Being a Regular

By Sarah Leslie

It has now officially been one month since I left my job at Think Coffee to come work for TampTamp as Director of Office Relations. I went from working five shifts a weeks behind an espresso bar making drinks for the customers at Think to working five days a week in an office setting at TampTamp Headquarters. My love of all things organizational and office related brings joy to my work at TampTamp, but I do miss the process of making and serving espresso based drinks in a retail setting.

What I miss more than making drinks behind the counter is the feeling of being a regular at a cafe. Because I was working five shifts a week at a cafe, I went to other cafes only a few time a week and definitely not on a regular basis. Why go out and pay for coffee when you can brew it yourself for free at work? Now that I am no longer working at a cafe on a regular basis, I have been forced to the streets to look for a new regular haunt to serve my coffee addiction. I live in South Williamsburg which is home to several fine coffee establishments and I have visited a few of them in my quest to become a regular at a cafe. This quest has been illuminating in that it’s really hard to get that home-y feeling. I guess it takes more than a month.

There are lots of reasons (or excuses) I can think of to be less than friendly to your customers. And I’ve been guilty of being unfriendly to customers on occasion. But if all it takes to make a small connection with someone over their daily coffee is a smile and some eye contact, I really don’t think any of those excuses are valid. Unfortunately, New Yorkers aren’t always the best client base when it comes to specialty coffee, although things are improving leaps and bounds due to the explosion of press about coffee in New York recently. Repeated orders for grande extra hot lattes are bound to break our fragile barista hearts slowly, but instead of being defeatist or defensive towards customers, what if we tried to think of the demitasse as half full.

The best, friendliest experiences I’ve had in cafes recently have also illuminated some of the qualities that tend to facilitate friendly and positive interactions. First, the cafe was clean and things were well organized. There were no milk crusted steam wands or open ice bins. Secondly, the layout and menu were easy to understand/read. It was clear where I was supposed to line up, order my coffee, and claim it. Thirdly, the staff didn’t mind questions and offered up recommendations willingly. It is easy to tell that these baristas are being well trained, well managed, and well paid.

As a barista, I know that it can be very difficult to discern the customer who wants your love and affection and the customer who just wants there coffee fast with the least amount of social obstacles possible. And part of the burden lies on my shoulders to initiate eye contact and strike up conversations with my barista. I’m going to make this my mission in the next few weeks. Hopefully I will successfully make some barista friends because I want to talk about my coffee. And the next time I find myself behind the bar serving customers, I’ll be much more aware of how important good customer service really is! And if you see me in your cafe, please feel free to say hello!

David Schomer and James Hoffman have also written similar posts on this topic.

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