Tag Archives: speciality coffee

Speciality Coffee Shop – Business and Point-of-Sale

Now let’s get down to business. At some point you have to face facts, and facts are something that is hard to come by. Polvo was always meant to be a well-oiled little machine that could run on its own at minimal expense. To do this, you need to know what works and what doesn’t work. And if something is tapping your finances, you need to put a stop to it.
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Most coffee shops like going into detail when it comes to their coffee consumption. A lot of time is spent calculating grams and wastage per shot. This is clever business, but something I decided early on not to worry about too much. By all means, understand the consequence of shot costs to your business. It is after all “black gold”, so keep an eye on your stock consumption. Just don’t lose any sleep over it.

I am a crime author by nature, so detail is my one vice. However, at Polvo, before anything else, coffee and service was going to be my focus, my detail. I did not want to scrutinize my end product to see if I could save a gram somewhere. Instead, we rather looked at curbing wastage behind the counter and in the kitchens. From grinding, to tamping, to milk usage, make sure all staff are on the same page with regards to minimizing unnecessary costs. Spend a couple days observing staff and the process before laying down the law.

There are a number things that could help curb losses:

POS
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Before you even look at anything else, you must have an army general at till point. Your choice of Point-of-Sale software could make or break your business. You need a system that is user-friendly, easy to regulate and militaristic in capturing data. We decided on the EasiPos system by AnkerData, by far the most uncomplicated system around. Not only does the program flag altered orders and regulate cash sales, but it also acts as a clocking system for staff. This system is a must for any start-up coffee shop. It will save you tons of troubles and simplify your business. It helps that AnkerData has a high after-sales service standard and interacts well with clients. They can be reached on: answers@ankerdata.com

FOOD WASTAGE
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If you do food, make sure you sell desserts or foods that do not go off at a rapid rate. For cakes and things, research the types of cakes that do not dry out quickly. And for meals, instead of offering plain chicken sandwiches, rather make it smoked chicken. Smoked and cured meats have a longer shelf life than raw-to-cooked meats. This does not entitle you to become a dodgy establishment with a reputation for selling stale cakes and inedible lunches. Essentially you want everything to stay fresh all the time but we know that will never happen, so safeguard the business by stocking items with maximum shelf life and ensure fast and effective stock rotation. For fresh stock, set up business relationships that will ensure the best produce at the best price at the best time.

SNAPSCAN

At some point you are bound to have staff with fingers in the till. It is inevitable, and not just in this wonderfully corrupt South Africa. It is a problem the world over. In order to minimize cash on the premises, we sought out a mobile payment method. We showed our customers how to download the SnapScan application on their phone, link it to their bank, scan our unique code, enter their code and pay. It is the easiest thing!. They come, they scan, they go. This system worked well for our jogging or cycling customer, who often found themselves without a wallet, but only with their phones.
snapscan-app
TIME WASTAGE

One of the worst forms of waste! As a business owner you have little to offer the business by hitting the till or drawing doodles on the morning newspaper. It made more sense for me to measure my minutes and my efforts. Every morning I forced myself to tend to physical shop related work before having my first cup. After a cuppa, we will meet for training and only then will I concentrate on mails and media updates. It has to become a routine. Remember: finger on the pulse.

Speciality Coffee Shop – Stock

Now that enough research has been done it is time to get this blog series back on track. We looked at the research, the coffee and the branding. You are legal to trade and you probably have some trial business cards or pamphlets tucked away somewhere. You have a brand approach in mind, but you have no stock and your budget is already giving you sleepless nights. There is no way around the fact that you will need things to sell. The worst customer experience is walking into a shop and looking at an empty shelf or hearing you have sold out. There is a way to make this count in your favour.

The early days are perfect to gauge your customer. Open your shop with some variance (not too much variance) so that you are able to see what sells and what is in high demand. If you are going to be a speciality coffee shop, then coffee should account for most of your stock on hand, but do not neglect to offer something else for your customers.

Choosing the right tea is not easy. Sample as many as possible.
Choosing the right tea is not easy. Sample as many as possible.

