Tag Archives: barista training

Speciality Coffee Shop – Budgeting and cutting costs

stessing-over-moneyThis is where it gets really tricky. The aim to setting up a coffee shop should be by doing so on a limited budget. From the start, it has been my objective to find ways to cut costs where possible without it looking cheap. However, many things pop up after the budgeting process, and by then finances are limited. I also received the best cost saving advice when it was already too late. So pay attention and you could save some money.

Begin by writing down everything you might need. Go into detail here. Napkins, cloths, cleaning agents, an increase in phone calls prior to opening, etc. I felt assured I had planned for every eventuality, but I was proven wrong many times over. Make sure even the most unlikely expense is added.

One of your most expensive items will be the espresso machine and grinder. Contrary to what you might think, you do NOT have to buy these items brand new. Most start-ups have had early success with decent second-hand equipment. Just get an expert to inspect the machine before buying it. We bought a reliable old Brasilia, henceforth known as Old Faithful. To be different, the Nexus team did a nifty paint job on Old Faithful, and she is now ready to work.

Before
Before
After
After

1. Auctions

After you have made a list of what items are needed for your shop, ask yourself which of these would be adequate if purchased as a good-condition second-hand item. Then begin booking auction dates and attend a couple to get the gist of proceedings. Great bargains are to be had for the savvy entrepreneur. I will not recommend buying crockery or an espresso machine on auction, but things like tables, fridges, work stations, etc., could save you a lot of money. Sadly I missed the auctions, but this is sound advice which came my way later.

2. Google

Google for second-hand items on sites like Gumtree or similar classifieds. You are bound to find someone selling old restaurant or catering equipment. I even used Gumtree to get estimate prices on items, as not to be done in along the way. Also use Google to check specs and price comparisons before buying anything. Make ridiculous offers on items, come in with a low price and see what happens.

3. Less bulk buying

It is true that buying in bulk reduces cost per item. However to open your store, you do not need 5000 take-away cups and sugar packets. Pace your purchases. An as-and-when approach is a safer approach. Even with crockery, we bought tea cups, americano cups and cappuccino cups with a universal double well saucer. So we could start with about 30 cups of each and only 30 saucer to share until the demand increased.

4. DIY shop fitting

Yes, that is a DIY toilet paper dispenser. Though crude, it cost nothing to make and complimented our theme.
Yes, that is a DIY toilet paper dispenser. Though crude, it cost nothing to make and complimented our theme.

Unless you constantly rework the costs to setting up, shop fitting can and will be an outrageous expense that quickly gets out of hand. Best result: do it yourself. I don’t mean you should become a handy man overnight, but you will have to get involved a bit. I always wanted Polvo to have an earthy theme. My carpentry and plumbing skills are extremely limited, but I roped in the help of some more apt friends and together we managed to get everything done. Drilling the odd hole or painting a bit is not rocket science.

5. Wisdom and friends

Consult those who know better than you. Join and follow organizations, groups and institutions who can assist you with industry-related assistance. Make friends with experts, suppliers or like-minded businessmen and constantly ask them for advice. Soak it up. More exposure to the environment assist with budgeting like nothing else. The Coffee Mag always has some great articles about the coffee business and SCASA always has some advice floating around on their website, and those of its members. Hanno from Strictly Coffee was a never-ending source of advice and it was fun bouncing ideas around throughout the process.

Keep these 5 points in mind when starting out and keep a close eye over where your money goes.

Speciality Coffee Shop – Branding

Option 2
Option 2
Option 1
Option 1

This is probably the most important entry in our little shop opening diary. I don’t care what anyone tells you, branding is essential. It can make or break a business. As an author, the one lesson I had to learn was this: if books are judged by their covers, then your cover needs to be striking.

But what is in a name or a logo? It is not a complicated question. However, the simpler the answer to that question, the lesser the impact of the name or logo. Over the years I have noticed the effort companies put into branding, especially with regards to a unique and memorable logo design. They pay a small fortune and have a team of experts chiselling away at a granite block until, at last, the company emblem appears.

name-origin-explanation-amazonAmazon, for instance, put some thought into their design. Their approach has always been to offer on-line shoppers everything from A to Z. Hence the arrow below the word Amazon to connect the two letters. Few notice that the arrow also represents a smile, providing a promise of happiness.

