By Bruce Milletto

Almost daily at the offices of Bellissimo Coffee InfoGroup we receive telephone calls, emails, faxes and messages in bottles from people around the world who are interested in bringing specialty coffee home to their countries. Many of these individuals have visited the United States and experienced American coffee culture first hand. Not only did they witness the popularity of the beverage, but they also saw specialty coffee as a business opportunity/model that could be adapted to fit their own countries. As a result of these calls, our client base has become worldwide in scope, and over the past five years we have done on-site consulting in Singapore, Mexico, Europe, The Caribbean and even Central America.

Two years ago we took a call that put a different twist on this scenario.

The callers were Americans who wanted to take specialty coffee to a country where the beverage was not an established part of the culture, and the coffee that was available was prepared quite differently than is found in the typical American-style coffeehouse.

The country is Bahrain, a sheikdom in the Persian Gulf, and the entrepreneurs are Doug Boys and Mike Clucas. These two Americans had been living and working in Bahrain for several years and believed the country was ready for American-style specialty coffee. Their idea was fueled by the success of several American companies in their adopted homeland—Baskin Robbins, Dairy Queen, and Hardees—and the fascination that Bahrain citizens have for all things American.

They started their quest systematically, interviewing consultants across the United States and doing a tremendous amount of research on the World Wide Web. They then traveled to America and visited numerous operations, taking close notes on the ones that were successful. The result was a concept they dubbed "New York Coffee."

Implementing an American-style specialty coffee operation in the Middle East proved challenging. The concept they created probably could have been completed much more quickly stateside, but the slow-moving bureaucracy in Bahrain pushed back their opening date time and time again. Doug and Mike found the Bahraini permit process to be arduous, ordering supplies and equipment a headache, and finding and training labor often frustrating. No one on this tiny island really understood the dream except for these two tenacious Americans. The coffeehouse they envisioned would fit well in Manhattan, but to create the desired ambience in Bahrain, they were forced to import almost every fixture from either Europe or the U.S.

Two months ago their dream was finally realized and they opened the doors of the New York Coffee Company—well over a year behind their original schedule. Their determination paid off, and today they are successfully spreading the American/Italian concept of espresso beverages to this Muslim culture.

Bruce Milletto is president of Bellissimo Coffee InfoGroup, a company dedicated to providing high quality educational materials, personalized business consulting and custom media production for the specialty coffee industry. He can be reached at ciao@bellissimocoffeeinfo.com.


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