Monday, May 31, 2004
Saturday, May 29, 2004
As you can see, I've discovered how to upload pictures to the blog, so now we'll get cracking on baking yummy breads and treats so we can share what they look like.
And, of course, I double posted one picture and can't quite figure out how to delete it. I was able to delete the other duplicate one, but these won't let me. I'll be more careful in future posts.
Friday, May 28, 2004
Sourcream White Bread
Daily Specialty Rolls
Monkey Bread Rolls
Daily Pies, Tarts, and Gallettes
Daily Cakes and Fairy Cakes
Black Forest Chocolate
Daily Pastries and Desserts
Molten Center cakes
Cinnamon butter puffs
Fruit filled Phyllo Cups
"bear claws" German style
Daily Coffeecakes, Muffins, Tea Breads, Scones
Yeast coffee cakes
Cranberry orange muffins
Pumpkin Nut Teabread
White Fruit Teabread
Frosted Almond Scones
Daily Cookies and Bars
Double Chocolate Decadence Biscotti
Cranberry Espresso Biscotti
Almond Orange Biscotti
Lemon Poppy Biscotti
Hazelnut Chocolate Biscotti
Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Sugar Cutout Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Macadamia Cookies
Chicken Hand Pie
Beef Hand Pie
Turkey Hand Pie
Many Veggies Pie
Young Hyson Green
Flowery Orange Pekoe
Prince of Wales
Flower Tea (rosehips, orange blossom, hibiscus, chamonile, elderberry)
Hanging Gardens (thyme, rosehips, strawberries, blackberries, chamomile)
Mesopotamian Brew (lime, mint, rose, cinnamon)
Cloven Fruit (orange, lemon, chamomile, clove)
Berry Yum (blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, crnaberry, blueberry, cinnamon, clove, lemon)
Forest Glen (lemongrass, lemon verbena, peppermint, spearmint, costmary, thyme)
Lavender Lace (Lavendar, lemon, cinnamon, rosemary, sage)
Moonlight Sonata (chamomile, jasmine, passionflower, bee balm)
Sunrise (chicory, yerba mate, gingerroot. peppermint, costmary, cinnamon, clove)
Root beer tea (sassafras, sarsaparilla, birch, dandelion root, burdock root, licorice root, gingerroot, star anise, orange peel, fennel seed)
Enlighten-Mint Tea (rosehips, chamomile, peppermint, spearmint, costmary)
Egyptian Sunset (licorice root, passion flowers, blue malva, rose, lavender)
Cambric Tea (chamomile and milk)
Whole, 2%, Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, Flavored - hot or cold
Carbonated beverages: Dr. Pepper, Coca Cola, Root beer, 7-Up, etc, Italian Sodas, and Granitas.
Thursday, May 27, 2004
While Manager is talking with attorneys, real estate agents, and CPAs, I get to have fun.
Here are some of the fun things I've come up with:
Capt. Tiny Brain posted his version of the bakery patrons to match the coffee consumers posted earlier this week in comments. I liked some of it, and modified the rest to the following:
Loafers - those who buy our breads because we make them convenient - they are most like coffee's Lazy Lattes.
Whole Grainers - those who buy quality health loaves, multigrains, organics - although they share some characteristics with the Java Snobs, they are really in a category by themselves.
Sticky Buns - These are most like the Java Beaners - looking for a light social atmosphere, easy entertainment, decent foods and beverages, a place to see and be seen, and get tasty treats while there.
Cookie Monsters - Capt. Tiny Brain listed them as carboholics, which could be so, however I think this also covers soccer moms stopping to get after school or after game treats for the kids.
Croissants - This comes closest to the Java Snobs - the people who seek out the newest and hippest treats, the fanciest goodies for their exclusive noshes. Likely we'll be referring many of these to specialty bakeries that do elaborate cake and cookie decorating.
