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Bits & Pieces?

Bits & Pieces

Since its launch (covered on Thanksgiving in this great OnMilwaukee article), the FoodFightMKE crew has been busy planning to rock three great December events to raise hunger awareness and money to help Hunger Task Force beat hunger in Milwaukee this holiday season.

The next event is FoodFightMKE night at AJ Bombers, next Friday, December 9th 5PM-7PM. AJ Bombers is always fun, and jumped in early on to ask how they could help get FoodFightMKE off the ground. We’ll be serving up a special cocktail, the Hunger Hammer. Just for showing up, you get a ticket to win some ridiculously great door prizes, from generous, community-minded folks including Radio Milwaukee, Sprecher Brewery, Stone Creek Coffee, Mason Street Grill, and Botanas. Who knows what else the FoodFightMKE crew will dream up for this event.

The very next day (go easy on those Hunger Hammers, kids!), December 10th, from Noon to 4PM at Best Place at Historic Pabst Brewery, we’ll be at the MKEfoodies holiday charity bake sale, benefitting Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. A bake sale, with a great group (MKEfoodies), for a great cause, followed by an after-party at Hotel Metro? We’re in. We’ll be there selling our cookies and showing our support. (Technically, it’s not a hunger fundraiser, to be clear. But if you want, you can still donate cash or by texting FOOD to 52000.)

Finally, there’s a really exciting food event called Soup & Bread: FoodFightMKE Edition on the front burner (ouch…pun…sorry) for December 15, 6PM-8:30PM at Riverwest Public House. Area foodies and chefs, including Dan Van Rite of Hinterland , Justin Aprahamian from Sanford, Mitchell Ciohon of Sabor and Ryan Oschman from The Eatery, will donate soup and bread. Those attending can donate “at will” whatever they can to FoodFightMKE. It’s an event that will fill your stomach and warm your soul.

HUGE thanks to all of our amazing and generous community partners, including AJ Bombers, Radio Milwaukee, Sprecher Brewery, Stone Creek Coffee, Marcus Restaurants/Mason Street Grill, Botanas, MKEfoodies and Soup & Bread. It’s heart-warming to see the Milwaukee community rallying around these events to give hunger the finger.

Now all we need is…you. Please join us in this fight against hunger by joining us at these events, or simply texting FOOD to 52000 to make a $10 donation to Hunger Task Force.

We wish you the happiest of holidays : ]

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Steve Hawthorne, Green Coffee Buyer for Stone Creek Coffee

This week, the American Marketing Association’s Milwaukee chapter brought in a great speaker (and, I should disclose, a good friend) – Steve Hawthorne, Green Coffee Buyer for Stone Creek Coffee here in Milwaukee.

Steve spoke about socially responsible marketing, and how Stone Creek Coffee was founded on principles of social responsibility and how they are living them. For example, the company has open dialogue with coffee suppliers about costs on both sides – including ensuring that farm workers are sufficiently paid – collaboratively arriving at a fair price for the beans. Also, Stone Creek helped build a school and a clinic on a coffee farm in Brazil. This brand is a beautiful example of living out the Humanize values that I wrote about here recently: Open. Trustworthy. Generative. Courageous.

The company was actually founded under the name Giri Corporation. Giri comes from a samurai code of honor called Bushido and means “social obligation.” Founder Eric Resch believed that a company has a responsibility to support the community that allows the business to be successful. *applauds*

Another interesting aspect of this brand is, that while they offer the highest quality coffees, scored on the Specialty Coffee Association of America protocol, they are also working very hard to differentiate their experience through service. I asked Steve some questions about this after the meeting, to get his insights into service marketing.

How do you go about teaching people the importance of excellent service to providing an experience that customers will come back for? Would you say that Stone Creek has a service culture, and what do you do to foster that?

We took a look at the “customer experience” and tried to define the key milestones of a visit to our stores. We’ve defined the visit in three components: a greeting, connection and farewell. The greeting is welcoming the customers, by name whenever it is known, as soon as possible upon entering the store. After they have been greeted, we want our staff to make some kind of connection beyond the transaction. This could be as simple as “How’s your day?” or “How was your wedding shower this weekend?” Something that lets the customer know we care about them as people. After the drink has been delivered, we give the customer a “farewell”, not simply “Here’s your large skim latte.” “Here’s your latte, Sue, thanks for stopping in.” is what you could expect to hear. We call this model our “barista culture.” It’s making the experience in our store personal. We foster it in other parts of our culture as well. For example we have a commitment to ourselves to respond to any customer email or phone call within 3 business hours in order to demonstrate our urgency to their needs. *more applause – I know we all wish more companies would live THAT.*

How much of great service comes down to making the right hires in the first place? Can great service be trained or is it part of a person’s DNA? What do you look for?

The first thing we did when considering service was to change our hiring process. Now, anyone interested in applying for a barista position is put through a fairly intensive application process. As part of a group interview, we are trying to get a glimpse into the person’s personality and see if they “have what it takes” to deliver stellar service. We also ask them to bring in a writing sample describing something they are passionate about. We’ve found that if they are passionate about something, we can teach them to be passionate about coffee and customers.

What do your customers say about your service? What are you doing differently? Have they noticed a difference? How much of a role do you think it plays in their loyalty to you?

The most common comment that I get about our stores is that we have great people. I hear this more than I hear about how great our coffee is or how great our environments are. I think this is a direct reflection on our service focus…by focusing on customer connections we are building brand loyalty. The Grand Avenue location is a great example – this is our smallest location, but has one of the highest customer counts of all our stores. The staff there is awesome at connecting with customers and their numbers show it.


Many thanks to Steve for the wonderful presentation at the AMA meeting – and the coffee! *standing ovation* – and for answering my questions. Service marketers can learn so much from this inspired brand behavior – opening up and connecting person to person.

If you’re in a service business, what do you do to behave in a way that builds trust and loyalty?

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