I tried to have an even 50/50 approach. Half of the stock on hand would cater for the coffee drinker and half would cater for everyone else. I met with suppliers, found a juice and water supplier who spoke my language and we did business. So there is my water and my juices sorted out. And me being a perfectionist, I went for a water that is unique and not too abundant. Even our teas were sourced from Lady Bonin’s Tea Parlour, unique blends especially made for Polvo.
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And while you are gathering stock keep in mind the following: to avoid delays, complete account documentation at the soonest possible moment. This takes a lot of time to set up. Besides, most suppliers do approvals for 30-day accounts, which might benefit your business as it gives you time to sell what you had bought before payment is due. For a start-up this could either help you find your feet or cut your throat. Do cash as far as possible. Don’t spread your debt amongst suppliers. Suppliers work on this rule: once bitten, twice shy. So play nice.

Your interaction with suppliers is what guarantees your stock. And remember that during every communication! Don’t screw a supplier over and don’t send out negative energy. Treat them as you want to be treated and they will go the extra mile for you. You are after all their customer. I do not say you should tolerate sub-standard service, but plan your responses well when business suffers as a consequence.

And don’t think your milk, desserts (if prepared off-site), take-away cups, sugar packets, serviettes, cleaning materials, toiletries, filters, and pens do not form part of your stock. These items might all have to be sourced from different suppliers, so set up the supply chain. This also helps with the next, very important section, which is budgeting and cost-cutting. The budgeting part is always tricky, because you never know what is waiting around the corner. More on that in the next entry.

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

Speciality Coffee Shop – Research

Ever wondered what goes into setting up a small coffee shop? Or what type of research has to be done before the big day?

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It just so happens we are in the process of opening a speciality coffee bar in Knysna. Because I value service and appreciate good coffee, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do. But that was not enough. I wanted to take it to the next level. Often I have been disappointed by the lack of creativity from South African coffee shops. So, I will be trying my best to set the bar very high and to do something South Africa has never seen before. Are you ready? Here goes nothing!

For fun and games, and for the curious entrepreneur, I decided to document the progress and to share the adventure with everyone. Over the next couple of weeks I will post regular updates. Feel free to join in, to share your thoughts and input on our social media platforms. On twitter you can interact with @PolvoCoffee and on Facebook there is a page for Polvo.

Okay, so where do I find myself at the moment? Before you even start thinking about setting up shop, there is something that must be done. This is a golden rule: research, research, and more research. Before even registering the company, I have done loads of research. I wrote an article about coffee shops for The Coffee Mag, and from there I never really stopped researching the coffee trade. At times it went into the early morning hours, much to the annoyance of my wife.

Research done, I began planning the shell of the business, the legalities. Not unlike giving birth to an idea, the business needed a birth certificate, an Identification document, and a name. I acquired the necessary documents from our accountants and prepared everything. While my fancy pondered the abundance of coffee-sounding names and the play of words only a crime writer could enjoy, I began focusing on the other important part: the coffee.

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This is a daunting exercise! If you are planning to open a coffee shop, then be unique. With all the competition in the Garden Route, we had to plan something so unique that when the customer tastes our coffee, they would remember who we were and where they bought it. A return customer is usually a loyal customer, and loyal customers are bread and butter. Here my wife and I set out on a coffee- and tea-sampling mission, meeting with coffee roasters and tea merchants until we had an idea what we were looking for. Here I often hit the Net looking for info. Yes, that qualifies as research as well.

IMG-20140524-00297 Where to open? The key rule to opening an eatery has always been location, location, location. But how important is that when you are planning a speciality destination coffee bar? It is still pretty important, but in essence it is far less vital than people make it out to be. We looked at the town through new eyes. Over a couple of weeks we examined traffic, type of client, weather, public transport, and we analysed all this information. It became clear that our target customer cancelled out a number of promising venues. So, I went back to town and took more notes, scouting for the prime location. I did warn you that research is important.

Then the theme of our coffee bar, became a focus topic. What would make us different to other coffee shops? How would we perfect the coffee experience? And how would we be able to squeeze all of that into a small manageable shop in Knysna? More research!

Now we have prepared the paperwork, a name was on the verge of being formed, some great coffees have been sampled, some great venues have opened up and an idea of a theme has appealed to us both. Our baby was taking shape.

Next entry I will elaborate a bit more on the above points and some new ones, like shop fitting, logo design, marketing, cutlery and more.