Business SenseCafe Culture Pt 1


By December 13, 2015No Comments

BS_Article07_1“We are not a cafe operator but a coffee company and there is a difference”, says Joshua Liew, co-founder and COO of espressolab Asia. What he means is, while the company does operate cafes of its own name which is one of the most synonymous brands in the country; it seeks to look more in-depth and go beyond knowledge of the bean. An avid coffee fan, Joshua earned his certification with Speciality Coffee Association of Europe and International Institute of Coffee Tasters but instead of chasing the route of “cafe ownership”, he realised that many people actually do not have the passion or are they hardly around to oversee the A-Z of operations and get their hands dirty. For example, they have not done their homework and decided to buy an expensive coffee machine simply because its deemed the world’s top model but they don’t even know how to maximise its potential. Therefore, Joshua says to start with an entry level machine because a good cup of coffee is made up of the 4Ms; not just an expensive machine.

BS_Article07_2The 4Ms he refers to are macinazione (grind), miscela (blend), macchina (machine) and mano (man). And in a way, espressolab’s vision would cover the 4 aspects. Through its sourcing, trading, roasting, research & development; it is able to purvey quality coffee blends and through its training, baristas-to-be will be able to learn how to bring it all together with the grind, machine and their own skills. Barista school done, most would want to have a place to call their own and thus it is only logical for espressolab to have its cafe management courses and in the pipeline; a soft skills training module because Joshua says business depends very much on customer experience – also the reason why its outlet at Sunway Damansara is designed with a centre bar so that customers have enough space to interact with the barista in cultivating an environment of a neighbourhood coffee place, where you come in casually and everyone knows everyone; Joshua said. Plus the visual appeal is hard to beat.

BS_Article07_3On top of its self-operated cafes, espressolab also licenses its brand. Why do so when you can have your own brand? That’s true but it may not be easy to run. As espressolab has built an ecosystem and a brand the community can identify with, operators can focus on making sure they maintain the standards without having to worry about the coffee, equipment and your operating system. With a strong backend in place, businesses have time to build relationship with customers or think about menu expansion. The license gives you freedom to serve any type of food that you deem fit but to offer its licensees (and anyone else) more options, it is in the midst of planning a centralised kitchen that operators can get their supply of hot food from. Joshua says the management is looking to open more of its own outlets; particularly at residential areas to capture regular coffee drinkers who would make the cafe their default choice. Being one of the earliest companies, espressolab has been working steadily to enhance the coffee knowledge and most importantly ensure that “passion and business acumen”are in tandem for “there are easier ways to make money and its not through a cafe”, surmised Joshua.