Experience Improvement Case Study: Hippie's Brew

July 8 2017, 12:36pm

I recently had the opportunity to check out a staple in the North Hayward area, Hippie's Brew. They have a relatively small space with a lot of demand. Where there are many potential problems that could arise from such a space, they did many things that helped, instead, make for a very enjoyable experience.

coffee on a table

One glaring problem with this coffee shop is the size. In total, it's probably no more than 300 square feet. There are two tables that sit total of eight people inside with a few two-seater tables outside. Line management could be a disaster with people not knowing where to line up. People could also get frustrated by not being able to get a seat. Hippie's Brew tackles both of these problems by creatively placing their furniture.

hippie's brew table layout

Photo by Jeanine P.

The two tables inside are positioned so that people form a line along the wall/outer perimeter of the tables. This causes seated patrons to be enclosed by new customers. Seeing people waiting in line makes those sitting at a table less likely to take their time—thus reducing table turnaround.

As I previously mentioned, this cafe is pretty popular. It has 4.5 stars and over 1,000 reviews on Yelp making it one of the more notable coffee shops in the area. That said, the line when I went was pretty long. It reminded me of some of the lines one might easily find at a Blue Bottle or Sightglass. The length of the line might cause customers some grief but Hippie's Brew managed to turn a potentially sour situation into something magical.

Whenever a customer reaches the cash register, he or she is met with a smile and a smart compliment about who they are. One woman was wearing yoga pants with galaxies on it. The cashier complimented the customer on her pants and proceeded into a genuine-sounding chat about space before receiving the order. This trend continued for every new customer I observed.

Before reaching the front of the line, my friends and I were treated to a sweet coffee shot. Acknowledging how long the line was, one of the workers at the cafe came out with a tray full of coffee in little shot cups. She announced that she was giving everyone, that wanted one, a complimentary shot but with one caveat—everyone would have to wait to drink them at the same time. Customers sitting down and waiting in line picked up a shot and passed the tay until everyone had a cup in hand.

"Thanks for being here everyone. Cheers to another beautiful California day," the worker exclaimed.

How could one complain about the line at that point? Looking around, most everyone was in smiles, gently chatting. Doing something out of the ordinary nipped that problem at its source and made the experience more fun, even.

While eating, I noticed one of my friends missing his order. He had gotten his coffee but not his sandwich. Orders passed with still no luck. My friend went up to the counter to bring the problem to Hippie's Brew's attention. Apparently the order had erroneously been removed after the coffee was delivered. They not only apologized for the error but promptly issued a refund to my friend and give him his sandwich.

hippie's brew sandwich with coffee

Photo by Janira E.

Where many other establishments would have just apologized, offered a refund, or quickly delivered the order, Hippie's Brew did all three. In doing so, they minimized much of the negative sentiment a customer might harbor if their order was misplaced.

Sometimes people want to do things for others but they don't either know what to do, or when they should so it. At cafes, paying it forward is a common activity where customers pay for the next customer's coffee. Hippie's Brew provides some institutionalization of the concept with a board on the far wall that explains more about paying it forward. Judging by the number of orders on the wall for the day, there's a nice share of patrons willing to go the extra mile and make someone's day that much more special.

In all, I'm impressed by the operations of this small cafe. They did many things right in the name of being more genuine and proactive—elevating what could have been a more ho-hum experience into something special.

Have you checked out Hippie's Brew? What do you like experience-wise about your go-to coffee shop?