Space Kats and Demon Dogs take second at Crush The Rush 2: Nashville!
Last year, our preferred espresso machine partner La Marzocco introduced a brand-new competition called Crush The Rush. Typical coffee & latte art competitions can get serious, so La Marzocco wanted to do something different – something fun – that focused on speed, efficiency, and community. With this Crush The Rush was born.
This year, Nashville was chosen as one of the 5 hosting cities, and several coffee companies from the Louisville area made the trip down to compete, including our own team (known as Space Kats and Demon Dogs) of Joe Dininger (HB’s Training/QC Manager), Georgia Lacy (shop manager at Vint), and Layne Sanders (assistant shop manager at Vint). They were accompanied by Tess Lindsey (shop manager at HB-Blankenbaker Pkwy) and Evan Cooke (HB’s Digital Marketing Coordinator) to document the event (and maybe for emotional support as well). In the end, Space Kats and Demon Dogs walked away with the Second Place prize!
We asked them a few questions about the event:
What made you want to participate in Crush The Rush?
Joe: “Most coffee competitions focus on a coffee that you present or your skills in making a latte. Crush the Rush is a different type of competition that heavily focuses on the efficiency and consistency of bar flow while still adding a focus on your skills as a barista. It also incorporates a unique fun aspect that gives the baristas an opportunity to be goofy like coming up with sweet team names like Space Kats and Demon Dogs.”
Georgia: “Joe showed me the video that talked a little about the competition and it just looked like a blast. It was unlike any other competition I’ve been in or even heard of. We’ve been focusing a lot on latte art and competing in throwdowns so this was a chance to test another extremely important aspect of our job (speed and workflow).”
Tess: “I like that it’s a crazy- intense version of what we do every day. It’s like if we worked in a cafe with flashing lights, confetti and a cheering audience. ”
Layne: “I had never heard of Crush the Rush until Joe mentioned it to me but as soon as I heard about it I was 100% ready to go! I’m just a wee bit competitive so anytime there’s a coffee related competition I’m there for it. Plus it just sounded like a fun, new, and different style of competition. ”
Evan: “It seemed like a great opportunity to network and learn, but mostly because it sounded like a blast. (and it was!)”
What was the most intimidating thing once you got there?
Georgia: “I was mostly intimidated by how much bigger the event was than I expected. All of these teams competing to be the fastest while still putting out perfect drinks was a little nerve racking.”
Tess: “Being around so many other great baristas- you can tell a team of baristas know their stuff when they have matching outfits.”
Layne: “I think one of the most intimidating things about the event when we got there was watching the other teams go into the separate/private room where they were doing the time trials to see who went into the finals and waiting for their results compared to ours. There were some really fast times going up and I knew we could do it based on our practice runs but you just never know what nerves will do to your performance! It would have been so disappointing to not make it to the final round where the real fun happened!”
Joe: “The most intimidating thing was working with different machines. I wasn’t sure how it was going to affect my ability to be consistent, but all the machines we used were intuitive, so I had fun once I got passed that.”
Evan: “There were so many talented people from so many great shops.”
Did you learn anything that you can put in to your daily workflow?
Joe: “I learned even more that stations matter when working a rush, that two people working a bar is faster and communication is key.”
Evan: “The importance of teamwork and communication.”
Georgia: “I definitely came away with some beneficial tips/tricks that I’m excited to put into action in the cafe. My biggest takeaway was how vital clear and constant communication on bar is. Teamwork was essential.”
Layne: “I learned/ was reminded of how important communication with you coworkers is. Everything works so much smoother if you talk to the people you are working with and let them know what you need or what you have already done. It’s so important and it’s easy to get into the mode of just being in your own little zone and not necessarily paying attention to your surroundings. Your work flow will be so much better if you listen and really pay attention to the people around you, it’s not just you out there! ”
What does Hospitality mean to you?
Tess: “Hospitality means welcoming people into our everyday space to provide them a positive experience for just a few minutes. ”
Georgia: “Hospitality to me means creating an inviting atmosphere for all of our customers. It doesn’t stop after you ring them out. It’s the constant process of getting to know our customers as people and even friends and then being there for them each day.”
Joe: “Hospitality means being genuine in your interactions and treating people like how you would want to treat a guest in your home rather than another number.”
Layne: “Hospitality is really at the crux of what we do at coffee shop every day. It’s making customers feel welcome and important, it’s remaking a drink if it’s not made right, it’s keeping the cafe clean and looking nice and inviting, it’s listening to complaints and doing your best to fix them, it’s doing the best you can at your job every day. There’s really no end to hospitality and it really is the heart of the operation and it’s why you have the same customers coming back every day.”
Evan: “Making sure you’re doing everything you can to make sure that a visit to your shop is the highlight of someone’s day.”
What was the most memorable experience at Crush The Rush?
Joe: “At one point, in the head to head challenges, the crowd was chanting “Cats! Cats! Cats!” in honor of our team name. ”
Georgia: “Getting to spend all day talking coffee, competing, and hanging out with awesome people. Getting to work on the new KB90 espresso machines was also amazing. The technology La Marzocco is coming out with is mind blowing. ”
Evan: “Seeing our team crush it in the tournament and the excitement of the final match!”
Layne: “I think one of the most memorable parts of the competition was just the all around great fun that it was the entire time! The beginning of the day was filled with talks from people in the industry giving you tips on how to improve different areas of work, and during the actual event you were just having an amazing time. The fast paced adrenaline filled competition finals really put you in a nervous state, but a good nervous state. It was so much fun going up against teams filled with people I knew from shops in Louisville and meeting new people and getting to watch how they navigated all the challenges. Of course making it all the way to the final round really was memorable. I’m so impressed with the team that won but also proud that we made it that far and barely had to remake any drinks! ”