drive. During the training, you will learn about the path of coffee from seed to cup, basic processing and decaffeination techniques, coffee flavors and taste characteristics and how to comfortably talk about coffee.

How many people participate in each class?

Class sizes are small (2-5 people) to allow for an individualized experience. There is plenty of time to ask questions and delve deeper into areas that interest you most. We also keep the classes small so that everyone has an opportunity to participate fully in the hands-on portions of the training that include coffee cupping and drink preparation.

Will I learn about espresso?

A full afternoon is dedicated to this important coffee beverage. You will not only learn the history of espresso, but also participate in hands-on training at our commercial espresso machine. You will learn how to grind coffee for espresso, pull a shot and steam milk to make espresso-based beverages.Barista Certification Training at Stockton Graham & Co.

Will I learn how to properly steam milk?

Once you learn how to pull a perfect shot of espresso, the next logical step is learning the proper way to texturize milk. A layer of rich, creamy milk is pleasing to the palette and allows your shop to demonstrate an elevated level of espresso sophistication. You’ll have access to our Nuova Simonelli semi-automatic espresso machine for your hands-on training.

Do I learn how to make different kind of drinks?

We can teach you how to make all drinks on the barista’s menu such as espresso, latte, cappuccino, macchiato, ristretto, café au lait, café mocha, frappes, etc. Our customer-oriented approach is relaxed, and we will help you with anything or any hot or cold beverages that you wish.

Can my entire team participate?

For teams of more than five (5) people, we may consider holding the course at your store’s location so we can train on your machines. Our instructors have experience on a wide range of automatic, semi-automatic and manual espresso and drip coffee equipment.

How much is the course?

Please contact your sales associate or our Customer Care Associates at 800 835 5943 for costs and to reserve your space.

The Fine Art of Texturizing Milk

Cappuccino Latte ArtSteamed milk enhances the sensory experience of espresso. A layer of rich, creamy milk is pleasing to the palette and allows a barista to demonstrate an elevated level of espresso sophistication. Milk texture is so important to the specialty coffee business that a micro-industry has evolved around the idea of latte art, where baristas compete nationally and internationally for the title of World Latte Art Champion. Even if a world latte art title is not your goal, mastering the art of texturizing milk can be a major differentiator for your store.

San Domingo Fair Trade Latte Art

San Domingo Fair Trade Coffee Latte Art

Our customer San Domingo Fair Trade Coffee, a full-service coffee café in St. Michaels, MD, is a great case in point. The baristas at this enchanting restaurant and coffee shop have spent extensive time perfecting the fine art of texturizing milk, which they regularly feature as latte art on their Facebook page; As result, the shop has built up a robust following.

Mastering milk texturizing not only brings in more customers, it results in a higher average ticket. In July, The Journal of Sensory Studies published a study showing that customers happily pay more — at least 11%-13% more — for a beautifully texturized latte.

Nick Brown, editor of Roast Magazine’s Daily Coffee News, hypothesized that customers place a higher value on their coffee experience if a barista knows how to texturize milk properly.

“It shows an area of skill from the barista, and I think it demonstrates that the barista cares about what they’re giving you,” editor Nick Brown said.  “Buying a really good latte at an upscale shop and enjoying it there is kind of a luxury.”

Developing Your Shop’s Latte Chops
To help all our retailers develop these in-demand skills, Stockton Graham & Co.’s Coffee College 101 dedicates an entire afternoon to practicing the fine art of steaming milk. Taught by our Specialty Coffee Association of America-certified lead barista, Alex Jeans, participants get one-on-one time with the steam wands on our in-house Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II Volumetric 3 Group Espresso Machine.

Micah and Elizabeth Behan, owners and operators of First District Coffee Co. of Fairview, TN recently enjoyed the Coffee College experience in our Raleigh, NC coffee roasting headquarters. Here’s just a bit of what they learn:

The texturing process is created when pressur­ized air is introduced to cold milk and breaks the hydrogen bonds between proteins. With these bonds broken, the natural sugar found in the milk is easier to taste, making the milk taste sweeter. This sweet taste combined with a creamy texture will help you prepare beauti­ful, delicious, sophisticated drinks that will set your shop apart from the competition.