We don't want people to think of us as a "special occassion" retreat, but a daily break place.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
I came across this little gem describing the types of people who buy their coffee ready to go at Bread Chocolate Coffee Yoga, and with a little research, expanded on it a bit. He listed only the first three, but I found mentions of the others in conversations I'm having with other people: lazy lattes - people who always buy their coffee, usually wherever they happen to be, often "soccer moms"; java snobs who are affluent well-educated "to go" drinkers for whom quality is paramount; caffeinated cultured - middle-income singles who hang out at coffeehouses for the ambiance and to meet other singles; capuccino coders - people who set up "offices" in a coffeehouse to work from laptops, often entreprenuers; java beaners - people who meet with their social groups at the coffeehouse, or just hang out, usually couples getting a break, college students, and people stopping off before or after work for a break.
I think most of our customers will be java beaners. These people want a place to go to see and be seen, to relax, to have fun, to get a good coffee or other beverage, to have something yummy to eat while they sip their coffee, and to be lightly entertained.
OK, OK, perhaps the only category of coffee drinker here to whom we aren't marketing are the java snobs, and who knows? Even they might discover something good at the Cracked Cauldron.
This will form perhaps the core of our "eat-in" customers.
The bakery is a necessary adjunct to the coffee shop part, or perhaps, the coffeeshop is a necessary adjunct to the bakery side.
In any case, the two aspects are integral to one another.
The breads, much as we love them, will probably not form the core of our sales, but they will be attractive to our customers for many reasons - not the least of which will be the timing.
Pity I can't seem to find a cute little breakdown of bread customers the way I did coffee drinking customers
Maybe I can create one?
Monday, May 24, 2004
Manager is still out on errands, and I have no idea how things are progressing.
She is a little irritated that people don't seem to be taking her seriously because of her age, so I'm doing a search of people who successfully started businesses when young, or become wealthy while they were young based on their own efforts.
It's a longish list, and I think it might help her when she hits a "you're so young" block.
She can take this list of youthful entreprenuers and say, "These people succeeded. I have as much ambition and grit as they did. I have the skills, the knowledge, the willingness to make this happen. I've done my research and I know there's a need for aplace like the Cracked Cauldron. Invest in me, and we will create a place that will bake memories that will last a lifetime, a place that will be successful, that will be an important part of many people's lives, that will be a cornerstone of our community."
It's already well on the way - we have people anxious for the Cracked Cauldron to open, anxious to pay for the treats we've been giving them for free for years.
It is a little intimidating to see the amount of money we need to borrow to make this a reality. We're looking at $250,000.00 to open it and keep it running until it begins to show a profit potential and allows us to start paying back what we're borrowing.
It may take 5-6 years to be truly profitable, but even a conservative estimate shows we'll be successful enough to stay on track with our repayment plan, and afford small expansions, as well as cover our daily, weekly, monthly expenses.
We just have to get people to take Manager seriously without relying on me. I have to work at my day job, the job that will support her until the Cracked Cauldron does, and I can't take the time to shadow her and lend her my years. These people have to learn to deal with her, to look beyond her age and see her skills and her abilities.
And I'm not just saying this because I am her mother. I am, perhaps, her harshest critic and most exacting taskmaster. I see her clearly, and I know her strengths and weaknesses.
I know she can do this.
Saturday, May 22, 2004
Today was spent getting Manager settled into her new digs - the North bedroom of my house. She will stay here until the Cracked CAuldron is a success - and it will act as an incentive, for few children truly enjoy returning to live with their parents.
Her cats, rat, and bunny have settled in happily, even if the kitten is leery of the pre-existing ferrets.
In the heat of the move, I made caramel hazelnut frosted coffees to go with the hazelnut chip shortbreads as a break-time snack. They were exceptionally well received by neightbors and helpers.
Yes, plural - we're packing Manager down from a 2 bedroom apartment that was just over 1,000 square feet of space into a bedroom that's 195 square feet.
And I have to find storage space for all the kitchen and bakery equipment we've bought until Manager has a location for the Cracked Cauldron and we can move all those things there.
Fortunately, Monday, she will go to the attorney and finish the paperwork to set the Cracked Cauldron up as a Subchapter S Corporation. Then to the bank to transfer funds from my account to hers and finish the loan paperwork.
While she's doing that, she'll be looking at properties.
And I've put a professional sounding message on the answering machine.