With a coffee shop you might think it is difficult to be unique, but give it time. Like baby names, the right name and design will come to you, no matter how challenged your creativity might be. I know there is not much scope with coffee. You are bound to come up with an image of a cup, the aroma hovering over a freshly brewed drink, or a bunch of beans beautifully displayed on a background. And that is fine! Don’t panic. Instead try to find a unique name.

Here is what we did. We scoured through all manner of coffee material, from websites, to speciality magazines, to books. I was thinking about the different types of coffee, how we use the ground beans in our garden, how the planting and harvesting takes place. Every new coffee-related word I saw was going to be the new name for our business. And it is during all this research that it came to me.

One fateful day, when I found myself a bit more philosophical than most mornings, I fully comprehended how much coffee and tea plays a part of our daily lives. I mean, we really enjoy coffee and tea. We are born, we live and we move on. And coffee and tea is there from beginning to end.

I began searching through ancient Turkish texts, Greek philosophy and old versions of a Spanish Bible, and then I found our baby’s name. Our shop was to be named: Polvo.

image004
Final logo design

In Spanish the word means dust or earth. It was an added bonus that the term café en polvo means filter or instant coffee. Coffee in dust form. And it was sheer coincidence that our unique cookie with every cup is called polvorones, a traditional Mexican wedding cookie, referred to as dust cakes. This suited our South American theme. We decided that the registered name of our company should be Life.Coffee.Polvo. To us it symbolized the three stages of life. From dust we come, in dust we live, and to dust we shall return. Very quickly, our little coffee shop became so much more than just another shop. It had a life of its own.

The final touches were done to the design and before long our business had a face. Next came the shop-fitting, furniture, the cups and things, and the numbers part of the business. More on that in the next instalments. Feel free to track our progress here: @PolvoCoffee

Speciality Coffee Shop – Coffee

Brazil-coffee-APreviously I explained how important the choice of coffee should be when opening a speciality coffee shop. From the beginning we wanted only South and Central American coffee beans. This is harder than it seems. Most roasters have become accustomed to either doing a single origin coffee or blending across the continents. Single origin usually comes from one farm or from one country. However, most blends today include a percentage of African or Asian beans to control the variance in a profile. It rounds off the overall taste in a number of ways.

Being difficult, I insisted on blends of at least three to four South or Central American countries, with a smooth, full-bodied taste. As mentioned in the Research entry, we sampled until coffee surged through our veins.

Knowing how to prepare coffee is non-negotiable. Not only does it assist in the initial outlay of your shop, but it will raise some interesting questions. Any businessman planning to open a coffee shop, MUST know how to make a decent coffee. If you do not understand how to operate an espresso machine, then how would you execute training, maintenance or improvements within your business.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to man the machine and to play casual the whole day. But how will you manage a barista when the barista has to train you? You need to be able to spot wastage and create a solution to curb it. More importantly, you are selling coffee. You must be able to see when something is wrong with the end product or when it has been prepared incorrectly. Please don’t skip the training. Invest in yourself.

We consulted Kelvin, the master barista from Caloroso, to give us an introduction to the art of coffee-making. He has a passion for the industry and is always keen to share his experience with fellow coffee folk.

Kelvin from Caloroso and Shaun from Famous Brands testing shots for consistency.
Kelvin from Caloroso and Shaun from Famous Brands testing shots for consistency.

Let me use an example to explain why you should know the basics. As a writer I frequent coffee shops. One of my preferred drinking spots serve a mean flat white. I will never forget the day I ordered my regular and received a very unpleasant experience instead. When I asked why the coffee was so bad compared to other days, I was told the barista was off sick and the owner was making the coffee. Case in point. Understand the machine.

SCASA LOGO 1
@SCASA_Coffee

Then there is a last point to consider under this entry of opening your own shop. Align yourself with industry experts. Become a member of a coffee organization or institution that would best compliment your approach. For us it was the Speciality Coffee Association of South Africa (SCASA). There are a number of organizations across the world, so do a bit of homework. You will find yourself immediately exposed to a team of experts who wants to assist you for the sake of coffee. At this stage of the game you need all the experience you can get your hands on.

Next entry will look a bit more at the branding of your business. Feel free to follow on twitter @PolvoCoffee