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Supporting the Canadian Coffee Scene by Mark Prince
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Dasein
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Posted Mon Jun 7, 2004, 8:23am
Subject: Re: Supporting the Canadian Coffee Scene by Mark Prince
 

Australia/NewZealand.
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Posted Mon Jun 7, 2004, 3:03pm
Subject: Re: Supporting the Canadian Coffee Scene by Mark Prince
 

Australia is actually an excellent comparison.

I'd like to see Sabados jump in here (if he's reading); he'd be much better equipped to refute Alistair's points one by one with real world examples.

From my own gleaned knowledge of the aussie cafe scene:

- shops stock espresso machines, providing two additional revenue streams (equipment sales and addl' roasted coffee sales)
- shops tend to be more organized in the australian coffee associations (there's a couple of them), AND in the trade shows.
- shops in Australia do pretty much 100% espresso sales - drip coffee is virtually non-existant. This isn't something that's been happening for a long time - this is a recent conversion.
- shops in Australia tend to know the power of savvy marketing and the value in hiring consultants more. Over the past couple of years, I've heard of dozens of shops in Australia... how? Either via an earned reputation or that they hired the likes of a Sabados, Inny, or even Sherri Johns to consult on improving their product, their revenue, their bottom line.

How many cafe owners do you know in W. Canada who have even hired a consultant? I don't know of any, except for JJ Bean, and that was quasi-in house... they hire DeLazzer for continuing QC issues.

Mark

 
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MarkPrince
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Posted Mon Jun 7, 2004, 3:21pm
Subject: Re: Supporting the Canadian Coffee Scene by Mark Prince
 

hopkin Said:

I hate to be picky, but when you said "a pallet" of six machines and grinders i interpreted this as six machines, six grinders.  with your calculation that equals thousands and stocking like that just doesn't make sense for a business unestablished in the equipment market.  after all, our first priority here is to brew and sell top quality coffee.  as so many like to point out, too many shops around here are not even doing that very well.

Posted June 7, 2004 link

I would have thought first priority would be to be a successful business selling a quality product.

Sorry to pick on you Alistair on this, but seems like you're acting like the stereotypical business owner in Canada here (in this post  - maybe you're playing devils' advocate)... it's like you're not seeing light for day - or only thinking cost, not revenue dirived from cost.  That is the stereotypical way of thinking in the Canadian small business arena. It's what holds us back. Don't see the possibilities, only see the costs.

Let's say you have a $3,500 equipment budget. At that price, you could

a) attend the trade show (it's local, so there's no cost except attendance fee)
b) discuss and negotiate pricing with a variety of consumer machine vendors, including incentive / introductory deals... many of them would be happy to send you a demo machine on spec if you stocked even just 2 or 4 to start with. Heck, I know one dealer who would send you a demo unit just to try out, acclimatize yourself on, and decide if you wanted to stock or not, at no cost besides shipping.
c) be able to stock at least two different machines, having two units of each or more and two styles of grinders, again a total inventory four grinders plus demo models.
d) put the time in to familiarize yourself with these products so you are no longer "unestablished" in terms of knowing the machines.

Then of course you would take some money out of your advertising budget (wink) and run a few ads in newspapers like the courier and Straight espousing your new line at your cool cafe. And you'd take more money out of the ad budget to properly announce, brand and display the new products in the store. Can't afford a professional designer? Get creative and hire an art student. Print stuff up on a photo printer; or use an office-services place to get 11x17 photo prints done up at $5 per printout.

The thing is, if $3,500 is too much money to a small business, maybe they shouldn't be a small business; the owner should pack up, and go work for the government or something. :)

And just to be clear about something here... when I wrote this article, I wasn't thinking about your cafe at all. I was stealthily targetting a few business owners I know (including some I talked to on the phone in the last week or two), but you weren't on my radar when I wrote this :)


hopkin Said:

Mark, the example of Zoka is slightly unbalanced.  I mean a shop started by real old schoolers, the vice president of Starbucks roaster and the vice president of the SCA... of course they were at all the trade shows!  They were deep into the industry way before they started Zoka.  They aimed to break into wholesale roasting and they did it.  Great, but its quite a stretch to compare them to local retail shops aiming to promote themselves to more coffee drinkers.

snip

Back to the Canadian Market issue: I don't agree that small operators be singled out for not making an effort, for not taking risks and for the lack of market here.  For a country of this size and nature I don't see why you are all surprised about a slower market in Canada compared to the United States.  The reasons for this are complex and yet obvious, and they will not be overcome when small businesses take huge risks.  Sometimes it works, and we hear about it (Zoka).  When it doesn't, its just another pin drop.

