SQLSaturday Orlando Notes – Coffee

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I like to say that the goal for any event is to meet the expectations of attendees. The trick is to set the expectations because if you don’t, they will set their own! That’s the case with coffee. It’s not required to have coffee, but if you’re not providing that best to message it loud and long before the event. If you are providing coffee don’t run out before lunch.

Sadly, we did run out of coffee before lunch.

Our coffee plan for the past few years (just about all of them I think) is to buy 7.5 gallons of coffee (we have one 5g and one 2.5 Cambro container) and then make more on site. Kendal and his daughter managed the making coffee part using a big percolator. It works, but it has (for me) some downsides; it requires a dedicated volunteer, it’s one more thing to manage (buy water, coffee, filters), and you’ve got to get it going early and keep up with it or you run out.

This year we bought another 5 gallon container, so we started the day with 12.5 gals of coffee. The plan was that when the first one ran out we’d drop it at Dunkin to refill it and use the second one. Good plan, but at 10 am we were out of coffee. All of it.

Part of that might have been the cup size, this year they were 12oz cups and I don’t know if we used smaller ones next year. I think more likely is that because it was immediately available versus “we’re brewing more, come back in a few” we just used more and faster.

It took an hour to drop the container off, get it filled, get it back on site.

Thinking about next year, what to do?

  1. Start with more coffee. How much more? 5 gals? 10 gals?
  2. Revert to the first plan of buy + make more
  3. Find a vendor/coffee truck to just take care of the coffee

Making coffee is the cheapest (and keep in mind that if you’re making 100% of the coffee your volunteer has got to get an early start – it doesn’t brew in 5 minutes). Buying coffee is not cheap (about $20/gal, shop around, nor are the Cambro containers (about $125 each, shop around, though you do get to leverage these over the years, I think we bought our first two in 2008 or 2009).

You might think that’s a lot to spend or not much at all. My take is that within your budget there are places where you can trade money for effort or effort for money. Sometimes spending money just reduces complexity. There’s no one right answer on this, or pretty much else anything else related to event logistics.

Some other coffee related notes:

  • Say “Cambro” when you order from Dunkin (or I suppose anywhere else) or they will give you the box of joe pricing
  • If your event is on a college campus, ask if they have a special rate for college events
  • Ask them to provide the cups, creamer, sweetener that you need as part of the deal
  • Drop the containers off Thursday – Friday is always busy.
  • Make sure the seals on the containers are on the lids when you drop off AND when you pick up.

I like the coffee truck/vendor idea. We could do free coffee and let them pay for their double backflip mocha latte if they want one. I think the challenge is that we know from experience people like coffee in the afternoon and I don’t know that keeping a vendor on site all day is doable. We’ll see.

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