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BUSINESS

December 10, 2005

Building loyalty in 15 seconds

Justin Ayriss and Francesca DeLuca have meaningful 15-second relationships with dozens of strangers every day.

No, they are not in the adult film industry. They&

re baristas.

Serving coffee drinks at a Dutch Bros. bar in Ashland, the two have mastered the art of finding something meaningful in the time they share with the average coffee junkie.

&

Here&

s how you create a meaningful 15-second relationship,&

Ayriss said. &

First, you&

ve got to find something in common. Say, I guy drives up with a huge belt buckle with a bull on it. Now I don&

t know anything about rodeo, so I&

ve gotta work for that connection. I do know that one of the biggest rodeos in the world is in Las Vegas every year, and I love Las Vegas, so I start with that.&

One can imagine where the conversation goes from there.

&

Your relationship with customers is really important,&

Ayriss said. &

If you see the same people every day, you might as well be friends with them.&

From gifts of fake teddy bears with roses and help when she locked her keys in her car, the barista/patron relationship has been a little different for DeLuca.

&

I&

ve really come to enjoy this job,&

DeLuca said. &

Even when you have lines of cars on both sides, you just focus on one person.&

The 15-second focus on a person by his local barista seems to be a hurry up approach to the bar patron/bartender relationship. The only difference is time. While bartenders have a minimum time limit of a few minutes to get to know their local drinkers, baristas have a fraction of the time to make it happen.

Bear Whitmore, bar manager at Omar&

s, said he sees anywhere from 50 to 120 locals come into his bar every night. Over years of bartending, Whitmore said, he has found a couple thousand acquaintances in his bar.

&

I like to deal with both of them &

regulars and people just passing through,&

Whitmore said. &

Sometimes my friends get boring. I like people who just drive through, strike up a conversation and I get to learn a little about them.&

While the friendly atmosphere at Omar&

s has kept the bar and restaurant in business for more than 50 years, Dutch Bros. is trying to take that business mentality to the top.

&

A lot of people think the way we talk to people is fake,&

Ayriss said, &

but that&

s just the way we are &

genuine.&

Dutch Bros. regional manager Melissa Harwood said this is exactly what she looks for in hiring baristas.

&

The biggest thing is finding someone who is outgoing and very extroverted,&

Harwood said. &

If someone is comfortable in an interview, they&

ll probably have a nice vibe at work.&

As drive-thru coffee bars explode all over the Pacific Northwest, Dutch Bros. still claims its growth is due to its employees.

Dan Hawkins &

co-founder of Human Bean Inc. &

who uses the same approach to customer service as Dutch Bros., said the Southern Oregon market has proved itself unique in that it has allowed two relatively small companies to flourish without much outside competition (with the exception of a few Starbucks drive thrus).

While Hawkins said his company and Dutch Bros. are friendly competitors, the main difference is, &

they&

re really going for numbers, and we&

re growing in a controlled growth mode.&

Human Bean&

s 28 coffee bars nationwide pale in comparison to the number of 73 bars posted on Dutch Bros. Web site, but the company has still maintained exponential growth in the past two years.

The one thing both companies can agree on is that in 15 seconds a young barista can create a relationship that builds on others to eventually take a business farther than initially hoped for.

&

Basically,&

Ayriss said. &

If people pull up to the window and you treat &

em like you&

ve known &

em forever, they&

ll have a better day, you&

ll have a better day and you&

ll make a better drink because you care about &

em.&