All I have to do now is remember to answer the phone professionally.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Just got the results of a coffee survey. We asked all sorts of people in all kinds of places what their favorite flavor coffee was. And the top flavor? Hazelnut. Followed by Irish Creme and closely chased by Chocolate Cream Brulee.
Most of the "flavored coffees" in the Cracked Cauldron will be flavored on the spot, either in the brewing or through flavored milks and syrups.
And we created a Frosted Coffee that is luscious: espresso, cracked ice, sweeteened condensed milk, fresh blueberries, and almond syrup - whirled up into a thick, creamy cold beverage for the hot Oklahoma day. The blueberries heighten the flavor of the coffee (we used Dead Man's Reach dark roast), the almond syrup and sweetened condensed milk give it just the right balance of sweetness, and the ice makes it as thick and cold as a 7-11 icee drink.
We'll try other fruits in this - and frozen fruits, too, to see if there's a difference in flavors and textures. And I'm thinking a cold Black Forest Frosted Coffee: espresso from a Vienna Roast, chocolate syrup, maraschino cherries and syrup, cinnamon, sweetened condensed milk, ice. Doesn't that sound yummy?
Or a Mayan Dream - espresso, ice, sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, hot pepper sauce, vanilla, dark chocolate syrup.
I know the Cracked Cauldron will be opening in the fall, so thinking of iced coffees seems a little wrong, but it's hot now. When better to test out next summer's recipes?
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
The Old Spaghetti Warehouse is rather huge, but the price is very reasonable for all of that. It's 22,000 square feet (yikes! - 18,000 square feet more than we need!) for $3,000.00 a month.
Manager will call back and ask if we can sublease the basement - which comprises the bulk of the space. That, of course, means finding someone to whom to sublet it.
There's a little place on Walker and 23rd - a tad smaller than we'd like at 3,000 square feet - for sale for $90,000.00, but not for lease. That one can go on a back burner for now. Purchasing it would mean a mortgage payment of less than $1,000.00 a month and equity build-up for when we need to move to a larger place. It is in the Paseo and in a high traffic area - a traffic count of 4100 a day, but only 6 parking spaces.
Then, there's this gorgeous freestanding shop that was once a florist's shop. It has 12 parking places, plus streetside parking, a traffic count of 2100 a day, and is walking distance from a university. They want $1,900 a month for it. It, too, is slightly on the small side - 3800 square feet.
But, it has ambiance, location, parking, and space to create a lovely outdoor seating area next spring.
The last place is too large and too expensive with very little parking. It's 15,000 square feet for $375,000.00 a month. No wonder it's still vacant.
Manager says she wonders how real estate agents stay in business. None of the realtors she called answered their phones yesterday, and as of this afternoon hadn't returned her calls.
One of the sites we looked at had people swarming over it today, cutting grass, washing windows and the like. I don't know if it's routine clean-up, or if they have a prospective buyer other than us. Or if it was our call that precipitated the activity.
Anyway, we'll keep trying.
It is possible that Manager just sounds too young on the phone. Maybe I need to make those calls.
And that reminds me, I need to plug in the answering machine and put a professional sounding message on it.
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Manager checked out the attorney and wasn't impressed, mainly because the attorney was condescending towards her. She's not sure if it was because she's female or because she's young, but does it really matter? If he takes her money, he owes her respect. If he can't at least pretend to repsect her, then she doesn't need him as an attorney. It's not like attorneys are scarce in this city - they outnumber auto mechanics.
On the real estate end, we've narrowed the search down to 11 properties, almost half are in Empowerment Zones. The ones that aren't in Empowerment Zones have other attributes that are attractive to us, like parking, large windows, and minimal remodeling needs. Four of them are in or very near to the Paseo Arts District. All are close to downtown, the state capitol, two major hospitals, 3 major call centers, and in reasonable distance of 5 colleges and universities. Most of them have small (OK, let's be realistic here - miniscule parking - say 8 spaces on average) parking lots. Only three have parking areas that exceed 10 spaces. With Oklahoma being a "no walk" zone, parking is an essential.
