This post is part of a series on menu development, which examines strategies for building a menu that reflects your brand and engages customers. (Photo: courtesy of The Wormhole Coffee.)
In a Chicago café that proudly displays a Nintendo and a DeLorean, you might assume the focus on coffee got lost somewhere among the floppy disks and eighties movie posters. Yet Wormhole Coffee’s fascination with kitsch is matched by its enthusiasm for single-origins and the locally sourced ingredients found on their specialty drink menu. You’ll find drinks like Cool but Rude, Koopa-Troopa, and Cruel Summer under the “Top Players” side of the menu, which reads like the high scores of an old-school arcade game.
“We try to have fun with the drinks we create,” says café manager Andreas Willhoff. “The big thing for us is not just having the same sort of drinks you could get anywhere.” For Wormhole, this translates to house-made syrups, local ingredients, and unique presentation—like espresso served in a scotch tulip. “It all comes down to feeling good serving whatever you’re serving,” says Willhoff.
With a staff that stands behind a peanut butter mousse (found in the Koopa-Troopa) as strongly as they promote a hand-brewed single-origin, customers have the opportunity to explore and learn about coffee in a step-by-step progression. For someone who likes a honey latte, Willhoff says they might suggest the Cool but Rude, which uses honey, but is a bit more adventurous with its ginger and curry flare. “If we can get someone to try that, we can get them to try something else,” he says.
In training, Willhoff and his staff spend a lot of time building tasting skills and learning to talk about flavors. When customers come in, the baristas can better guide them through both menu and retail offerings by identifying specific flavor preferences and encouraging them to experience something new from the menu.
–Ellie Bradley is Fresh Cup’s associate editor.
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