Coffee Slingers and Cheese Mongers

Learning from The Cheese Model

By Ric Rhinehart

Recently, I was listening to an interview with cheese monger Gordon Edgar in which he explained how critical it is to be able to educate his customers about cheese, while at the same time recognizing how difficult it is to impart the entire story of cheese to them. “When someone is paying twenty dollars a pound for cheese, you have to be able to tell them the story behind that cheese, but you can’t really tell them everything,” Edgar said. He then launched into a compelling story about the plight of small family dairy farmers and their struggles with the economics of milk and cheese.

As I listened, I was struck by the similarities in our products and the challenges of raising the level of the consumer experience while selling them a product with which they simultaneously have tremendous familiarity and very little real knowledge. In both cases, educating a customer is a delicate balancing act of engagement. In both cases, the product is being sold by someone who is not the producer. In both cases, we have to assess how important the product is in the customer’s hierarchy. So how do we prepare our very own cheese mongers—the working baristas—in order to engage our consumer? To read the rest of this article, subscribe to The Chronicle or become a member today! If you’re already a Chronicle subscriber or member, please login.

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