Defining Success in the Coffee Industry
Posted on May 10, 2010 by Mike
A couple of weeks ago Jason Dominy became frustrated enough to rant a bit on Twitter (probably not the best idea). The issue essentially being that there are high quality cafes within the industry that don’t get the “respect” they deserve from the global coffee community. More specifically, Jason’s new employer Batdorf & Bronson/Dancing Goats. This prompted some thoughtful responses, including this one from Ben Helfen:
I raise this issue now (two weeks after the fact), because I haven’t really stopped thinking about it since Jason first brought it up. The coffee industry, like any other, is constructed primarily through a web of social connections. Personal success however, is constructed through your own expectations. As Jason himself acknowledges, Dancing Goat is a popular and busy cafe in Decatur, GA. So what’s the problem? If he’s looking towards his peers for the respect he feels DG deserves, then Ben’s response above summarizes nicely what they need to do. If I were to theorize on how one becomes a member of the coffee cognoscenti, I’d first acknowledge that it comes in at least two forms: Cafes/roasters, and individually. For cafes and roasters it’s pretty straightforward. You have to source amazing green, get amazing people to roast it, and put it in the hands of amazing baristas. But just as importantly, you have to contribute meaningfully to the community at large. Relationships have to be cultivated.
This issue dovetails nicely into my thoughts on the current NYC coffee scene. People love to believe there is a “war” going on with latest crop of companies opening shop here. The truth is that regardless of coverage in the press, every shop in population dense NYC has an equal chance for success. As long as it’s gauged fiscally, and by the happiness of the customers. If you define your success based on coverage in the media, you’re much more likely to fail. At the end of the day it’s about the people that return to your shop, day after day, for the product you provide them, in an atmosphere they enjoy.