The things we are looking for in a location: 1) Location, of course. That's why we drove through the area we are targeting as our prime spot, and looked at each place. 2) Size. We need a certain minimum size to make this work. Ovens, storage, counter space, cleaning up space - it all takes room. We could squeeze the equipment and customers into 3,000 sqf, but 4,000 is ideal for a starter. That eliminated many places right off the bat. 3) Condition. How is the wiring, the plumbing? What's the roof like, the walls? Cracked windows? How sturdy are the doors? Holes in the floor? Don't laugh - in the Empowerment Zone, some of these places were decidedly dilapidated. What would it cost to make it "habitable"? 4) Parking. We want at least 12 parking spaces, and more would be nice. Most places have half that. The old Spaghetti Factory in the Paseo has no parking spaces, but shares all the spaces up and down the street. We'd be competing with Galileo's, The Bargoo, Craig's Emporium, The Isis Cafe, Kathryn's Place, and several art galleries. 5) Cost. How much is the rent, what kind of contract can we negotiate? Can we rent, or should we buy? What do the utilities run - and much as we love gas, is it affordable? In the winter, the gas company traditionally spikes the cost of gas tremendously, can we afford that spike? Last winter, the gas prices increased fivefold for the months of December, January, February, and March. Can we afford to pay 5 times the normal price of gas for 1/3 of the year? 6) Other stuff, like shape, and appearance, and interior condition (the Old Spaghetti Warehouse, for example, is filled with debris, but all the other places we've targeted look merely dusty and dirty), and smell (one place smells like rancid bananas - sweet and rotten with a sharp stabbing after-effects - and if we can't locate and dispose of that smell, that will eliminate the place right there).
Manager is making appointments with the realtors today, and will check out a couple of other attorneys.
Insurance looks as if it will be a dicier thing than we expected, Manager's aunt isn't licensed for Oklahoma.
Things are moving quickly forward now.
Monday, May 17, 2004
Well, when it rains, it pours.
Seems like there's a shop inside the Paseo district that's for rent.
We're not talking hte fringes here. This one is in the heart of the Paseo Arts District itself, the shop that defined the Paseo Arts District and made it the artsy bistro type of place it is.
Before you think that it isn't an important piece of real estate, consider this - when it moved, it rejuvenated another failing nad decrepid district, and brought it into economic prominence.
Yes, we are speaking of The Spaghetti Factory.
The original Spaghetti Factory building is vacant, and begging to be filled.
Sure, the old Queen's Beauty Supply with the lawyer neighbors was a decent spot, except for the lack of parking.
And yes, the old Celtic Cup has parking and is in a good location.
But none carry the cachet that attaches to the Old Spaghetti Warehouse.
So, Manager will call Craig today and ask about it.
Things are particularly fortuitous because the Cairo Coffee Company becamse successful enough to move to another, larger location, so the whole district is now without a coffeehouse - and has never had a bakery.
We've been considering WiFi as a part of the bakery experience. Only one other coffee shop in town has WiFi, although I hear rumors that Starbuck's is considering it.
Best of all, we're located near a FedEx drop box and a QuikPrint in threee of our favored locations.
Think we can add the freelance entreprenuer to our customer base?
Friday, May 14, 2004
Manager met the banker today.
She will talk to our CPA on Monday, make sure he is able and willing to do what we need done.
The people at the TPA where I once worked are still working there. One of the reasons I left was because there was so little room for any sort of advancement, and very little in the way of pay raises.
The reason I mention this is because Manager is looking for someone to help with worker's comp claims, insurance administration, and COBRA/HIPAA stuff, and this is what they do.
However, since I worked there, they have changed some. I'm not sure they take really small clients anymore. The Cracked Cauldron will have 3, maybe 4 full time employees, and 6-12 part time employees. It may be too small for them.
However, they remember me favorably there, so maybe they can steer her to someplace that will take so small a client. The president reminisced about some of the employee enrichment activities for which I was responsible when I served on the Eomplyee Activities Committee. The Murder Mystery Halloween was his favorite, but only because I use the cleaning of the aquarium as the base of it - and he loves his fishies. He wanted to know if I'd come back and do that again. So, I'm sure they'll treat her well there, even if they send her someplace else.
And, about the building where the Celtic Cup once was - Manager thinks it might be too small. However, it is deeper than she expected, so it might be a good size after all.
She'll call the realtor about it this afternoon.
