first Commercial Venture, the result

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first Commercial Venture, the result

Postby cleverdic » Thu Mar 25, 2004 10:05 pm

Well I’ve now had a chance to write down my experiences from my first ever coffee selling experience. It started when I was asked by a friend to provide the “catering” at a local village boat jumble. Here was an opportunity to try out some ideas that had been running around in my head for a while since I got my Rancilio S24 for the kitchen almost a couple of years ago.

I set to work putting together my unique blend roasted at home of course. The blend I chose was based on Brazilian with some Ethiopian and Java thanks to some help from a group member. No robusta as I wanted to advertise purely arabica beans although I usually add 5-10% to my own blends. I refer you to the Robusta thread for a lively discussion about this. But how much. I was planning on 100 coffee drinks but my friend was suggesting catering for up to 150. I ended up roasting 2Kg of the stuff.

I bought 30 litres of milk knowing that any unused would be put into our freezer for home consumption. Then I discovered that people I know don’t freeze milk (semi-skimmed) I was beginning to feel a little odd already. Part of the deal was to provide a biscuit and so I ended up buying a box of the standard little coffee biscuit you see everywhere. The brand on the label was Rombouts. I was also selling tea and coke but nothing else.

I got my paper cups delivered just before the event and tried out my list of drinks on the family members. All of them were a success. The blend was good and I was actually quite happy about offering these drinks to the public. You can find my menu here.

http://www.coffeelover.co.uk/images/coffeemenu.pdf

The only problem I had was the Mocha which I will mention further down.

I had all my stuff ready to take along. My staff member was ready. Actually my daughter whose mother carried out the careful and protracted negotiations for wages. I’ve added a couple of photos which are not very good as they don’t really give you the atmosphere of the event but it helps to describe the setting.
I was up early taking the equipment down to the hall and getting my posters setup. I was actually lucky in that a lot of equipment was available to me including a hot water urn, tea pots and sugar bowls etc.

At this point, I need to mention that I was fully aware that my potential clientele were mostly boiler clad individuals looking for what I would describe as “junk” but what they would see as the bargain of the century. I knew that what I was really there to do was to provide a “tea and biscuits” service. But that was OK. I was having fun. I did discuss with a few people what I should charge and I ended up setting exactly the same price for any hot drink. This meant that someone who ordered a Mocha with the whipped cream topping was getting an infinitely better deal than the person who ordered a tea made from Tetley’s. I don’t necessarily condone the pricing structure but it made it much easier to administer for this first event.

15 minutes before I was due to open, I ground my first batch of coffee and pulled a test latte. I’ve been doing this now at home for a while so I know what is good and what is rubbish. I was actually very pleased with the result and felt it would stand up against a “real” commercial offering. Fired up with enthusiasm, I waited for my first customer. It was a wee boy. "Can I have 2 cokes please?" Mmmm.
10 minutes later, I got my first adult. "Can I have 2 teas please... and by the way, do you do hot rolls?" My daughter, who does a little part time waitressing was able to organise making tea in a tea pot much better than me and so she took control of this side of the business. At least we served something hot.
Soon after that I was finally able to show off my skills. “Can I have 2 coffees please?” Sure, these were Americanos in my language but I wasn’t going to argue. I ground and tamped and knocked and pulled a double shot over hot water and presented the two coffees along with the little biscuit. The money was paid and I peered round the corner to watch the customer drinking my first paid coffee. I’m sure I got a sense of approval although it could have been my ego being massaged at this point. At least they didn’t come back saying it didn’t taste like Nescafe. The next person came up and asked for 2 coffees. We quickly realised that no-one was reading the menus which were prominently displayed as A4 size in front of the hatch. So we started to say, “what coffee would you like” Blank expressions were returned. We then pointed to the menu “Ohh I see Mmmmm let me think, oh just 2 coffees if that’s possible” Ah well, we tried.

About half an hour after opening, I got my first (and only) queue. 2 lattes and cap followed quickly by 3 caps. This was the bit I was dreading. Although I had rehearsed the procedure for all the little steps necessary to make a coffee, I soon realised it was not automatically ingrained into my head. Soon I had stuff all over the place. My daughter sensed my anxiety and told me to calm down although I knew she was secretly enjoying seeing her dad being flustered and out of control. I quickly recovered and was able to get the drinks out in a reasonable time.

