Boot & Shoe Service is respected in the coffee industry as a restaurant that avoids the usual scenario of fantastic food and poor coffee. SFoodie spoke to Jim Seishas, coffee manager at Boot & Shoe Service and sister restaurant Pizzaiolo, about what makes coffee important to his establishments. At stake: Will good coffee ever be fully integrated into high-end restaurants?
SFoodie: Coming from the restaurant side of the equation, why isn't it standard practice for restaurants to be making high-standard coffee?
Seishas: For one thing, coffee isn't making you any money, but it's something that every customer is expecting you to have. It's not bringing any revenue in, it's not bringing any specific jobs, and even if you have great coffee, our culture isn't one where everyone finishes their meal with a coffee beverage.
At the end of the day, it is just so far down the list in terms of what you're spending your time on and what you're making money on. In that sense it's intuitive to spend less time on coffee in the restaurant setting.
Why, then, do you find it so important?
Think about the experience of a meal: You're going to care about your food, and you're going to care about your wine. You are going to put all of this effort in to everything you're doing, and then not give a shit about last thing you're offering the table? Even if it is just a few people who are ordering coffee, the last thing people are experiencing is a shit cup of coffee. It's just a little bit of extra attention to detail that makes coming in to a restaurant special, and coffee can be the icing on that cake.
How important is it to have trained baristas making the drinks for your restaurant customers?
From my experience, making coffee is often a task that is given to bartenders or servers or bus-people. Not to say that any of those people aren't capable of making kickass cups of coffee, but the percentage of their work day dedicated to executing a perfect espresso drink versus making a cocktail, taking orders from customers, and running food -- well, the latter is just so much more of their time. You just can't show someone how the machine works and say "go," but that's the attitude that been accepted. People think just because you have bougie beans means you have good coffee.
Do you think it's possible that the new attention to great coffee can be integrated in to the American restaurant experience?
Do I think that can happen? Sure. It's so much more hip to be in food in general. People get really intense about it, excited about it. The more the coffee world on its own is continuing to push and talk about sourcing and roast levels and getting intricate about specifics, I think it'll be an inevitable byproduct.
Featuring these great microroasters at your restaurant is a great step along the way. People are starting to realize that -- wait a minute, when I get this coffee at the actual roastery it's great, so how comes it's not the same when I get it another place? Good coffee is not just about the beans. There has to be something else.