She went to the Chamber of Commerce for newer information and to see if they had more to offer now that she's getting closer to opening.
She couldn't find the new IRS building, or the Oklahoma Tax Commission Office, so we'll find them tomorrow, and she can visit them on Monday.
Tonight, we'll check out a new coffee shop, see what it's like.
Remember a while back, I mentioned a coffee shop called The Celtic Cup?
Well, they went out of business and their building just went on the market for lease this morning.
It's located at Hudson and NW 23rd, just outside hte Empowerment Zone, but, it's at the edge of the Paseo - 1 block off the main street for it. It has parking. It's a pretty building. It won't take a lot of rennovations to turn it into the Cracked Cauldron. It's easy to find and access, and the demographics for it rock. It's located smack between the Paseo Arts district and the Heritage Hills "old money" residential/business district. It's in our "range" for downtown, state capitol, hospital and college accessibility - the bulk of our customers...
It may be a little small for our needs, but we can adapt - and there's room for outside seating - a definite plus when the weather is nice, which, in Oklahoma, is for a large part of the year - even in December and January, there are days mild enough for outside dining. It's the wind that's the kicker here, not the temperature.
Putting up wind screens would be cost-effective and pretty, and not something we'd even have to consider until spring - say next April.
Manager is meeting me for lunch, where we'll go to the bank to meet people, then we'll have lunch and drive by the old Celtic Cup and discuss it some more.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
I was very lazy and only baked one thing - a sour cream vanilla pecan cake.
I should have baked three of them.
I should remember when I provide birthday treats, everybody wants some. They all know Manager is opening her bakery, and they asked if this cake would be among the baked goods. They are such good co-workers - not one has asked for any recipes since they learned Manager was opening her bakery. They've all said they'd rather buy the cakes and such from her than bake it themselves.
The birthday person always specifies that it be simple, so I try not to spend more than 2 hours in preparing everything. And I rarely decide until the night before. This time, I made an antipasta platter and used cookie cutters to cut up some cucumbers and different colored bell peppers and scattered them on a bed of broccoli, then made a "river" of cajun spinach dip, and did the opposite side of the platter with a "bank" of cheese planks and slices of canadian bacon (for the Atkins dieters), and then I carved a watermelon into a flirty whale and balled the fruit.
and that's it. Cake, antipasta platter, and fruit. Simple.
Things will be so much easier when the Cracked Cauldron opens. Then, I can place an order and pick it up without having to rush around buying ingredients at 10:00 p.m. the night before.
Tomorrow, I introduce Manager to the bankers.
They are excited that she's finally ready to take this step.
Not as excited and aprehensive as we are, but excited nonetheless.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Manager is coming to the City Thursday for appointments with a realtor, the IRS, the Oklahoma Tax COmmission, and the CPA, and she'll take time to visit the loan officer.
She'll also bring a carload of her belongings up in preparation to moving in with me, and we'll spend the weekend painting her new room.
Next week will be even busier. That's when she starts really searching for a location and pushing on loans and financing.
The memberships to the SCAA and the Bread Baker's Guilds have arrived, and that seems as if it provide us with good contacts.
The place we looked at near the attorney's office has no parking for itself. Customers would all park in the attorney's lot, and that wouldn't do.
Monday, May 10, 2004
We cupped three coffees from three different roasters: Raven Brew's Dead Man's Reach, Three Peckered Billy Goat, and Wicked Wolf; Intelligentsia's Nepenthe, Cajun Blend, and Viennese Blend; and Martinez's Monsooned Malabar, Santo Domingo's Ocoa #1, and Costa Rica's San Gabriel.
So far, the coffee that seems closest to yet is better than the primary coffee available here is Organic Coffees, Inc.'s Stellar Brew. This one may become our "House Coffee", the coffee we serve when someone asks for a plain cup of coffee.
Because there are so very many good coffees out there, we decided we would tie the coffee flavors to the "continental specials".
In other words, each month we will offer special breads from specific continents. We will match the coffees to the breads and pastries of each continent, either by what grows there, or by what is popularly imbibed - including the favored roasts.
We will keep our "dailies", but offer exciting forays into other flavors.