The one drink I didn’t have previous experience with was Mochas and I know we discussed this drink a little earlier on this site. In fact, I had problems with it. I had made up my own powder of 40% cocoa powder and the rest pure cane caster sugar. However, I tried a variety of ways to make the drink but each attempt would leave solid lumps at the bottom of the cup. I know the correct way would be to make a paste first but I couldn’t work out how to do this efficiently. In the future, I think I will look at syrups instead.

The jumble itself was a reasonable success attracting over 200 people. However, they all came within the first 2 hours and so we finished up shortly afterwards. My daughter was on a fixed sum and so she was delighted at walking out being paid almost as much as a brain surgeon would be on an hourly basis!
I sold only about 30 coffees, 10 teas and 4 cokes so on one level, it wasn’t a good sales day. However, I never went into this venture with the desire for the cut and thrust of business. I wanted a gentle introduction into supplying good coffee to strangers and I did get a couple of good comments which pleased me. Above all, I did enjoy myself.

So the machine is now back in the kitchen and I am happy knowing that in my own little way, I was able to introduce a few people to good coffee. Only they probably didn’t know it. :wink:


Richard
Attachments
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Small Hatch
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firstcoffee3.JPG
Hot Water on Tap
firstcoffee3.JPG (42.91 KiB) Viewed 4781 times
firstcoffee1.JPG
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Rancilio S24 and MD40
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Postby phil » Thu Mar 25, 2004 10:24 pm

Nice story Richard. Well you can't say you didn't try - I'm sure your coffee was wonderful.

About the web site - going into competition then? :wink:
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Postby Steve » Thu Mar 25, 2004 11:10 pm

Sounds like you had fun. Sounds more sucesful than my first day in the business.
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Postby HughF » Fri Mar 26, 2004 3:50 am

Very interesting, thanks Richard.

OK, Eeffoc, time to share!

Cheers,

Hugh
Grinders : Macap MXK conical for espresso, Mahlkoenig Vario for Chemex, Macap MC6 (spare when our office was closed) for cafetiere, Zassenhaus Knee Mill for cafetiere when working away from home.
La Spaziale Vivaldi S1 espresso machine. HotTop KN8828P roaster. Chemex manual drip for most brewed coffee plus cafetieres and eSantos.
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Postby alans » Fri Mar 26, 2004 10:57 am

That little hatch wouldn't have given you much "presence" and they don't sound too adventurous a crowd! Did you sell even one straight Espresso or Macchiato?

But most importantly would you do it again?

My friends often joke about what it would be like if I set up a coffee shop, they liken me to the "Soup Nazi" from Seinfeld, "Mocha, no coffe for you, OUT!", but I'm sure I wouldn't be that bad.... :D
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Postby cleverdic » Fri Mar 26, 2004 11:29 am

In fact, the little hatch was not supposed to be the serving hatch although it was in the path of people walking towards my real serving area. I opened it so that people could see the machine. If you look carefully, you will see an arrow on the machine pointing people to the right place. However, everybody without exception ignored it. An important lesson learnt.
No I didn't sell a single Espresso or Macchaito.
Yes I would do it again and probably will. It was actually good fun. No one got hurt etc.....

Richard
Rancilio S24 and MD40
Gene Cafe Roaster
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Postby phil » Fri Mar 26, 2004 11:40 am

Hugh - don't you ever sleep? I thought I was bad!
La Spaziale Spazio 2 group semi-auto

La Spaziale Lusso grinder (espresso),
Macap MC4 shop grinder (brewed coffee)
Three Thor tampers
Two Hottops, first since Feb 2003
No partridge, no pear tree either
Conas, Zassenhaus hand grinder....
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Postby chrish » Fri Mar 26, 2004 11:55 am

Brilliant report and very interesting. It sounds like you had fun.
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Postby HughF » Fri Mar 26, 2004 5:27 pm

phil wrote:Hugh - don't you ever sleep? I thought I was bad!

Once every few weeks cramp wakes me up during the night and I can't get back to sleep until it goes away, so I've time to kill. 350mg Magnesium supplement seems to help a lot, it used to be far worse.

"Your medical questions answered here, while you wait, no extra charge!"

Cheers,

Hugh
Grinders : Macap MXK conical for espresso, Mahlkoenig Vario for Chemex, Macap MC6 (spare when our office was closed) for cafetiere, Zassenhaus Knee Mill for cafetiere when working away from home.
La Spaziale Vivaldi S1 espresso machine. HotTop KN8828P roaster. Chemex manual drip for most brewed coffee plus cafetieres and eSantos.
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