Stockton Graham & Co. Latte EspressoThe Specialty Coffee Association (SCAA) teaches that there is only one way to texturize milk with one result: A microfoam with the texture, consistency and sheen of wet paint. The difference between a latte and a cappuccino, then, is the depth of the microfoam on top of the cup of brewed espresso.

In this case, the difference between types of espresso drinks—a cappuccino and a café au lait, for instance—is the proportion of milk foam and steamed milk to espresso. But there is no difference between the way milk is ultimately prepared.

A second approach to texturizing can be considered by shop operators. The idea that there are two types of texturized milk has been made popular by large chain coffee shops: One for latte drinks and one for cappuccino drinks.

Those who ascribe to this approach explain the difference this way:

“The distinction is that in cappuccino, the milk is “frothed… into a “microfoam” that is about twice the volume of the original milk. In latte, the milk is merely “steamed.” For latte, the goal is not to create that much foam, so any type of milk works.” The Coffee Brewers, Danbury, CT

The different “techniques” create markedly different textures. The consistency of latte style milk is creamier and cappuccino style milk is foamier. Some, but not all, of these operators also adjust the proportion of milk foam and steamed milk.

Although Stockton Graham & Co. complies with the SCAA approach to texturizing, we share the second approach with our customers so operators can decide what’s best for their store.

Creating milk with different textures requires submerging the steam wand below the surface of the milk at different times in the texturizing process. The differences are discussed below.

  • Latte Style Milk

The latte style of milk steaming is used when the texture of the drink to be created is more creamy than foamy.  When a drink that has been prepared with latte style textured milk settles, there should be a layer of foam on top that is usually less than an inch.

To create latte style milk, submerge the steam wand completely below the surface of the milk no more than 5 seconds after steaming begins. Completely remove the wand when the milk reaches 140-150F. This should take about 20 seconds.

The latte style of steaming can be used when preparing latte, mocha, café au lait, hot cocoa, or flavored milk drinks, or any drink that has a texture that is more creamy than foamy. It usually does not produce a dollop of aerated foam on the top of the drink; so it is possible that the steamed milk and coffee mix quickly and evenly, resulting in a smooth, creamy beverage.

  • Cappuccino Style Milk

The cappuccino style of milk steaming is used when the texture of the drink to be created is more foamy than creamy, or has equal parts steamed milk and foam.

To achieve more foam, introduce more air to the milk at the beginning of the texturizing process by allowing some of the holes in the tip of the steam wand to be exposed above the surface of the milk.  Leave the holes exposed for a full 10-15 seconds before submerging the tip of the wand completely.

Cappuccino style is used by commercial shops when preparing a traditional macchiato, American-style cappuccino, traditional cappuccino, or for any customer who prefers extra foam on top of their beverage. Often customers who request a “dry cappuccino” are looking for a beverage topped only with the most aerated foam, which is lifted out of the steam pitcher with a spoon. This way, there is actually less milk added to the  beverage, resulting in a less diluted espresso element.

Top six espresso drinksTo download our frame-ready Top 6 Handmade Espresso Drinks poster, click here.

If you’re interested in learning more about our Coffee College offerings, click here or dial 800 835 5943 and talk to one of our Customer Care Associates.




Stockton Graham & Co. Re-Launches Barista Certification

Basic Barista CertificationSome operators believe the only specialized training that a barista needs is how to operate an espresso machine. But think about it: Is proper operation of an oven the only specialized training a baker needs? Of course not. Excellent baristas, like excellent bakers, need to know the fundamentals of the ingredients they work with, how to measure and combine ingredients, as well as preparation and serving techniques for an optimal product.