And, this gives us an opportunity to fine tune what flavors and roasts are most popular with our customers.
Yes, it means greater bookkeeping, and more frequent, smaller orders of coffees, and probably higher shipping charges - especially as we settle on the best complements to the breads and pastries, soups and pies.
But, I think it will pay off in the long run with extremely loyal customers.
And - the lovely little shop on the edge of the Paseo? It has no parking. None. Not one single parking space.
All of it belongs to the law offices next door. All that's available is the shop.
I ask you, what good is a bakery/coffeeshop if our customers have to walk a block or more to get there?
In Oklahoma, where nobody walks if they can avoid it - none. So, we have reluctantly released the thoughts of that particular shop.
There are still quite a few to choose from, though, so don't despair. We hope to have found our location by the end of this month.
In the meantime, we can savor such a world of coffees.
You know, when we started this odyssey, our first thought was a coffee shop. Just a coffee shop. But the person knowledgeable about coffee moved out of state. We turned to what we knew best - baking.
There is a nice soup and salad restaurant in town, and they are quite successful. They expanded their soup line up from 3 to 5, which tells us soup is popular. Practiclly every restaurant offers a soup or stew because there is enough demand for it.
We liked the thought of baking exotic breads - Ingrid's German Bakery has a loyal following of people who love German breads, and La Baguette has a loyal following of French bread and pastry lovers. Panera's offers sourdoughs. But there isn't an Italian bread bakery, or Portuguese one, or South American, or British, or Australian. Grocery store white breads, French or German breads, or Panera's. Those are the local choices.
It was a simple step to start planning a bread bakery with pastries and pies. And the soups to make them into meals to catch that segment of the dining market.
And of course, we would offer beverages.
The quest for coffee has become a journey that is taking us places we never imagined, and will give us a competitive edge that is lacking in Oklahoma at this time.
And all for little extra effort on our part.
And this, from the person, who a decade ago, confused espresso with a drip grind!
Sunday, May 09, 2004
This weekend, I discovered grilling Butt Chicken.
See, Manager was up to discuss more on The Cracked CAuldron, things like timelines, and what had to be done this upcoming week.
While here, we shopped for food, and found chicken at a really good price. At first, we thought we'd experiment with another soup, but recent experiences of a blogger we both read had us wondering about making Butt Chicken.
So, we got out the bottle of raspberry wine vinegar, and made a brine with it, raspberry juice, and herbs from my garden (sage, rosemary, curry plant, basil, thyme, and tarragon), and let it marinate for 18 hours.
Then we got out the gas grill, shoved an open can of beer up the chicken, and grilled with a buttery raspberry jelly baste.
Four hours later, we had some of the best chicken I've ever tasted, and I've grilled some pretty remarkable chicken in my time.
I wonder how we can translate this flavor into a chicken pot pie?
Of course, I can't find out with this chicken, because there are no left overs.
I don't know how it happens, but whenever we (Manager and I) decide to experiment with a new recipe, be it bread, soup, or other dish, people appear on our doorstep. And of course, we feed them.
So there are no leftovers.
Next week, we start the subchapter S incorporation papers, attend an appointment with out CPA, and talk more with the bank loan officer.
By next week, we should be well on our way to the final phases of opening.
On a side note, Blogger has added some new features that I need to spend some time learning, as well, and we should get the activation codes shortly for the web publishing tool so we (OK, I) can start designing the webpage.
Oh, and I'm wondering if we should sell Chicken Aloute at the bakery...or if it's too fragile a dish for that.
I may make a few batches and see how they hold up.
I'm so glad chicken is really cheap right now.
Saturday, May 08, 2004
If you ask a customer for their name, use it. Use it at least once. Use it more often if necessary. But don't ask for their name on an order, then call out what the ordered item was instead of the customer's name.
What was the point in getting the customer's name if it wasn't going to be used?
I mention this because this morning I had to go to the Post Office to get a box and decided - for the first time ever - to get a coffee at Starbuck's - just to see what everyone was raving about. If we're going to be intimately involved in the coffee business, we need to know our competition, and Starbuck's is just that.
So, I enter. The place is crowded. Not with people, with stuff. There's a free-standing shelf blocking the way into the order line filled with Tazo Teas and candies. It stands about 5 feet high, so short people like me can't see around it.
