Coffee on the Move: Tourism & Coffee
While flying through the holiday season, there’s an niche part of coffee culture that we wanted to explore: coffee in tourism. Whether traveling to mountain destinations, beaches, or elsewhere, coffee doesn’t disappear when you travel.
So, to get a glimpse of what the coffee industry might look like in a tourist town, we sat down with Darina Brown, co-owner and manager of Burg Coffees in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
In the heart of a tourist destination, Burg Coffees sees a huge turnover of new customers on a daily basis. With such high turnover, you might think Darina and her staff never see the same faces; however, the energetic manager explained that this is not the case. Despite having a tourist culture, Gatlinburg is still its own town, meaning Burg Coffees has its fare share of regulars. So though Burg is located amidst other tourist attractions, Darina offers special discounts that keep locals coming in the door, especially during slow seasons.
But, even with a local following, Burg is still vastly dependent on tourism for its revenues and must cater to relevant consumer coffee preferences. To stay in touch with these preferences, Darina explained that the bulk of her products are expresso based. Customers primarily ask for specialty drinks, mochas, and frappes, meaning she uses expresso shots in the majority of the drinks she serves.
Though customers are the focus, we were still curious about the coffee itself, so we asked about production and roasting. Burg Coffee’s arabica beans aren’t roasted in Gatlinburg but in Maryville, just a little Northwest of Gatlinburg. Darina explained that the shop is so busy that outsourcing the roasting process makes her operation run more smoothly, so she can put her time and effort in serving the massive numbers that pass through her store.
Still, owning a coffee shop in a competitive setting can’t stand only on the merit of the coffee quality; Burg’s success is also based off of appearances. Darina was quick to point out that since her shop is nestled between several others, she uses additional tips and tricks to draw customers into the store to drink her coffee products. Instead of a plain storefront, Burg is adorned with twinkling lights, decorative window print, and a board featuring seasonal drinks, all to attract visitors and boost sales.
As a final note in our discussions with Darina, we were most curious about how a small business owner can maintain such a fast paced business operations. Darina’s response to this inquiry? She just drinks more coffee! When the day is hectic and she needs to keep up, Darina whips up a frappe with 6 shots of expresso and keeps on moving.
In total, what are some of the main takeaways we found when talking to Darina? Depending on location, coffee in tourist locations can be based more on appearance than the origins of the coffee itself. Travelers seem to reach for warm mochas, specialty frappes, or otherwise novel drinks to complement their experiences. However, this doesn’t compromise the quality of the coffee as was demonstrated by Darina and her staff, and she has shown that great coffee can be found during your travels if you take the time to look.