Coffee hound Blog

Mar 26 2014

Time is Money

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A new addition has been made to the Coffee Hound— the Revel iPad POS (Point of Sale) and for some, it is a surprise, but for others it was a long time coming. Too often, in the middle of the night, my brain has rambling thoughts— plans, ideas, memories, etc. The other night, at 3:00 am, I began to think about how the Coffee Hound has had an evolution of sorts with our register system and how each time, the change has brought on the exact same anxieties. The fear of something new and different is a powerful enemy that I fight hard to keep myself from being stifled with.  
When we first opened in 2002, I had to manually program our first register. I had no idea what I was doing or even a basic concept of how any system would work for the cafe. Things like taking the customer’s order with all the details of their specific drink and then relaying this information to the barista to hand off to the customer, was not really thought through until after we opened our doors.  We opened up and were so much busier than we had anticipated (in the business plan), that it forced us immediately into thinking about speed, efficiency, accuracy, and quality when developing a system. We started using post-it notes to communicate the drink orders to the barista. The cashier would write down the order and pass it to the barista; the barista lined the post-it notes up on the espresso machine and as the drink was completed, put the note on the cup and then handed it to the customer. We had special short abbreviations for all of the drinks— Vanilla Latte was VLT, Mocha Bianca was MochaB and so on.  This programable register stayed with us for the next four years before making a leap to the next system.
 
In 2006, we moved into the relm of POS. There was so much to fear and the biggest of all was the cost.  There was a reason only mega chains at that time had sophisticated mechanical devices.  Each store’s system cost $17,000 for a single terminal and we had to use creative financing to make this happen (high interest loans). I spent the next two years paying the devil back. This doesn’t account for all of the other hidden costs I did not expect. Some of these hidden costs were things like $60 for fifteen minutes of non-business hour calls, mandatory credit card compliance software updates, constant replacement of hardware breaking down and so on.  After all the cons, what were the pros?  We got faster!  Reports gave accurate information and were valuable to analyze data and make better business decisions.  Like with any computer system, after seven years, it was time to replace with updated technology.  
Now, in 2014, it’s the era of iPad systems. I actually have spent the last three years waiting for an iPad system that would replace what we had been using.  In 2011, an iPad could act as a simple cash register, but not a full on POS that would collect data, create reports, process gift cards, etc.  By 2012, I noticed big changes in register systems, mostly due to icloud technology.  By 2013, I found the system we recently have switched to, and committed to making the switch over.  The new system was affordable, without resorting to crazy financing. It’s sleek, allows me to work from home while watching TV and playing video games, and makes advances in customer service— but that’s a whole other blog…..
Jul 15 2013

Brew Bar in Bloomington

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 Our Bloomington location is excited to announce our new Clever Drip Brew Bar! Coffee Hound is loving the clever dripper, a full immersion brewer, like a french press and pour over combined. This extra clean brew method is becoming the go-to for all Hound baristas and we love sharing our love of coffee with our customers!

If you would like a demonstration, just order a cup! Right now we are clever brewing our Natural Ethiopia Yirga Cheffe Konga and our Kenya Nyeri Gatomboya. These beans are fantastic on their own, but the clever makes them really shine! 

You can also try the Natural Ethiopia as a single origin espresso! Just stop into the shop and ask your favorite barista to pull you a double or add it to your favorite latte! 


Feb 05 2013

March Madness

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March Madness

by April Fritzen


Back in March of 2002 is when the concept for Coffee Hound came to life. 

Background information: Life before Coffee Hound for Steve and April Fritzen. 
Steve and I both worked in the construction industry.  Steve was a paint contractor and working with his brother for about ten years.  I was a construction manager for a non-profit organization training young people in life skills and job training.  After Steve's brother left the painting business, Steve no longer wanted to continue alone and began thinking about a new career direction.  Thoughts of going back to college, being a full time musician, and opening a breakfast/lunch restaurant were all on the table at the time.  After much thought he began to focus on finding something that we could do together, so he then steered more toward the restaurant idea.


Owners Steve and April Fritzen cupping at the Normal shop


The beloved Hound Mobile

 I think it's pretty common knowledge that the restaurant business is pretty risky and most seem to fail.  Steve began doing research on how to have a successful business, where to begin and what to do.  Somewhere along the way, he ran across a website talking about how to start up an espresso based cafe.  http://www.espressobusiness.com/index.html  Steve read through this website one day in March of 2002 and then called me at work to say, " We are going to open a coffee shop!"  Coffee Hound opened in August of 2002.  Although it was a short time frame from conception to fruition, there was a great deal of work in-between and ever since.  