Walking around that, I see the cramped order area - two cash registers placed with less than 15 inches of customer order space between them. Towering over one register is a bakery case with croissants in it, and beneath the register is a case of bottled drinks. To make it seem even more cramped, the sugars and such for the cooffees is three feet behind the cutomer when they face the dual registers. Only 2-3 people can stand comfortably in line. Then, for some reason, into what little floor space there was at the order counter, they placed a round table with a sample coffee urn and tiny sample cups there. Then there's the door to the restrooms, partially blocked by a shelf-case filled with coffee mugs for sale. The remaining order area, where customers can actually stand to place orders, is less than 3 square feet.
Service was prompt, but it was disconcerting to be asked "What size?" before I'd even said what I'd like to drink, and then, still before I could give my order, the cashier demanded my name. He wrote it on the cup and handed it off to someone else - before knowing what to fill it with. Then, finally, he asked what I wanted to drink.
By then, I was wondering if it was such a good idea to visit. And wondering if the coffee would be worth the $3.00 for a small cup of coffee.
Once the order was placed, there was nowhere to wait for the coffee. The pick-up counter had shelves around it filled with things for sale, mugs, T-shirts, coffee coasters, and the like. Short as I am, I couldn't reach the pick-up counter through all of that.
In waiting for the coffee to be poured, I suppose I could have taken one of the tables - the seating area was spacious. But all the tables were full, and I thought it would be rude to tower over a full table. So I kind of hovered on the door side of the shelves, moving out of the way whenever another customer entered, assuring them I wasn't in line.
Like I said, the customer seating area was spacious. The tables were widely spaced apart. Keeping in theme with their counter crowding, they could have easily added another 8-9 tables with chairs.
Or they could have moved the sugar area into the customer seating area with no loss of seating space, and a much better flow of customer orders. They could have even placed the shelves of merchandise in the middle of the seating area, possibly even on a line from the door without making it feel crowded. So why did they make the order area so cramped? There was plenty of room to spread things out a bit. More room would have made it feel more welcoming.
When my order was finally ready - after 3 people who ordered after me got theirs - they didn't call my name. They quietly announced the contents of the cup after setting it on the counter between the registers, not the pick-up counter (which I couldn't reach anyway). Well - others could have ordered the same thing, so I had no idea it was my order. Finally, I got back in line and asked if it would be ready soon, since people behind me had their drinks. Those people were apparently regulars, because when their drinks were ready, the counter person (not the cashier) looked around the room for them and gestured to them it was ready. I was told, rather curtly, that my coffee had been ready for some time, and they pointed to the cooling cup of coffee on the counter.
I was brazen enough to ask how I could possibly have known it was my order since they never called my name.
His excuse, "I couldn't read my handwriting."
No. If you are going to ask my name and put it on the container, then you must have the courtesy to use my name when the order is ready.
How was I to know it was my order when there were a dozen other people inside that could have ordered the same thing?
Cracked Cauldron employees will not give an unpleasant experience to our customers, even in something as minor as this.
And we will design the order counters so they don't appear cramped. They may, depending on the location, have to be cramped, but there are little tricks to make the space seem more open. We will use them.
And if we need to get a customer's name for any reason, we will use it at least once.
That's simple common courtesy.
And the coffee? Well, it was not bad. At least it wasn't burnt-tasting. But it wasn't worth $3.00 or the hassles I had getting it.
I'm going to presume it was this way only at this particular free-standing Starbuck's because I've seen Starbuck's kiosks in other places that had much less cramped order areas. I may try one of them to see if the name experience is repeated. If it is, that's a definite thing about which to complain.
And about which to warn and train our own employees against doing.
Friday, May 07, 2004
OK, I have retrieved my camera from a friend to whom I lent it (I still need to get the battery charger back...).
Manager tells me there is a way to link photos to this blog, so I will learn how to do that this weekend.
What this means for you, O Supportive Readers! - is Pictures of Yummy Treats!
They will not be photoshopped because, well, because I haven't learned how to do that yet. So you'll be seeing The Real Thing.
