On a recent trip to Australia and New Zealand I spoke to a number of different audiences about coffee and innovation. Innovation to me is something I spend a lot of time thinking about and, to be fair, worrying about. There have been much smarter people running better businesses than mine who have ended up in trouble because they refused to change and adapt with the times.
Innovation (as opposed to novelty) is something that every business needs to be mindful of but as businesses grow they spend less time doing just that. Startups tend to innovate more as they look to find a way that works for them, but once they find a groove it can eventually lead them to complacency.
There are lots of awful definitions about what innovation is but my favourite amongst the good ones is from John Kao in The Innovation Manifesto; "The capability of continuously realising a desired future state." This refers to a process of constant iteration and improvement that helps you tweak and inch forward in tiny ways that make a huge difference in the end. This is the reality of any successful business that most people don't see.
With all this in mind we sat down with our staff recently and asked about how they felt we needed to improve. One of the comments that kept coming up is that customers weren't as engaging as they used to be. There was a perception that once upon a time customers were more engaged in specialty coffee but somehow that had changed.
Once we took the time to sit back, chatted to customers and looked at what we do, we realised that perhaps it was our fault and really the problem was that we weren't offering customers the opportunity to engage. We weren't setting out our stall to promote the tasting experience as well as we used to and customer behaviour was reflective of that. So we decided to innovate and fix it.
“Showcase” started a few months back at 3fe and is essentially a competition where staff get to present a coffee drink of their making and choice. The winner gets €200 and the best one goes on our new menu as “Fun”. This gives us a chance to make mistakes, play, critique, encourage and learn, all incredibly important aspects of innovation.
This Thursday we launch our new Coffee Menu with a nod to the first tasting menu we launched way back in 2010 and a few new additions to help people engage more with the coffees we have.
The Drinking Menu/Tasting Menu oddly never went away, it just became a thing that people knew to ask for. This is as embarrassing as it is ridiculous, and so its back in printed form in all its glory.
The Drinking Menu is aimed at customers who just want a cup of coffee and is simply laid out as Cappuccino, Espresso, Filter, Americano.
The Tasting Menu is aimed at those that want to take the time to have a more taste-oreinted experience at 3fe. The shop has become synonomous with the “Set” and so it remains, and we've also included a water tasting (yep!) as well as the afforementioned “Fun”.
A Nano Cupping is an opportunity all three coffees on offer that day and theres a short guide on the back for beginners. We've also included a 1.55 Classic Espresso for those who want something thats less origin-focussed and more espresso focussed (but thats a blog post in itself).
The “Tasting Notes” section on the back of the menu gives us a way to collect feedback through social media and we've also thrown in a bit of a blurb about milk at 3fe. The milk conversation is always a tricky one and we've been trying to communicate that one for almost 6 years now. Hopefully this attempt makes it clearer for everyone.
Ultimately the New Menu is building empathy into our processes so that customers can dictate what kind of experience they want to have at 3fe. We always want to provide as much information as people want but straying into lecturing customers was never our goal, though I'm sure its happened from time to time.
In the coming months “Showcase” will continue so that we can create new and better ways to enjoy coffee, as will our pursuit of those tiny details that make 3fe that bit better. We're excited about plans for the new year, thankful for all of your support and excited to see how we can improve your experience in 2016.