Training for Common Goals

Every day the coffee trainers at Stockton Graham & Co. are working with our wholesale and distributor customers. They are training for common goals, which means providing the knowledge and expertise required to deliver an outstanding coffee experience with every cup.

And that means that our coffee trainers are very busy people. They are the team our wholesale and distributor customers count on to teach café managers, baristas and employees the essentials of coffee and espresso.

While converting coffee enthusiasts to budding coffee professionals in six hours flat is rewarding, it’s also a very big task. Interest from large multi-unit foodservice organizations now means they’re taking our Coffee College 101 course on the road too.

Between reviewing the anatomy of coffee fruit (skin, pulp, parchment, seed) and practicing proper milk steaming (and why a latte is different from a cappuccino) – we seldom have time to talk about WHY coffee training is important anyway.

But it is very important. Here’s why.

Quality & Service

Primary to any coffee business is the reality that there are literally millions of places that serve coffee, and every day consumers make a choice. Do they have time in the morning to park the car and walk into a coffee shop for a latte? Are they driving through for a 32oz cup of brew? Did they put a pod in their home brewer, or did they take the time to grind their own beans for a French Press?

With so many choices, the coffee business that provides the best quality product and service is sure to win. In a recent survey of out-of-house coffee drinkers, the most important consideration when choosing a place to buy their coffee beverages was consistent service or quality (86%).

But what does that mean?

When we asked coffee shop patrons to break it down for us, a few words kept coming to the top: “knowledge,” “friendliness,” “confidence,” “competency” and “consistency.”

When it comes right down to it, consumers will bypass places that sell inexpensive or speedy coffee in favor of the comfort of knowing that their favorite coffee beverage will be prepared properly and served with a smile.

In short, what’s best for the consumer is best for the business. The most successful coffee businesses know that training is the key to achieving these common goals.

Training for Common Goals

Whatever level of service your business provides — from wholesale distribution to serving prepared beverages — Stockton Graham & Co. believes all coffee professionals should be aware of these fundamentals:

  1. The path of coffee from seed to cup
  2. Taste characteristics of different coffee and roast levels
  3. The seven essentials of coffee brewing
  4. How to pull an espresso shot and steam milk
  5. Basic food safety, cleaning and maintenance

With the guidance of a professional coffee trainer, these five essential coffee topics are best introduced and explored in a hands-on lab setting. In this type of setting, conventional book training is reinforced by hands-on practice in basic coffee and espresso skills. The biggest benefit of this dual-approach is the opportunity for repeated practice with expert guidance. It doesn’t matter how much natural talent a participant has, they can still improve in a skill by practicing.

The common goal, of course, is that every training participant is “on the same page” when they return to the business, confident in their understanding of the skills learned in training. This knowledge and confidence will translate into the friendliness, consistency and service quality that will drive repeat business and long-term coffee profits.

Training for common goals is important. To explore coffee training options for your business, please call our Authorized Specialty Coffee Association Trainer, Brady Butler, at 800 835 5943 or email us at inforequest@stocktongraham.com.

March Coffee College – What to Expect

SGC-COFFEE-collegeOn Friday, March 20th, Stockton Graham & Co. will be holding our monthly Coffee College training. Registration is happening now!

Coffee College is becoming even more popular in 2015, as our customers and their employees look to improve productivity, sales and customer satisfaction.  Registrations for February’s Coffee College are brisk, and it could be sold out this week!

Coffee College is a collection of training sessions we offer customers and their employees. It covers a variety of coffee topics from bean selection to brewing fundamentals to cupping and equipment maintenance. In the most popular class, Coffee and Espresso Basics (also known as Coffee College 101), attendees not only get a first-hand look into roasting coffee, they learn the journey of the bean from seed to cup. Attendees will learn to cup coffees, as well as, how to be able to identify the characteristics and nuances of the coffee. The more you know about the coffees you serve, the better you can apply the knowledge to what and how you serve your customers.

Attending Coffee College at Stockton Graham can carry more benefits than just increasing your knowledge of coffee preparation. A well educated staff can lead to more consistent and higher quality drinks, an increase in customer satisfaction and returning patrons.

One of the main concerns in cafes is having each barista perform and create menu items consistently and proficiently. We offer courses that can help shop owners be relieved of these worries, and reap the benefits of pleased customers that knowing they will always get the perfect drink!

Stockton Graham believes in a well-trained staff. Employees can make or break a business, particularly in the coffee world where the baristas are making the final product. Keep your baristas happy and educated with good training, and you are sure to see more repeat and loyal customers

“All of our associates trained in Coffee College and Basic Barista Certification, from upper management to shipping and receiving. We feel our team members are strongest totally immersed in the culture of specialty coffee. We have invested in staff training and that is why we have been successful,” explains Jeff Vojta, President and co-founder of Stockton Graham & Co.

