How to do retail properly if you sell speciality coffee…

Highly recommend you follow Dublin café owner Colin Harmon on Instagram, and in this short video he shows off all the Christmas gifts you can buy at his cafe.

I heard him speak a couple of years ago in Sydney, and he was fierce on the value of adding good retail to your mix if you sell specialty coffee – he said up to 25% (!) of their total sales come from this. The man is an inspiration in many ways – he also has a great book on running a profitable café…

Watching the Decline of a Cafe Under New Owners

It’s painful to watch the decline of a favourite cafe – it’s been under new management for the last 2 months. It was probably not an easy business to sell, as the menu is complex and standards high – that would make it intimidating for many potential purchasers. The previous owners set it up ten years ago, and it has a passionate following – for the product and for them as people. But new owners should expect this –  it is too personal a business for them to assume people won’t care about changes. Just doing the same as before is never enough in situations like this.

What else have I noticed?

  • The beautiful fresh flowers on the front table are now skimpy, or missing. No more quirky signs or humorous touches.
  • Instagram action has fallen away – previously we would see something wonderful just out of the oven almost every day.
  • Most of the familiar staff have gone. That is inevitable with a changeover, but we miss the friendly greetings, especially from the previous owners. This ’emotional leadership’ can be replaced by new faces, but there are no obvious owners taking on this role – who is running the show? Who is the new chef? Many people like to know this…
  • Cake cabinets are a little less full and abundant. They may have been overstocked before, but all that great food piled high was part of the attraction.
  • Signs of carelessness – staff touching hair between serving, cash sales not rung up properly. Maybe I’m watching too closely?
  • Decline in coffee quality – have they changed brands?!? This can be a disaster for regulars, and I’ve heard comment from others.

Taking over a popular business will always be a challenge, and the last thing that regulars want is change. There’s a strong need for stability, continuity and even more friendliness. Once a slide starts to happen, it can be reversed, but it needs ‘turnaround marketing’ skills that many people don’t have.

>> Check the positive companion article to this: When You Take Over a Cafe or Restaurant – How to Do It Right .


How to tell if your Job Ads discourage female or male applicants

We’re all keen to avoid bias against females or males, and sometimes the language we use in job advertisements will subtly discourage one or the other. The Gender Decoder is a great tool to check your ads – it picks up words we commonly use but may not realise have an inbuilt bias.

I checked this typical ad for a Barista (below), and it highlighted the words in red as ‘masculine’ – it would not be hard to rephrase, to be more inclusive. You can also check their long list of masculine and feminine words – interesting for a discussion with your managers and HR people…

Barista for busy cafe in Bondi – immediate start. We’re after a self-confident champion with at least 2 years experience.
Call Matt on 12345678

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Dublin Cafe Owner Rocks Australia – reminds us to put profits first!

250 enthusiastic cafe owners, managers and baristas packed the Sydney warehouse of Toby’s Estate Coffee last night to hear Dublin’s rockstar cafe owner and roaster Colin Harmon – the author of What I Know About Running Coffee Shops. It was another one of the Toby’s Estate Knowledge Talks – they draw quite a crowd.  Previous events with Colin were held in Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne.

His book has now sold 10,000 copies – in hard back! It’s different to the usual, dry ‘how to run a cafe’ manuals – a personal explanation of how he’s grown the business from a coffee cart, by understanding and using his numbers, building a strong team of employees, growing retail sales, and putting ‘speciality coffee’ into perspective. It’s an easy, powerful read. You can also hear me interview Colin about the book on a recent Profitable Hospitality Podcast.

Some takeaways from last night’s presentation:

  • The crowd was mostly 20’s and 30’s, with white-bread anglos definitely in a minority. Coffee is the new face of diversity, and it looks good!
  • Coffee bean retailing is a hugely valuable and under-utilised opportunity in most cafes. His main Dublin cafe does 20% and more of total sales per week from the coffee packs carefully displayed for maximum sales impact. He was tactful but firm: most Aussie businesses do this badly, and leave a huge amount of money in the customer’s pocket. And no, your customers aren’t ‘different’ and immune to retail – it’s your display and merchandising that’s probably at fault. What percentage of total sales are your packaged beans now?
  • He gave the speciality coffee tribe a gentle smack, for being a bit like a petulant teenager who insists that the accountants, marketers and business consultants ‘don’t understand’ why their product is so unique, and normal business disciplines don’t apply. It’s a business, and you need to make money!
  • He wants 2018 to be the year of viability. If 2017 was the year of sustainability, let’s make 2018 the year of good profits, and not being one of the 6 our 10 cafes that close in the first year. Making profitability sexy again!
  • He uses a thorough vetting system to ensure the people he hires will make a positive contribution to business culture. His 3FE cafes use a long questionnaire to vet all applicants – it covers everything from availability on weekends, to willingness to clean toilets and openness to diversity. He shares all 60 questions in his book, and is clear that he doesn’t hire baristas, but people who want to work at 3FE.

An awesome man, thanks to awesome Toby’s Estate for bringing him out, and an awesome book to buy and learn from….

Podcast: How Pablo & Rusty’s Coffee Became a B Corp Business

I recently met coffee roaster Saxon Wright, to hear about Pablo & Rusty’s recent certification as a B Corp. Specialty coffee seems to lead the way in the beverage industry with its focus on sustainability from grower through to consumer. B Corps ‘aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems’, and the Silver Chef group is a proud member of the worldwide B Corp community.

We discussed the growth of the business, their commitment to sustainably sourced produce, and the additional B Corp priorities of environmental action, improved employee conditions, customer and community support, accountability and transparency. Even coffee waste is being imaginatively re-used with their Huskee Cup project. The company is growing fast, and Saxon sees the focus provided by B Corp standards as an important part of their success.

>> listen to the Podcast online, or look for Profitable Hospitality on iTunes or Soundcloud – there are more than 240 podcasts to choose from!