The front of the Hound in 2002


Construction of Bloomington Shop, 2002

Ten years later: 
Somewhere along the line I read most small business's fail with in the first five years.  When I think of Coffee Hound, I do think of "success," but I also continually feel the strain to do what ever it takes to stay in business.  In a nut shell, damn it is hard!  What keeps us going?  As mentioned earlier Steve and I wanted to work together and that has been a real driving force to get us through many obstacles.  We are passionate about what we are doing and it is never mundane. Specialty coffee is a relatively young industry and is constantly evolving.  We enjoy changing with it and try to stay on the cutting edge of what is going on.  Sometimes change is difficult for both our customers and our employees, but over time we have learned to not let fear of the unknown stop us from forging ahead.  


Coffee Pup 

In August we kicked off our ten year anniversary with a big party, but we want to milk this out a bit further.  Since the month of March is our Coffee Hound conceptual month we are going to take March Madness to a whole new level.  We are rolling back the prices on all of our latte drinks to the year 2002.  Move over $2.00 Tuesday, every day in March will be even better than that.  You may be thinking how can it be possible to do this.  Well, we need your help to make it work.  Volume is the key here.  Bring a friend, come more often and spread the word!  

March Madness Menu:

Hot or Iced         

                        

12 oz (Regular) 16 oz (Medium) 20 oz (Large)
Caffe Latte $1.95 $2.50 $3.00
Vanilla Latte $2.50 $3.00 $3.50
Caramel Latte $2.50 $3.00 $3.50
Mocha $2.50 $3.00       $3.50      
Jan 28 2013

The 2013 Big Central Barista Competition and Brewers Cup

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 A few words from owner Steve Fritzen, who judged the Big Central Brewers Cup:

The 2013 Big Central Barista Competition and Brewers Cup

This past weekend I had the honor of judging the best brewers in the north central and south central region of the United States.  It took place in Kansas City, Missouri and was hosted by PT's Coffee of Topeka, Kansas and Kaldi's Coffee of St. Louis. Missouri.  The Big Central is an SCAA sponsored event to showcase some of the best baristas in the country.  

 

Steve during the day 1, blind judging, of Brewers Cup

To sponsor, host, and organize such an event is a spectacle in itself.  Espresso machines, grinders, water, lighting, sound systems, live streaming, judges and volunteers from around the country, and  energetic and passionate baristas, all of whom have been working tirelessly to make this such a wonderful event.  The winners of the regionals get to participate on a national level at the United States Barista Competition, which will be held in Boston, Massachusetts, with the chance of representing the United States at the World Championships in Melbourne, Australia.  

 

Jon Ferguson of Dogwood Coffee Company, St. Paul MN, served up the best cup of coffee Steve has ever had during the Brewers Cup Competition. http://www.dogwoodcoffee.com

As a former competitor with three regional third place finishes and a sixth place finish at the United States Barista Competition in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2006, I know first hand the level of excellence these competitions bring out in a barista's skill, knowledge, and passion.  Knowing what is at stake, being on the other side as a judge, I found just as much pressure to assure consistent and correct evaluation of the many competitors that participated this weekend.  My two other fellow judges, Neil Balkom, from Crop to Cup, and Jess Brooks, with Allegro Coffee, and I had eye opening experiences, which began in the compulsory round one format—which had all twenty competitors brew the same coffee and then be tasted blindly. This round allows for an even playing field to showcase brewing skills and coffees attributes to the fullest.  The top six participants in each region then moved on to compete in the finals round.  In the final round, the brewers got to bring their own special coffee and showcase it during a ten minute routine.  We judge their results based on aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance, and overall; and then critiqued their taste descriptors, customer service, and overall performance.  This was actually the highlight for us judges because you can see first hand the brewing tools and apparatus used to create their brew, extraction nuances, and best of all the incredible coffees.  


Steve during Brewers Cup Finals; sitting to his right is Neil Balkcom from http://croptocup.com/index.php and time keeping is Joe Morrocco from http://www.cafeimports.com/  

It was during this event I had one of those life changing coffee experiences.  To say I had the best cup of coffee ever put in front of me might be an understatement.  I was simply stunned, almost speechless, and in total wonderment, that coffee could taste and smell so elegant, pristine, and beautiful.  It brought me back to when I had my first ever real great espresso, which made my mind up that I was going to open up my own coffee shop.  This is the kind of experience that changes people forever.  The growth and learning that I walked away with this weekend is one that happens all the time for me in this industry.  There is so much effort put into making coffee from seed to cup, it dumbfounds me how complex a product can be.  Thanks to all of the great competitors that I learned so much from over a couple days.  You have inspired me so much!