Been in the Coffee industry for years? Our Coffee College Instructors can assist you, and your staff in sparking a newfound passion for coffee that you can take back your shop! Everyone needs a refresher now and then, or the opportunity to learn something completely new like: Specialty Beverage construction or how to create your own blends.

Coffee College courses include: Coffee & Espresso Basics, Brewing Fundamentals, Cupping for Coffee Shop Owners, Cafe Equipment Cleaning & MaintenanceExploring BlendsSpecialty Beverage Basics and Basic Barista Certification. These courses cover key areas of your coffee & specialty beverage program with hands-on lessons. Coffee College will help you support your great drinks with the know-how to set you apart from your competition!

Most importantly your Coffee College session is based on your needs. Our staff is willing to give you the information your need to help your shop flourish for years to come. To learn more about Coffee College and other certification classes, click here or call 1-800-835-5943 today to register!

East African Coffee Competition

SGC-Bulk-CoffeeStockton Graham & Co. associates blend different backgrounds and experiences into one common passion, COFFEE. Our team of former café owners, franchise consultants, marketers and coffee geeks is dedicated to continually exploring and learning about specialty coffees and what makes them special. Every week at Stockton Graham & Co., we hold an internal coffee competition to test our skills and refresh our specialty coffee knowledge.

In our most recent competition we focused on East African coffees and what differentiates them from coffees grown in other regions of the world. The challenge was to create a blend that brought out the best of each East African single origin coffee that we have available: Uganda Bulaago, Tanzania Peaberry, Kenya AB and Ethiopia Yirgacheffe. To start, each team brewed and tasted the coffees individually to discover their best features before attempting to combine them into a blend.

SGC-COFFEE-collegeThis challenge put the coffee we were tasting in the context of the region they were from, creating a greater sense of understanding of not only the background of our single origins, but of the history behind some of our favorite and more complex coffees. East Africa is the birthplace of coffee, it can still be found growing wild there today, and coffees from this region share many of the same characteristics specialty coffee lovers favor. In general, East African coffees are described as striking and intense, having fruity and wine-like flavors and a floral aroma. Coffees from this region are extremely diverse, with complex flavors and bright acidity; making blending them especially difficult. Both teams were tasked with developing their own flavor profile for each single origin coffee. The following descriptions are from the two groups’ response to the first part of the competition:

Uganda Bulaago: This coffee has an unusual, yet pleasant flavor of sweet spice, raisin and baker’s chocolate. The smooth and sweet body has a medium lemon acidity.

Tanzania Peaberry: With the aroma of a sweet fruit, the creamy body of this varietal gives way to a woody, chocolate flavor. A lively, bright acidity meets a sweet and dry finish in this cup.

Kenya AB: The heavy body and distinct grapefruit flavor of this single origin is complemented by a mild acidity. Overall, this coffee has a silky mouth feel and a dry, wine-like finish. 

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe: This coffee has a uniquely intense berry flavor with a medium lemon acidity. The pleasantly smooth body offers hints of subtle spices, creating an enjoyably complex cup.

SourcingThe next step in the competition was to come up with a blend. Both teams found this challenge to be interesting and a little tricky. Let’s just say the front of the house might be sticking to their day jobs and leaving the art of blending coffee in the capable hands of our roasters. The winning blend was comprised of Uganda Bulaago, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe and Kenya Peaberry. The team found Uganda to have the mellowest flavors and started with it as a base for the blend. The Yirgacheffe added an interesting tang and allowed the Kenya to round out the blend with a sweet raisin, lemon and chocolate flavor. The blend was prepared in a Chemex brewer to allow for the medium, silky body that the team was looking to achieve. The team used a ratio of 43-45 grams of coffee to 680-690 grams of water. The ideal water temperature was around 200°F-205°F to bring out the best flavors. The winning blend was named “Burundi” and the flavor profile is listed below:

Burundi: The aroma of tart cherries welcomes the drinker to the deep flavor of nutty chocolate and sweet raisins in a cup of this East African blend. A bright lemon acidity complements the medium silky body and a dry, chocolaty finish.

In addition to our weekly competitions, we regularly host Coffee College classes. If you would like to experiment with your team, call 800 835 5943 to request samples of our East African single origin coffees.

Twenty Years Tell Us… Training Never Ends!

Coffee CollegeThe industry is not the same as it was in 1994. Starbucks was not a household name, “cappuccinos” came from machines at the gas stations, and espresso was something only serious coffee drinkers would attempt. Today, you can get reasonable facsimiles of true espresso beverages almost anywhere. Even novices say “espresso” without an “x.” As the industry has changed, so have the standards and the trends.

