As I sit here at my computer, wrapped up in blankets as winter has decided to return to Ireland, I am trying to write about a recent 'coffee industry gathering' in 3FE on Middle Abbey Street. It really has taken me a few days to digest all the information gleaned from these coffee scientists as they gathered to present to other coffee scientists and coffee lovers what they know and love about all things coffee.
TamperTantrum Live 2011
The presentation which struck a cord with me was that delivered by Colin Harmon, proprietor of 3FE. Armed with a passion for good coffee, a lot of common sense and some clever psychology, Mr Harmon delivered a 20 minute presentation entitled 'What I know about running a coffee shop'. In brief these are the points he made:
- Get a Job - don't go into 3FE and announce that you want to open a coffee shop when you have never worked in one yourself (which is exactly what I did). Do go and get a job for a year and learn how to make good coffee.
- Pick your Fights - What or who is your competition, Starbucks? Insomnia? These large cash-rich organisations will outshine any novice organisation through their clever marketing and ability to win the customer, thus squeezing your small business out of the market. Make your own competition, do something that they are not doing, carve out a niche which presents you as a viable individual.
- Location : Convenience v Quality - A successful business serving poor quality coffee will probably survive in a good location. A successful business serving excellent coffee will survive in any location, good or not so good - people will find you if you are doing something better than everyone else.
- 1. Knowledge 2. Coffee 3. Equipment
- As Harmon rightly points out, most coffee shops in Dublin are being led by their equipment, which is quite often, more advanced than their operators. Knowledge is key.
- Set a trap - think of your shop as bait, who are you trying to attract? When you are starting off, every single cup counts!
- Menu - Its easier to add to your menu than take away so give due consideration to what you want to sell and what your ability to sell it is. Avoid disappointing your customer by having to remove something from the menu.
- The correlation of nice - if you are nice to your customers, they will be nice to you, if you are not nice to your customers, they will not be nice to you.
- Import Skills - employ useful people, a plumber, a chef ... use their skills in return for training them
- Be two faced - Serve coffee to those who want coffee, serve speciality single estate filter coffee if that's what is ordered. Give your customer what s/he wants.
- Most importantly have fun.
These are obviously very brief bullet points (the full show was recorded and some of it is here)
I found Harmon's advice really useful and informative and he just makes it sound so goddamn easy.
The recipe is simple, serve the best coffee and you are a winner.