BEST COFFEE ROASTER IN THE COTSWOLDS 2019
We’re not ones to blow our own trumpet, but we were pretty stoked to be nominated as the ‘Best Coffee Roaster in the Cotswolds’ last month – an accolade that we went on to win! As new kids on the block we were up against some stiff competition, so to say that we’re bl**dy chuffed is an understatement.
To be up there with the best cafes, restaurants and hotels in the area, and named the Best Coffee Roaster has been a huge achievement, especially as we’ve been voted for by local people.
There’s already such an established coffee culture in the South West of England and we’re extremely proud to be a part of that. From Bath to Bristol, Cheltenham to Oxford (and every Cotswold village in between), you’re never far away from a café. With so much competition and an ever increasing discern for quality, serving poor coffee just isn’t an option if you want return custom as a café.
The business of cafes and what makes them a success
Running a successful café is of course more than just a good cup of coffee, but there’s a lot of boxes to tick when looking to increase your café sales. Depending on your market, it goes without saying that your offering has to fit, but coffee has to be high volume to be profitable – the margins may be good, but how many £2 somethings do you need to take to make a living? There’s no secret formula to running a successful and profitable coffee shop. With hard work and the right mix of operations, staff, marketing, ambience – and the best espresso, you have a fighting chance of creating a bustling business that’s the talk of the town. We’ve put together some handy tips for café start-ups. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but sheds some light on what it takes to create a popular café.
The perfect espresso
As coffee people, we had to start with this. It’s the basis of your business. With so much choice these days, your coffee has to be the best. You’ll know yourself that people will walk past 10 other coffee shops to go to the one that makes the best Flat White. And what makes that Flat White, Latte or Cappuccino so good? Well, the coffee for a start. Opt for speciality coffee – if you’re starting with the best, it’s down to you and your baristas to ensure the best extraction. We can help you with the right training so that pulling a great espresso with steamed milk to match can become second nature. So, partner with a coffee roaster that will not only supply you great beans, but will teach you how to get the best out of them.
The next step to making great coffee is your equipment. We hear people say all the time that the two most important elements to making good coffee is the grinder (while we’re at it, it has to be a conical burr grinder) and the quality of the beans, but you can’t stop at this in a busy café. Your espresso machine is crucial to pulling consistently good shots throughout the day, and if it can’t take the heat of pulling multiple shots when times get busy, you’re in big trouble. For busy outlets, you need a robust machine. We advise to consider a dual boiler, so that you have better stability in water temperature, helping to create consistently good coffee, no matter how busy you get. It’s also really important that you maintain your machine. Along with proper servicing (including a six-month front end and 12-month full service) you must ensure you properly clean and look after your equipment on a daily basis.
To keep your espresso on point, you’ll need to backflush your machine everyday (or more if you’re a high volume outlet) with Cafiza or similar detergent. Backflushing will clean behind the shower screens and into the brewing system, removing old coffee grounds and residue, and minimising the risk of clogs. In addition, we like to soak portafilters in Cafiza every week and give them (and the groupheads) a good scrub with a brush. Make sure you rinse thoroughly with clean water after doing this.
Your milk wand also needs to be cleaned everyday with Rinza, along with wiping down and purging every time you use it – we see so many cafes that don’t do this, and no-one wants to see a crusty milk wand! It will affect the taste of your milk and it just doesn’t look nice.
We could go on and on about equipment, maintenance, barista skills and coffee, but there’s too much to write in one blog post. Our advice if you’re just starting out - don’t scrimp, it will cost you more in the long run, and ensure you work with trusted and knowledgeable partners who can guide you on the right solutions for your set-up and impart their coffee knowledge when it comes to barista training. We can talk you through the choice of machines on the market and advise on suitability for your needs, as well as offer different payment options and plans to suit your finances.
Again, often overlooked when setting up a café, but this is so crucial to workflow and efficiency! If you’re lucky enough to be starting from scratch and can design your own counter layout, then plan to have your espresso machine where your barista can work easily from one spot. Somewhere near the till is also great, so that your barista can be in earshot of incoming orders and get a head-start when it’s busy, as well as work the tills in quiet times. It’s also great if your espresso machine is located on the serving counter or adjacent to it, so that your barista can engage with customers easily.
Good layout will make life a lot easier in busy times, keeping frustrations (and mistakes) to a minimum. Irritated baristas and front of house staff don’t come across well to customers, so never ignore the little things that will often make a huge difference to the standard of service and the happiness of your team.
Don’t just sell coffee
As we mentioned earlier, you’d have to sell a lot of coffees to make a decent living, so don’t just sell coffee. You need to aim for at least two sales per transaction. For cafes serving hot food, breakfasts and lunch, this is a lot easier to achieve, but for a coffee shop alone, those grab and go items of cakes, brownies and pastries are crucial to your business. Make sure they’re near the till and in easy eye shot for take-out orders, and create a comfortable environment for those eating in. If you’re looking for recommendations, we can put you in touch with some of the best artisan producers in the region, from real bakers, to cake makers and cheesemongers.
This moves me nicely on to my next point – although the environment and ambience has to be nice enough for people to want to visit you, if all your customers were to hang around for a couple of hours and only purchase a coffee and a slice of cake, you won’t be turning over enough revenue to cover your overheads. We find a two-pronged attack works well here, so don’t neglect your takeaway business – actively drive it. Takeaway orders cost the same as your sit-in customers, but you’ll be able to serve 50 of these in the time it’s taken a sit-in customer to finish their drink. Speed is key for take-outs, along with the small things such as double-walled take-out cups, cup holders for customers purchasing multiple coffees for the office, as well as loyalty cards, grab and go food items and a speedy service.
Keep it simple
Don’t give your customer too much choice. It’s tempting to have a large menu and several options for size or a variety of flavours, however, more often than not this can overwhelm a customer. By limiting your offering it becomes easier for a customer to make a choice, and it’s less of a minefield to manage yourself. The key is to concentrate on a few things, but do them really well.
The final bit of advice, and it may seem obvious, but great service is key to building customer loyalty and repeat business. The best cafes will know their customers by name, along with their ‘usual’ – whether that's how they like their morning coffee or how they want their eggs cooked. People like familiarity and a feeling of belonging. Customers are also more forgiving with mistakes, if their solved with a smile.
These are just some of the things to consider when setting-up and running a successful café. It’s not a definitive list, but makes for a good starting point. As coffee roasters, we spend our lives working with cafes and coffee shop owners. We understand the day to day challenges of this business, and the difference between success and failure. We work closely with our partners to build success with open communication and experience. Whether starting a new venture or reinvigorating an established outlet, we’re here to partner with individuals who have a common goal of creating great coffee and great sales. If you think we’re a good fit or just want an informal chat, please get drop us a line.