Staying on top of the newest trends, and training your staff accordingly, helps keep you relevant and up-to-date. Anticipating customer desires before they ask is one of the highest levels of customer service you can provide. Use your new found knowledge to educate your customers, thus raising the bar for your competition who may not be so savvy. For example, do you offer a featured espresso such as a single-origin option? Do you offer single-cup brews? Does your menu include tea lattes? Your Stockton Graham & Co. support team is a great resource for suggestions and guidance on these and many other topics.

Stockton Graham & Co. Coffee CollegeWhile trends are important, updating and ensuring consistent standards is paramount.  Staff calibration, or “retraining,” is a great way to ensure that your customers enjoy the same drink no matter who makes it. We found this to be a particular problem for a client with several locations. After some intensive “Train the Trainer” sessions, followed by in-store recalibrations, this client reported a substantial growth in beverage sales at the end of the fiscal year. Consider sending your trainer to our Coffee College to get updated, recalibrated and refreshed. Coffee College is offered several times a year and is conducted by our own industry professionals who bring many decades of combined experience to the table for you.

STG513-ID-stickerOur industry continues to grow and evolve with new innovations emerging all the time. To remain on the cutting edge, know that you can rely on Stockton Graham & Co. keeping up with the newest products and keeping your staff well-trained is just aspect to ensuring great customer service and the vitality of your business.

Give us a call at 800.835.5943 today to schedule your staff recalibration or click here to view our Coffee College event calendar!

Should your baristas get tips?

Helena Echlin of food & drink blog Chow wrote about barista-tipping etiquette a few days ago. Here is the gist of her take:

When it comes to the person who makes your coffee, I say use the same rule of thumb you should use for any food-service counter worker (ice cream scooper, deli sandwich-maker, boulangerie attendant, taqueria employee): If you feel he or she has gone beyond the industry norms, made you laugh, given you something extra she needn’t have, in some way noticeably improved your life, if only for a moment, tip her.

Ms. Echlin makes some interesting points that reveal the customer’s perspective to us, but what does this mean to you as a retailer?

If tipping is part of your vision for your café, it’s worth paying attention to. Tipping is a good indicator of the level of service your staff provides as well as the level of service your customers expect. If your baristas aren’t getting tips, it may mean that your drinks aren’t to your customers’ tastes, that your customers perceive a lack of craft, or simply that your baristas haven’t engaged their customers like Ms. Echlin describes.

If your baristas are getting tips, you may want to check for big differences in the amounts they collect. Disparities in tips can reveal inconsistent drink preparation, lack of up-selling, and other problems that a little retraining could solve.

If you’re interested in getting high-quality training for your staff, drop us a line! Ask about our Barista Certification program at 800.835.5943.

Tips

Build Your Business: Mid-Year Checklist!

ChecklistAs hard as it is to believe, we’ve just about reached the halfway mark of 2013!  So far we’ve made it past the “New Year’s resolutions” in January, a few of the early-year holidays such as Valentine’s day, St. Patty’s day and Earth Day, spring has sprung and now summer is here. Though summer is a time for relaxing, 2014 will be here quicker than you think, so 3rd and 4th quarter preparation can never start too early. Here is a mid-year checklist, to get you and your staff ready for the next 6 months.

Hiring– With school out for summer, part-time opportunities in your shop may open up.  This can be a great way to grab some extra help while other staff members are out on vacation, but often times, younger employees are only available during the summer.  September is just around the corner, so when your temporary summer-employees return to school, make sure your shop is well staffed for the busy season to come.

Training– It is imperative that your entire staff is properly trained. The last thing you want is an unqualified barista in the middle of busy season, so take advantage of the summer and have your staff trained and ready to go before fall arrives.  Stockton Graham & Co. offers all the training you and your staff will need in our Coffee College courses. Taught by certified instructors, your staff will learn everything from pulling the perfect shot, to properly steaming milk, to preventative maintenance and more.  Call today to find out when our next coffee college is available!

Menu Cleanup– Now is the perfect time to revisit your menu and see what changes and/or additions need to be made.  If items such as iced teas, smoothies or frappes are not updated on your menu for the warmer months, they should be, or offered as a “Limited Time Offer”.  It’s also the perfect time to sample new products and add new items to your store.  From coffee to smoothies, Stockton Graham & Co. has dozens upon dozens of samples available for you! When things really pick up in the second half of the year, the time you have to sample and consider new products, will be harder to come by. Summer is also a good time to do a “Costs Benefits Analysis” to make sure you are making a profit on your drinks. Many times vendor prices rise a bit, and you can forget to update your menu pricing accordingly. Summer is a great time to make these menu adjustments.

Equipment Check– Just like your car, the equipment in your shop needs to be kept up and maintained. Coffee brewers, grinders, blenders and especially espresso machines all need to be operating correctly in order to produce quality product.  Here at Stockton Graham, we would be happy to recommend a technician for your area, or provide you with new equipment if it’s time for yours to be replaced. Right now we are offering several special offers on select Vitamix & Blendtec blenders, which includes free smoothie and/or frappe products. Use this blender promotion to re-vamp your blended drinks options this summer for bigger profits!

