Darren’s posts for us include Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions about Coffee Answered , A Barista’s Guide to Buying Roasted Coffee and Coffee Makers are easy to find – Baristas?… well that’s a different story! – he’s back with a new feature! We’re adding a few experts to our roster of writers – true guns of coffee, wine and craft beer. Get in touch if you think you have a unique angle.
I began in the hospitality industry in 1989 as a porter at the Hotel Como in South Yarra, Melbourne. Over the next 25 years I spent time working both here in Australia, in Europe and the UK in just about every corner of the industry. From hotels and bars to catering and event management, finally settling on the one part I truly loved. Cafés and coffee. Needless to say, the industry has changed enormously since then, and continues to evolve every day.
In the old days, cafes and restaurants had an expectation that machinery, including grinders, and branded merchandise were to be provided by the coffee supplier but where did this expectation come from? It came over time, from companies that would provide everything to gain an account. Essentially, it meant that a coffee company might have to invest up to, and sometimes even more, than $10k to gain an account. A cocktail of signed contracts and inexperienced cafe owners ensured that the coffee supplier would, over time, recoup with interest every cent that was originally invested.
Interestingly, this expectation didn’t extend to other parts of the industry. A cafe would of course have to pay for their own ovens, fridges and various other types of equipment yet expected that the coffee company would provide all coffee making equipment. Eventually this expectation led to wholesale customers requesting that crockery and, would you believe, the printing of loyalty cards and signage be paid for and provided as well. The only cost to the cafe was that his or her entire place would be branded in the coffee suppliers branding rather than their own. Only a small price to pay right?
What a lot of cafes fail to consider are two very important points. Firstly, a cafe is judged on many things including their initial set up. The best cafes brand their establishment themselves and purchase all of their own equipment. They do this because they are professionals and know exactly what type of machine, grinder and crockery they wish to use in order to create a flavour profile and an image. Every part of the coffee experience is considered as is the entire dining experience. This extends to furniture, signage, decor, everything. Even the music played is a consideration that also adds to the experience and the image they are trying to create. And really, why spend thousands of dollars setting up your ‘own’ business only to advertise a brand other than your own?
Secondly, the money invested by the coffee supplier comes back to them in spades. Whether it be via a signature on a contract or by having their own company branding all over ‘your’ cafe, it’s the coffee supplier that wins and while the cafe owner relieves themselves of the initial outlay for machinery, they have also lost the opportunity to build and sell their own brand.
These are just a couple of points that determine how a cafe is perceived. Remember, perception is everything. How you are perceived will determine whether you are making up the numbers or if your place stands out from the crowd. And if your goal does not include standing out from all the others then why open in the first place?
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