And, because my sense of humor is slightly warped, and I've been egged on by a friend who has an equally warped sense of humor, some of the breads and such will take starring roles in classics. Gone with the Wind. Lord of the Rings. Peter Pan. Mr. Bill. And anything else that strikes my fancy and creative abilities.
Thursday, May 06, 2004
Most of the actual work for opening the Cracked Cauldron is done by Manager. Me, I do research and post possibilities, and a bit of nagging.
Manager will be moving in with me starting this weekend to save on living expenses while the Cracked Cauldron finds its feet.
In the meantime, until she's moved in, I don't have a lot to do but think of nifty marketing projects.
How's this one? Lulu.com allows people to create calendars fairly inexpensively. I mean, the price is competitive with mass produced calendars! Chik-fil-A offers a calendar with cows on it for $10.00. I think it would be nifty if we offered a calendar with coupons and showing special holiday sales in advance - and pictures of our yummy treats with which to tempt people.
Why not? I have a digital camera and a fast internet connection. Making such a calendar would be quick and easy. I think we could make one for the Grand Opening, and give it away that week, then sell it afterwards, like Chick-fil-A does.
It would remind people all year long where they can have a lovely time and a delicious treat - and with cents off!
Cost-wise, it's less expensive than some other advertising ideas, and looks to be productive, especially if we can photograph the breads and pastries in alluring, come-hither poses.
An added plus is that one cannot get in trouble for photographing under-age breads.
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Either this weekend or next, Manager and I will have a coffee cupping to select our initial coffee roaster supplier.
I know, I know, we could simply use Folgers Coffee Crystals. So many places already use Flogers or Maxwell House or some other readily available blend.
I'm not sure what coffees The Red Cup uses, but I'm convinced it's not their coffee beans that are bad, but their brewing method. I'm willing to believe that they brew the coffee before they open shop, and then let it slowly scorch all day, decanting small amounts into thermal jugs from which they serve it.
I know they serve the coffees from thermal jugs, perhaps in the belief that the coffee will not go sour.
Coffee drinkers are a loyal group of people, and we hope to offer some really fine coffees.
Get the coffee drinkers in, and they'll buy pastries and cookies and biscottis to enhance the coffee.
Once they've had the good coffee we'll serve, and the delicious pastries in our friendly, inviting shop, they'll bring their friends. They'll try our savory pies, and our soups, and we'll be a regular place for them.
Some days, they'll just have coffee and a biscotti. Some days, they'll linger and have a pie, then add in a fairy cake, maybe have another cuppa because the band's good, and add a biscotti, and by golly, it's dinner time, let's have a bowl of soup and bread, and another cup of coffee, and while they're here, why not add a yummy cheesecake for dessert?
Bakery fantasies. You read them here, first.
Monday, May 03, 2004
That immediately eliminated 3 locations, and may have eliminated a few more. We'll see.
There are still 9 locations to check out, and it looks as if a few will be within the empowerment zones.
One of them is a lovely building that is falling apart. Since it is also for rent, we're wondering if the owner will help in the renovation of it. Little things like replacing broken windows, and removing trash from the site, possibly restoring power to the building. And who knows what the plumbing's like.
Another one used to be a "Rent-a-Center" showroom that's now up for rent, it doesn't look like it needs a lot of work, but it's further from downtown. On the plus side, it's in a high traffic area right near a private college.
And yet another one was once a beauty supply store that moved to a larger location down the street. It's also on the border of an artsy district called The Paseo, and still very close to both downtown and the state capitol, not to mention 2 major hospitals and just off a highway - easy access that puts it in quick and easy reach of three local colleges as well as two junior colleges.
I am leaning towards the one in The Paseo, because of it's accessibility to all these coffee drinking sorts of people, now that the one I thought was better is outside the empowerment zone.
The final decision will be Manager's, of course.
Talking about Manager's Cracked Cauldron at work has inspired a co-worker to open her own business.
She'll be opening a "Tween's" gift shop.
We're having lunch together to discuss our business ventures and what we have to do for it.
I directed her to this blog for background work and links.
I think it's so cool that she's doing this.
And like me, she's depending on a little neoptism to get her through - she has a step daughter who's a graphic artist.