Ken Burgin

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….

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