The Coffee Culture was strong in Kansas City. https://www.theroasterie.com


 One of the great aspects of these events is the camaraderie of the fellow competitors, sharing of duties by eager volunteers, and just plain friendships that are fostered and rekindled.  The coffee community is actually a very tight knit group and is growing all the time, even though great distances, demanding jobs, and schedules make it hard at times.  The sharing of coffee passion is what fuels this industry to new heights and continues to foster excellence, quality, and relationships like none I've ever encountered.  This is so evident in the rise of the coffee culture in Kansas City and in general the Midwest.  Everyone likes to think that Seattle or the Pacific Northwest in general is where coffee is king.  Even though this is where it all began, you don't have to look far to see great coffee scenes emerging all over the country.  This is all due to passion, dedication, and education of coffee professionals, and the sharing of the knowledge within our blossoming coffee culture.  Kansas City's coffee scene is proud, enthusiastic, and skilled, but most of all they want to extend this to their customers.  I felt such an eager sense to serve and please, so typical of Midwest hospitality!  Both myself and my wife, April , who volunteered over the weekend, went home with warm hearts and great memories of our stay here.  


Steve having a single origin expresso at Parisi Cafe in Union Station, Kansas City. http://www.parisicoffee.com

I would like to personally thank all of the wonderful people involved with making this weekend one to remember.  Just as when I competed, I'm taking home with me a feeling of having bettered myself, motivated to improve my own cafe,  reflect on my experiences, and most of all to share my passion and knowledge with my staff, customers, and fellow coffee enthusiasts in our area—to better promote the wonderful world of coffee.  Thanks once again to the SCAA, PT's Coffee, and Kaldi's Coffee, all of the national sponsors, volunteers, and especially the barista's who worked to hard to make great coffee!

Regards,

Steve Fritzen

Steve during Brewers Cup Finals; sitting to his right is Neil Balkcom from http://croptocup.com/index.php and time keeping Joe Morrocco fromhttp://www.cafeimports.com
Dec 21 2012

Subscription Competition

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Now that subscriptions have finally arrived at the Coffee Hound, the staff is very excited to promote our awesome new product to our customers! Our goal between both shops is to get SIX subscriptions; the barista with the highest sells can win a number of great prizes that Steve and April Fritzen have generously offered up!

As of now, we are halfway to our goal, with three subscriptions, two of them thanks to Alec in Normal! :) 

So stop by one of the shops today and ask your barista about our subscriptions! 

Each subscription lasts for six months, with the option of delivery monthly or twice a month. You can chose from coffee, espresso, or the fantastic Roast Master subscription. All of these coffees are roasted in house by our Roast Master Mike Carmody. Notes will arrive with your coffee, describing origin and tasting descriptions written by the Roast Master himself. These subscriptions are a wonderful chance to taste special roasts, not available in the shops, and have them delivered straight to your door!

 Also remember, these subscriptions make excellent holiday gifts for coffee lovers! Happy Holidays! 

Dec 05 2012

Holidays at the Hound

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 Happy Holidays from the Coffee Hound!! 

After some unusually warm December weather, and many more iced drinks than usual, it will be nice to have some chilly weather to settle in with an Eggnog Chai Latte or a Candy Cane Latte (white chocolate and peppermint)! 

Also, continue shopping for your favorite coffee lover at the Hound! We have hats and shirts available online, mugs available in stores, and of course coffee available everywhere! Take advantage of our holiday coffee promotion-- three 8oz bags for just $25!!!!

And don't forget about your coffee subscription. Have special roasts of coffee shipped right to your door step!!! These subscriptions make a wonderful gift!

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For Downtown Bloomington's First Friday, Coffee Hound will be open late (8pm) for live windows and fun!! Stop in to the Hound before you check out all the festivities nearby to warm up with a Mexican Mocha or Hot Chocolate!  We look forward to seeing you!! 

Oct 25 2012

Subscriptions Coming Soon!!

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What better gift to give to a coffee lover this holiday season than a coffee subscription!?!

Coffee Hound is bringing you just that! Soon, we will offer three subscriptions, where coffee is shipped to your door monthly or bi-weekly! These subscriptions will offer you roasts that are not offered in house, and give you a chance to broaden your coffee pallet. Our roasters are currently brainstorming espresso blends and special roast master blends to send out. Because we purchase our green coffee seasonally, you’ll receive the freshest coffee possible each month from various coffee growing regions ranging from South America to Africa.

All subscriptions purchased this holiday season will begin shipping out January 2 and monthly or bi-weekly shipments will follow for six months. These subscriptions make wonderful gifts-- and the purchase of a subscription also includes a Coffee Hound mug to drink your coffee in when it arrives!

If these subscriptions are gifts for loved ones you will see this holiday season, we will ship the mugs and a special note out as soon as you order so that there will be a gift to unwrap at your holiday gathering! 


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