Tuesday, December 08, 2009

ph: Pondering Paper

All sorts of paper goods from the paper suppliers' showroom. I won't need TP at home for a week!

As project hampden moves closer and closer to its' opening, more and more details need to be attended and time seems to be in very short supply. Time to think about paper goods. The quandry: how to present a thoughtful and refined approach without increasing costs to the point where it has to affect the retail price? Sure, we could go with nice linens, but that costs money and may mean the difference between a dessert costing $3.75 and $5.50, or more. And while I'm fine with charging what's appropriate, we don't want to scare people away because of price alone.

To my mind, many things in the coffee business are played out. Cheap is played out. How about something refined? Corn lined paper hot cups are nice but the premium is pretty steep and does the wax lining of "regular" paper cups really mean that it will take a bazillion years for the thing to decompose? The irony here, of course, is that all "bio-friendly" disposables inevitably end up being sealed in plastic bags that will always take a bazillion years to decompose...

Of course, nothing beats ceramic. Give me beautiful white plates and we'll fill them with something beautiful and tasty. Eating stuff for "here" is the easy part. It's the "can I take it with me" that it all falls apart. Plastic containers are nice and reusable, but there's going to be some tree-hugging jerkoff who's going to complain about the petrochemicals used in the container. I'll then be tempted to point out that the Horizon Organic Milk they're drinking at home is rubbish but that would only serve to irritate the problem rather than soothe.

Foil has the ability to go from the oven to the bag, so if we decided to make fresh mac 'n cheese, we could just pop it in the over, bake it off and let the customer take it home in all its' molten, oozy, cheezy glory. But the foil containers look about as classy as the stuff I used to get from the Washington Square Diner while attending NYU.

Then there's the pseudo-chinese-takeout-looking flat boxes in bio-friendly brown paper. They're stylish, kinda retro and very bio-chic. They can take the microwave, limited oven and look classy. I think we'll go with those.

Cups? To go paper will probably remain standard white because I'm unconvinced that the wax lining is that destructive to the environment, and because no matter the cup, the lid is always going to be plastic - until they figure a way to stop corn based plastics from disintegrating when warm.

Plastic cups may go to corn-based plastics. The concern here is not with cold beverages, where the corn plastics excel, but with the method we prepare some of our cold drinks - starting with warm to hot ingredients that we cool down. Does the additional expense of corn plastic also justify the additional labor of changing our production methodologies? Not sure yet.

Another conundrum is the utensils. At The Spro in Towson, we use all black plastic utensils. They're stylish, functional and disposable. Do we maintain those utensils for project hampden, or change to bio-friendly tan colored utensils? Or do we just use stainless utensils in-house and screw the convenience and tell people to go home with their take out, use their own utensils and save the environment? Idealistic but not very accommodating for the customer.

The curious aspect is the paper towels. The recycled towels cost less because they're not as pretty as the white towels. Hmmm, bio-friendly and cheaper? Now that's some tree-hugging I can get behind!

Meanwhile, I've spotted a bit of whimsy while perusing the stacks of our paper supplier. Soap dispensers geared towards children. I'm determined to find a way to use them at project hampden to bring a little fun into our serious world of coffee...