Driven to Espresso: Drive-through Coffee Stands in the Northwest

If you think coffee culture is cool, you have come to the right place. I have loads of information and opinions to share about espresso in the Pacific Northwest, especially the drive-through phenomenon.

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Location: Edmonds, WA, United States

Monday, July 26, 2010

If you're truly driven to espresso, this is for you.


As a compliment to our book, Driven to Espresso, a new line of shirts, jackets, mugs, and other items have been designed and are now available at Cafe Press.

I think you'll enjoy the casual design and high quality of the products. There are many types of garments, including a good range of color choices and sizes. Some of the items even come in organic materials.

Plus, I'm pretty sure you'll agree the prices are very reasonable. Please visit the 1 by 1 Publishing shop and browse around.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Three critical requirements for a successful drive-through coffee stand

Keeping any business successful these days is a challenge. The drive-through espresso stand business is typically a very small business and even though the profit margin is considerable, it never takes much to sink a small business that relies on a very specific product.

While it is true that coffee is a huge market in general, and specialty coffee, such as espresso, has passionate consumers that have not scaled back their thirst for costlier coffee products in these recessionary times, it is still important to maximize the potential for a steady, large customer base by following some basic requirements.

1. Location. Having a stand where the most drivers pass in the morning can't be stressed enough. The perfect location is one on a well-used arterial road, close to a "bedroom community" outside a metropolitan area. This way you'll catch the driver while he's still waking up and needs the coffee the most, as he begins his drive to work. But it's not just the location, it's convenient access. If the driveway is difficult to turn into, or out of, the driver will consider it not worth the extra time or hassle of stopping there.

2. Quality of the coffee. While everyone has their own opinion of quality, it is important to know how to maximize the flavors and equipment to produce the best product you can. Also, it's important to realize that each person wants their drink to be customized to their exact standard. Some want more milk, some less. Some like it hot, some like it really hot. And so on. To get their regular business, you need to listen to their order and follow it. Knowing that the language of coffee is not a perfectly consistent language, make sure you understand what the customer is asking for.

3. Great baristas. The barista is the only real contact with your business that the customer has and it only lasts about 90 seconds, so it needs to be 100% positive. In the morning, especially, everyone appreciates a bright and cheerful smile, as well as someone who is out to make their day get off to a good start. Nowadays, some drive-throughs are desperately (my opinion) trying to attract more customers by using the old, old selling technique of sexual come-ons, but having a pleasant person to greet you and give your order the attention it deserves just can't be beat for building a regular customer base.

Of course, there are many facets to running a successful drive-through coffee stand, but I believe those three are the dominant ones that customers observe and recognize. Those are the three reasons why someone would pick your stand over others. And that leads to a successful business.

Before you can build a regular customer base, of course, you need to ensure that new customers notice your business in the first place. The building itself and your sign is the primary means to attract attention. Get inspired by seeing over 100 coffee stands I photographed and included in Driven to Espresso! Order a copy today!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Rough times for drive-through coffee stands

There is a drive-through espresso stand up the street from me; no surprise, given that I live in the suburbs of Seattle. It has always appeared to me to have plenty of business. I can't recall ever driving past and not seeing a customer there. Then a month or so ago, I noticed it was closed during the morning rush hour and a small sign taped to the window. The sign said they were closed until further notice.

Yesterday, while walking past, I noticed something else taped to one of the windows, so I went over to have a look and satisfy my curiosity. It was notice of a default on a loan. The loan amount was for over $600,000.

No doubt there is more to the story, but seeing such an apparently popular drive-through unable to make payments on their loan grieves me.

There is another closed down drive-through--this one is pictured in Driven to Espresso on page 113, and like the other one, is not far from my home --that employed bikini-clad baristas. I had formed the opinion that the bikini barista drive-throughs were escaping the recession, but perhaps not even that business "model" is enough today.

I wonder if we have seen the end of an era, when the drive-through coffee stands were at their peak, and the coffee craze was carried to an irrational high.