You Don’t Get Any Points For The Biscuit

During the panel discussion at MANE about barista competitors and competitions, one of the panelists recalled a moment when, as a judge, he watched a competitor slip over the 15 minute mark as she struggled to perfectly place tiny sweet biscuits on the saucers of her signature beverages – “You don’t get any points for the biscuit,” he sighed.

As we find ourselves in the midst of competition season, let’s remind ourselves: you win a contest by getting the most points. There are customs that we adhere to in an almost ritualistic, superstitious way (tablecloths!), and there are items that dominate the scoresheet – those x4 multipliers that every competition prep session focuses on. To become a barista champion, you must know the rules inside and out, and know what gets you points – and what doesn’t.

This sentiment can be writ large across not just our competition structure, but also in the way that we operate our businesses. When we are able to step back from working in our business and start to work on our business, it becomes time to figure out what points to pursue. In some sense, the competitors at the regional and national barista competitions are lucky: they have a book of rules explaining how and where points can be gained. For us, in the game of coffee shop management or wholesale coffee sales, we are in the enviable position of deciding our own point structure.

While it is certainly true that revenue can be used as a scoring system, I’m assuming that you, like me, consider it only one part of a larger vision. After all, if our primary way of finding satisfaction in life were through our P&L, progressive coffee would not be the best pursuit.

If money-in alone does not define success for you and your business, what then does? It is easy to reject cashflow alone as your definition of victory, but it is much less easy to define what exactly does constitute success. This is the rub: you can only win if you define how to win, and since this pursuit is yours, it is up to you to define victory. Once you decide what your victory conditions are – pursue them.

One thing we tend to do, especially those of us who are only just coming up in the progressive coffee movement, is to confuse the newest and the coolest with the best. If my generation of coffee professionals doesn’t set down anchor and determine its true goals – even as individuals – then we’ll be forever at the mercy of the winds of fashion. If your success is defined by staying at the crest of the fashion wave, then perhaps this won’t be so concerning to you, and indeed many businesses survive doing just that. What will put deposits in your success fund? Is it taste? Is it approval? Is it increased revenue?

The first step is deciding what is important, and what is just a biscuit.

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