Marketing– By now, your shop probably has its own Facebook, Twitter or other forms of social media platforms. These are great tools to advertise and promote your business, but they are only as effective as you make them. It’s important to keep them up-to-date with current announcements, specials and new features. They’re easy to manage and can even be updated right from your phone. If you don’t consider yourself to be “social media-savvy”, have one of your trusted employees take the reins. Chances are, one of them is a “pro”.

Back to School– Come fall, everyone will return to their normal routine of school or work, both of which should result in more frequented visits to your shop. Student discounts and happy hour specials are great ways to get your customer base back into the swing of things. This is a perfect time to promote your menu with specials and other offerings, but in order for any promotion to be a success, preparation is required. Leave the procrastinating to the returning students, and start planning now! Check back with Stockton Graham & Co. blogs to get more ideas for back to school.

It may seem unnecessary to begin acting on these things now, but realistically, “pumpkin season” is just around the corner, and right behind that are the holidays. The 3rd and 4th quarters are traditionally the busiest, but also the most profitable, so ensuring that you and your staff are well prepared is essential. Call us today at 800.835.5943 to ask more about your mid-year checklist, and other ways to plan for a successful second half of the year!

Join us for Stockton Graham & Co. Coffee College!

Recently, Barista Magazine [i] featured an article by Tracy Allen on training for your coffee shop employees and the benefits of investing in education. The writer emphasized how training can improve your coffee shop in a multitude of ways, including: productivity, sales, CoffeeCollegeemployee happiness and customer satisfaction. Here at Stockton Graham & Co., we couldn’t agree more. Which is why we have offered our “Coffee College” program for over 10 years! The knowledge gained from our program will help you provide top-shelf service to your customers.

Coffee College is a collection of training sessions that we offer to our customers, covering a variety of coffee topics. In our most popular class, Coffee and Espresso Basics (also known as Coffee College 101), attendees not only get a first-hand look into roasting coffee, they learn the journey of the bean from seed to cup. Attendees will learn to cup coffees, as well as, how to be able to identify the characteristics and nuances of the coffee. The more you know about the coffees you serve, the better you can apply the knowledge to what and how you serve your customers. Attendees also learn espresso basics, different brewing techniques and other coffee brewing fundamentals that enable them to consistently prepare and serve coffee at the highest level, enabling a customer to experience the same tasting and quality beverage, no matter which of your staff hand crafts it.

The brewing standards that are the basis of our trainings, applied in the coffee brewing and extraction processes, come from The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). We teach you to uphold and exceed these standards to brew a perfect cup of coffee, or pull an expert espresso shot.  When exploring espresso preparation, the attendee will learn the best ways to pull a shot, and use it for preparing different types of drinks.

Your Coffee College session is based on your needs. Want to learn more on simple equipment maintenance and cleaning practices? Request our Café Equipment Cleaning & Maintenance session. Interested in leading your own cupping sessions with customers? Take our Cupping for Coffee Shop Owners course. Want to design your own blend of coffee for your coffee shop? Then, our Exploring Blends class is the perfect choice. If you have a specialty beverage need, try Frozen Beverage Preparation or Tea Basics. Our Coffee College courses are held on site at our facility, but options are available to travel to your location for cuppings or workshops for large groups/staff.

As with any training, Coffee College helps build confidence. Attendees will become quicker and more consistent in preparation of quality drinks and more focused on serving the customer. No one provides better customer service than an employee who is knowledgeable about their product and industry, and this holds true with baristas. Tracy Allen goes on to say, “A well-trained staff is happier and more likely to stay put because training improves self-esteem, which in turn improves morale and employer loyalty .”

Here at Stockton Graham & Co., we certainly see the value in a well-trained staff. Jeff Vojta, President and co-founder of Stockton Graham & Co. confirms this idea, “All of our associates trained in Coffee College and Basic Barista Certification, from upper management to shipping and receiving. We feel our team members are strongest totally immersed in the culture of specialty coffee. We have invested in staff training and that is why we have been successful.” Employees can make or break a business, particularly in the coffee world where the baristas are making the final product. Keep your baristas happy and educated with good training, and you are sure to see more repeat and loyal customers. We offer our Coffee College sessions at $250 for the first person and $200 for each additional attendee. To learn more about Coffee College with Stockton Graham & Co., or to register for the class, call your Customer Care Associate at 800.835.5943.

Upcoming dates for Coffee College:

January 18, 2013

February 15, 2013

March 15, 2013

 


[i]  Allen, Tracy. “Cashbox: Guaranteed Returns- Invest in training your staff to see exponential rewards.” December 2012 – January 2013: 70-71.