Bad Coffee in Good Hotels

I do always enjoy a good breakfast in a hotel, and nowadays to me it seems that with one or two notable exceptions (thank you Buenos Aires) there is not always such a great difference between what is on offer, independently from the quality of the hotel. As I was drinking a very disappointingly weak excuse of a cuppa in our final hotel in Teddington, I came to realise that what really makes a difference to me is the coffee.

No matter how good the other aspects of a hotel is for me, what leaves a lasting impression is the feeling I get from starting my day with a great cup of coffee.

This may seem like a trivial point, but I really think there is something significant to learn about customer experience design. A hotel simply is not able to offer a five star experience at three star prices, and neither should it try. However, what makes the difference between a good experience and an exceptional experience can often be found in one small detail.

Goethe, that great poet, artist and master of observation coined the phrase “an instance worth a thousand bearing all within itself”. What Goethe is alerting us to is the way in which sometimes we can find a phenomenon, such as the coffee in a hotel, which contains the whole essence of the brand, the company, the values, the experience as a whole, and when we find this archetypal experience, it is worth a thousand of other less archetypal experiences.

It is interesting to see BrewDog’s approach to coffee in their bars in which the central focus is craft beer:

As advocates for amazing coffee in our bars, we only want to work with the very best in the business. We are bringing the same attitude to our coffee as we do our craft beer, so fostering relationships with those at the cutting edge is essential. From the La Marzocco espresso machines even down to the Inker cups that we use – everything is dialled in so that when you order up a macchiato or an Aeropress, you know you’re getting the very best.But of course, it all starts with the coffee beans.

This example really is worth studying, since in a single coffee BrewDog wish to embody their whole philosophy, passion for excellence, and desire to partner only with those who share their same core values. Anything less than an absolutely amazing good cup of coffee will immediately jar in the experience of a visitor to a BrewDog bar, and so attention to detail is everything.

In order to offer the best available, BrewDog offer coffee from Dear Green roastery in the UK. I had a chance to try some in BrewDog Bar Glasgow this month, and can confirm that it really is a coffee which rocks.


Here is how BrewDog describe their coffee strategy:

We’re proud to have partnered with the awesome Dear Green roastery in Glasgow in sourcing the beans and developing our exclusive BrewDog House Blend. The guys pulled out all the stops on the Blend that you can now enjoy across our range of UK bars. It is a bespoke combination of beans from three continents, sourced from sustainable quality-focused coffee growing communities. In so doing, it totally nails a full, rich espresso blend with an intense blood orange bitterness, balanced by a caramel mouthfeel and dark fruit sweetness!

In fact, the more time we spent with Lisa and her team, the more the parallels between artisan coffee and craft beer came to light. Locating and selecting the perfect ingredients, working out how flavour profiles interact with each other, getting your product into the hands of the people as quickly as you can to retain those flavours – all apply to coffee and beer alike. And most importantly of all, getting those people to taste, become interested in and realise the variety that exists in both types of brew!

This question of finding this archetypal coffee customer experience also can be applied to planes. It is incredible to me just how bad airplane coffee is in the US – huge cups of watery slosh. British Airlines also served up a rather average brew, but to their credit I did receive a much stronger and smaller one on request. But why the need to ask?

People have different desires and likes, and it would not take too much effort to offer two strengths in hotels. Small details, big difference to the overall experience.

What I am suggesting is not so easy, and it all boils down to our way of seeing. No amount of innovation processes, methods, canvasses or such like can replace the way of seeing of the entrepreneur. Get close to your customers, do everything you can to get into their shoes at every moment of the customer experience, from beginning to end, and you may just find the one thing that is going to be the make and break between a good and an absolutely great customer experience.

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