Posted June 7, 2004 link

AFAIK, the SCAA doesn't have a VP position... who were you referring to?

I think Zoka is an excellent example. The two partners who started it up weren't involved with NASCORE or CoffeeFest the way they were with the SCAA, but they had booths at those shows too. Their wholesale roasting biz was seriously small time for their first couple of years. They aren't even targetting the Canadian market much, but they have a booth at this year's Expo.

But I could have just as easily mentioned Vivace, Stumptown (both roaster retailers, true), and there's another Seattle shop that always gets a booth, but doesn't roast... their name escapes at the moment, but they took a page out of Jeff's strategy as well and got booths to increase exposure... and... damn, what's their name.  This is driving me nuts.

Even if you don't have a booth as a cafe owner, to not attend this show as an independent is probably one of the biggest marketing, research, networking... hell "business" mistakes a shop could make. There's so much to learn here, and the fact is, if nothing tangible, profitable, whatever comes out of the show for you in a direct "money on paper" kind of way, at the very least, you leave energized, because you got to hook up with at least some other folks who love coffee as much, if not more, than you do.

Mark

 
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hopkin
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Posted Mon Jun 7, 2004, 6:43pm
Subject: Re: Supporting the Canadian Coffee Scene by Mark Prince
 

MarkPrince Said:

Australia is actually an excellent comparison.

Posted June 7, 2004 link

Australia is not attached or anywhere near the competitive beast that we have to deal with, which is the United States.

MarkPrince Said:

I would have thought first priority would be to be a successful business selling a quality product.

Posted June 7, 2004 link

replace 'product' with 'coffee' and thats what i said.

MarkPrince Said:

AFAIK, the SCAA doesn't have a VP position... who were you referring to?

Posted June 7, 2004 link

"Jeff Babcock, Vice President Specialty Coffees Association" -zokacoffee.com

MarkPrince Said:

seems like you're acting like the stereotypical business owner in Canada here (in this post  - maybe you're playing devils' advocate)...

Posted June 7, 2004 link

Actually I felt a need to speak up.  As both a shop owner, and one who respects your opinion.  You call us self defeating, not knowing the power of marketing, and suggesting that small shops host a free drink booth at an industry trade show... I just can't absorb this as great advice.

I will certainly be attending the trade show, make no mistake about it as I see it as a great and valueable event.  I aim to buy and stock more merchandise.  I do not however, consider it a retailer-to-consumer event.  Not yet, not how it was arranged last year, and certainly not from the printed promotion this year either.

MarkPrince Said:

The thing is, if $3,500 is too much money to a small business, maybe they shouldn't be a small business; the owner should pack up, and go work for the government or something. :)

Posted June 7, 2004 link

Well then by no means would I suggest you get into this business on a small scale.  Maybe its just that I'm not in it primarily for the money.  I don't aim to be a big franchise or wholesaler.

In fact I'll make a confession, that for the first two years in business i didn't even have a sign on the outside of my shop!  I was so humble about my cafe and its quality that I didn't yet approve to give it identity.  Still after four years I have no signs that scream or price tags that jump out at you.  In our society I feel there is too much distasteful marketing, not a lack of it.  Call it un-savvy, I call it refreshing.

MarkPrince Said:

And just to be clear about something here... when I wrote this article, I wasn't thinking about your cafe at all. I was stealthily targetting a few business owners I know (including some I talked to on the phone in the last week or two), but you weren't on my radar when I wrote this :)

Posted June 7, 2004 link

Your article is not addressed to them, it is read by all.  I confess that I'm so involved here that my own radar went off in my own little world.  Sure ended up in a tangle, but I still stand by my points.  I have enjoyed but spent enough time on details, and prefer we be more constructive with our exchanges.  See you at the show!

a.

 
Alistair Durie
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ant
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Posted Mon Jun 7, 2004, 8:40pm
Subject: Re: Supporting the Canadian Coffee Scene by Mark Prince
 

Briefly to my mind here in Brisbane, Australia(cbd area)  -

Cafe Novo (stocks a grimac or something- i think it was a HX machine)
Coffee Coffee Coffee (has some type of saeco on display + extensive training with the manager for $350)
Sugar and Spice (Had one in the window but I didn't look at brand- looked pretty damn solid though)
CoffeeRoasters (Had some domestic machines stocked cos they were being asked for them)
Merlo roasting place (Had quite an assortment of machines from a La Pavoni lever to an ecm giotto to those beefy superautomatics)
Starbucks (..)