To help operators provide the training their baristas need to deliver consistently superior beverages and great customer service, Stockton Graham & Co. recently updated our Barista Certification Program. The three-day course conducted at our Raleigh, NC facility focuses on espresso education and preparation of espresso-based beverages.

2015_Final_Coffee and Espresso BasicsThe course begins with Coffee College 101. Certified baristas are trained in the history of coffee, coffee processing and taste characteristics. They learn Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) standards for espresso extraction and milk texturizing, as well as best practices for drip or airpot coffee.

Lead by our roastmaster Brandon Riggs and our SCAA-certified barista Alex Jeans, the Barista Certification Program includes classroom training, interactive presentations, film, hands-on training, written tests and practical performance evaluations. Just like in the SCAA barista training programs, participants are required to demonstrate proficiency in pulling a perfect espresso shot and preparing several espresso-based drinks for a panel of judges.

As part of the program, our head roaster Brad Kirby and business development teammate Brady Butler run a session on equipment cleaning and maintenance. Both are factory-trained equipment technicians for makers like Nuova Simonelli, La Marzocco, Franke, Astoria, Rancillo, Fetco and Bunnomatic. Brady also serves as Chair of the Brewing Pathway Committee for the SCAA.

2015_Basic Certification Study Guide_071515-1Our Director of Business Development for the Northeast Region, Debra Dolan, provides one-on-one consultations on menu planning, customer service and maintaining quality standards. The goal is to ensure that Certified Baristas are fully equipped to deliver an enhanced coffee experience to customers.

“Barista certification is important because it instills a solid basis of coffee knowledge in trainees as well as confidence,” said instructor Alex Jeans. “Certified baristas should leave confident that they are competent to tackle any beverage that comes across their bar. This confidence will in turn lead to consistently great drinks and customer service.”

First District Barista Training

Michah Behan of First District Coffee practices texturizing milk at Stockton Graham & Co. Basic Barista Training in Raleigh.

First District Coffee Co. Completes Barista Certification

Micah and Elizabeth Behan, owners and operators of First District Coffee Co., were the first students to participate in our updated Barista Certification Program in July. First District, located in Fairview, Tennessee, is located in a renovated building that used to be a Farm Depot. Scheduled to open in the Fall of 2015, the Behans plan to serve espresso, tea, sandwiches, pastries and other light snacks. The building will also include a full catering kitchen and can be rented for group events such as wedding receptions or birthday parties.

The Behan’s two teenage children, Adonijah and Teagen, were also certified, as they will be working behind the coffee bar as business takes off.

Elizabeth Behan said that the entire family enjoyed the certification program. “There was lots of good info,” she said.

“The team was fully engaged, and we felt well educated and supported,” said Elizabeth Behan. ”We really feel much more prepared for where we are headed as a business.”

Barista Certification Training at Stockton Graham & Co.

Our resident barista Alex Jeans teaches Basic Barista Certification course participant Adonijah Behan about preparing espresso.

Skill, Practice and Understanding

Barista training is about skill, practice and understanding of preparation techniques. But it is also important for a barista to be conversant in the origins and processing of coffee. That’s because part of the barista’s job is educating customers on the differences between high-quality, craft-roasted coffee and mass-market quality coffee and helping them become smart consumers of quality coffee.

“The journey that the bean takes from seed to cup—that is, where the coffee grows, how the seed is removed from the fruit, how the coffee is roasted and how it is prepared—makes a profound difference in overall quality,” said instructor Brandon Riggs. “A really good barista will have the knowledge to translate the hard work that everyone else in the value chain contributes to an enjoyable and high-quality cup.”

Stockton Graham & Co. offers a range of training courses in addition to Barista Certification. Our Coffee & Espresso Basics, or Coffee College 101 is a fundamental course designed for any coffee business operator or team member. Brewing Fundamentals is our foundational class for coffee brewing and extraction. We also offer specialized courses on equipment cleaning and maintenance, as well as blending and cupping coffee.

For more information on our training courses, contact a Customer Care Associate at 800 835 5943.