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Drive-thru espresso bar; only in Seattle.

In this era of drive-through divorce and fast foods there is now a drive-through espresso bar. Jim Roberts, owner of The Coffee People, a coffee chain in Portland, Oregon, opened his Motor Moka a year ago to enthusiastic, hurried motorists.

Knowing that coffee drinkers want their first cup of morning coffee in a hurry Roberts' staff works hard to provide immediate gratification. Drivers speak into an outdoor microphone, ordering cappuccino, double latte or special drinks like the Black Tiger shake which has coffee ice cream, ground espresso and milk blended together with whipped cream, and in less than 60 seconds they have the beverage in hand.

"When we first started, we had what is known as a fine dining system where a car drove up to the outdoor microphone and after they made their request a printed order goes to the back room for the people at the espresso bar. That was a really slow method so we replaced it with a computerized Micro system, complete with a car forward system," said Roberts. "As soon as a customer tells us what they want at the signboard we're entering it into the computer and as we press the keys, the order shows up on the screen in the production area. One person is making the steamed milk or espresso and another person is combining them so the finished product can go out to the customer by the time they drive up to the window." Because the orders aren't written down, time is drastically reduced.

Offering a fresh product is always a problem in the fast food business but in coffee preparation it is essential since it isn't a product they can easily be made ahead of time. "It's not like a hamburger where you can wrap it and keep it under lights," explains Roberts. "The essential qualities of coffee disappear after they have been sitting just a short time. I would say that this is our biggest challenge."

Motor Moka has hours accommodating even the most unusual schedules. They are open from 6 AM to 11 PM, seven days a week. From 6:30 to 11 AM they have nonstop business. Another rush is between 1 and 3PM.

Their most popular drink is espresso with steamed chocolate, whipped cream and Belgium chocolate shavings on top. Cappuccino and double latte tie for second place.

Motor Moka offers over 30 items to choose from, including milkshakes and pastries. They have unusual milkshakes, such as pumpkin milkshakes during October. If a customer drives up and wants a variation on a drink the employees try to make that product if they can. Some people want Toroni syrups in their coffee and other want their drink served in Coffee People's special road tour mugs, a collector's item that changes its design each year.

"Most of the commuters who come through here are regulars every morning." says Mark Inman, manager "They like the high quality coffee. We use the finest ingredients and we're always looking to outdo ourselves. If we come across a better product we go right to it. For instance we've started to use Guittard chocolates for mochas. It is one of the finest mixing chocolates around." All of their ice cream products are used with local berry farm preserves. and their most important ingredient, coffee, is from Coffee Bean International.

Portlanders obviously know good coffee when they smell it: Motor Moka won a local trade award for the best coffee three years in a row.

Liz Nakazawa is a freelance writer and is based in Portland, Oregon.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Washington state
Author:Nakazawa, Liz
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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