Its not something that all cafes do, but it does seem that amongst the more hardcore coffee places here in Brisbane we're seeing machines on display.  As far as coffee quality goes, its very up and down here in Brisbane- but slowly cafes are learning that its either the quality of product, or to substitute, presentation of the coffee which brings sales as well as position + word of mouth.  I can't count the number of times here in Brisbane where people disguise crap shots and flat milk with their after pour latte art.  Looks nice, but tastes very ordinary, but people get away with it due to the Brisbane crowd not being as educated on fine coffee as the rest of the world :S
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MarkPrince
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Posted Mon Jun 7, 2004, 8:44pm
Subject: Re: Supporting the Canadian Coffee Scene by Mark Prince
 

I don't know what the Specialties Coffee Association is. :) I know what the Specialty Coffee Association of America (I've never seen the organization referred to without the "of America") is, however, and again, AFAIK, there is no vice president position. I could be wrong, but I was under the impression it was a President, Past President, and Executive Board.

I have to ask Jeff what that's about next time I see him. Gotta run, but will address the other points later.

Mark

 
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espresso_yin
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Posted Tue Jun 8, 2004, 8:59am
Subject: Re: Supporting the Canadian Coffee Scene by Mark Prince
 

hopkin Said:

Well then by no means would I suggest you get into this business on a small scale.  Maybe its just that I'm not in it primarily for the money.  I don't aim to be a big franchise or wholesaler.

In fact I'll make a confession, that for the first two years in business i didn't even have a sign on the outside of my shop!  I was so humble about my cafe and its quality that I didn't yet approve to give it identity.  Still after four years I have no signs that scream or price tags that jump out at you.  In our society I feel there is too much distasteful marketing, not a lack of it.  Call it un-savvy, I call it refreshing.

Posted June 7, 2004 link

It's the most refreshing thing I've heard all day and I wish more people and business owners thought this way.  What is your shop, by the way?  I wonder if I was there while in Vancouver.
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MarkPrince
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Posted Tue Jun 8, 2004, 1:05pm
Subject: Re: Supporting the Canadian Coffee Scene by Mark Prince
 

espresso_yin Said:

It's the most refreshing thing I've heard all day and I wish more people and business owners thought this way.  What is your shop, by the way?  I wonder if I was there while in Vancouver.

Posted June 8, 2004 link

Alistair runs an awesome coffee shop located on 5th Avenue just off of Burrard, in Vancouver's west side. Get on Burrard, and at 5th, turn east... you'll see it. It's the Elysian Room Cafe.

Mark

 
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espresso_yin
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Posted Tue Jun 8, 2004, 1:49pm
Subject: Re: Supporting the Canadian Coffee Scene by Mark Prince
 

MarkPrince Said:

Alistair runs an awesome coffee shop located on 5th Avenue just off of Burrard, in Vancouver's west side. Get on Burrard, and at 5th, turn east... you'll see it. It's the Elysian Room Cafe.

Mark

Posted June 8, 2004 link

Alas, I'm no longer in Vancouver. :(  The two best places I visited were Caffe Artigiano (of course) and Take 5 Cafe.  The others (mostly on Denman Street) were standard mass-market-quality fare: Bojangles (loved the atmosphere and desserts), Blenz, The Spot, Bread Works (?), Delaney Cafe (?).  JJ Bean at at the Granville Island Market was the other place we went to and they served a decent latte with an ok rosetta.

I'm still amazed by the quality and consistency at Artigiano.  Of all the baristas that served us over the course of the two weeks (including Sammy), though, the best IMO was the darker skinned guy with the shaved head (I should have asked his name).  Unbelievably intricate and symmetrical each time.  Another point of interest was their whole assembly line approach: one manning the espresso, one doing the steaming, and the other pouring art.  Wow.   I never thought I'd see a coffee shop with a LONG line out the door demanding that type of approach at all hours of the day.  I'm still in shock.

I need to get back to Vancouver. :)
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Dasein
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Posted Tue Jun 8, 2004, 8:32pm
Subject: Re: Supporting the Canadian Coffee Scene by Mark Prince
 

LOL

I didn't know Alistair was hopkin --- Hey Alistair, it's me Robert!  My head office (which moved last fall) was right above his shop on fifth avenue (can't say the name for security reasons.)  I ate and drank at his cafe EVERY DAY!  In fact I stopped by the other day to see him but he was not in!

FYI - in my analogy I was equating NewZealand to Canada, and Australia to the USA .   I can endorce Alistair's cafe 100% - the service is exceptional, beyond exceptional!  The quality of the food and coffee is very very high.  Alistair himself is a kind and gentle man, and I have enjoyed watching his shop evolve into the 1st class establisment it is today.  This guy really cares about his business - and so do his staff.  Hat's off and I'll see you soon.

Robert
AKA - Jesus
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