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Thread: Drive Thru

  1. #1
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    Drive Thru

    Background:

    Just finishing the construction stage of a double drive through coffee shop. Leased property traffic studies predict 250-300 per day with spikes during the holiday season.

    I have selected (ear-marked) most of my equipment with the exception of my shop's heart and soul. Yep, -the- Machine. I have done exhaustive research and currently have these in mind:

    La Marzocco Linea 2 group with a Swift grinder

    La Cimbali M2

    Franke Ecolino or Sinfona (2 step)

    I am interested in your ideas of which would be the best choice given my parameters...

    It will be owner operated at the start but plans are to quickly move into hiring labor to run the shop while owners manage it.

    Thanks for your input! Oh and the "cement isnt dry" on the above choices. If someone has any other brand ideas for this application I am all "eyes".

  2. #2
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    Any of the machines you have identified are good reliable candidates, though I find that Cimbali service quality varies greatly in this country due to the segregated nature of their exclusive sales territories. By contrast, Espresso Specialists is solely responsible for all La Marzocco and Franke machines in the USA, which I find provides outstanding support. ESI is owned by Franke.

    Since you have determined that the "-the- Machine" is the "heart and soul" of your business rather than your employees, at a glance it would seem to me that a superautomatic may be the best option for your situation. There is certainly nothing wrong with this approach, just be sure to consider the following:

    Redundancy: you will want to have two superautomatic machines installed, not to solely cope with peak demand (though, it will help), but rather for the security of having two independently operating systems available in the event that one should fail. Superautomatics, though reasonably reliable these days, are complicated machines with many messy moving parts in comparison to their traditional counterparts; likewise, a superautomatic normally has only one "path" for coffee and water and one group head, which can leave the machine entirely inoperable in the event of even a trivial failure somewhere along the way (e.g. a gasket) that would otherwise disable only one of possibly many group heads on a traditional machine.

    Given the volume of business that you anticipate, I suspect that two Ecolino/Evolutions will be appropriate, unless you wish to take advantage of some of the special menu options on Sinfonia, in which case you should consider one Ecolino and one Sinfonia in tandem.

    Cleaning requirements: most (nearly all) superautomatic failures that I have witnessed are the result of cleaning failures. Be sure that your management strictly enforces manufacturer recommended cleaning procedures - this means nightly.

    Service requirements: the tradeoff of skilled labor versus technology means that your machinery will require more attention. Plan to have your superautomatic qualified technician (make sure that there is an expert specifically in superautomatics in your area or else get the traditional) perform preventative maintenance regularly (probably quarterly based on your anticipated volume) to keep the machines in good working order.

    Panacea effect: remember that applying machinery to this situation will not by itself solve other employee problems. Often times, I find that clients that switch to superautomatics from a traditional system are using technology as a crutch to avoid other personnel or fundamental management issues; be sure that you apply the same care to your hiring and management procedures for use in your drive thru as you would in looking for a potential skilled Barista candidate.

    Training: it is still critically important that you maintain a regimented training program, both for coffee knowledge and customer service, even in the event that your employees are only expected to push buttons. Even superautomatics require regular daily adjustments -- with the most simple documented procedures your employee must still understand what the ideal outcome should be (and why) if they are to recognize that there is a problem (then, ideally, correct the situation -- which is a whole other step).

    I wish you the best of success; please write back with the outcome!

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

  3. #3
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    Agree!

    Andrew:

    First I would like to thank you for taking the personal time to write such a well thought out and informative post. I do agree that the employee plays an integral part in the make-up of a great coffee shop.

    I do plan to take the time to search out the best canidates for positions in my shop and give them the training they need, but my research tells me that these types of positions have a notoriously high turn-over rate. I want to make the path to a consistantly excellent product as easy as possible.

    You also have touched on a very valid point about redundancy. I have talked with shop owners of the various equipment listed in my original post and they also chalk up problems with their supers to lack of care to the machines. Dual machines make perfect sense, but it also raises another question concerning investment. Would I get the same performance/reliability out of the Marzocco/Swift combo as 2 Ecolino's? I know that my initial investment would be less, but am I going to be regretting it down the line? What's the trade-off?



    Again thanks for the information.

    Sincerely,
    Alan

  4. #4
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    Hello Alan, I'm glad that you appreciated the comments!

    Traditional machines with traditional grinders, when operated by a Barista of reasonable competency, are significantly faster than most superautomatics and generally more reliable. Each step of automation that is added increases convenience and reduces the requirements of its operator, but will in some way sacrifice efficiency, reliability or performance -- I liken this to the comparison between a manual and automatic transmission. There is a balance somewhere along the technology curve that is better suited to each situation.

    People tend to have strong feelings about the Swift, either for or against. I find myself somewhere in the middle, viewing it as a good tool in certain situations (perhaps yours) -- too lengthy a discussion for a Sunday morning. Keep in mind my previous comments regarding education and cleaning for the superautomatic, as many apply directly to the Swift situation.

    When totaling up the time necessary to complete each Ecolino cycle (grind, dose, tamp, extract, rinse, reset) and comparing to the hybrid traditional & Swift procedure (wipe portafilter basket, auto-grind / tamp, flush group head, extract, dump), I suspect that we'd be looking at about a dead heat. Perhaps someone at ESI has run the two side-by-side; I'll ask around.

    I will estimate that a skilled Barista, however, working with traditional grinders could gain additional operational efficiencies in grinding, dosing and tamping at peak volumes that would noticeably increase serving speed versus the Swift. HOWEVER, such a situation would require a substantial focus on skills development and reinforcement throughout the life of your business.

    The tradeoff is a matter of where you place your investment: in your people, your technology or at some point along the line in between -- the net cost result is probably about the same, at least in so far as the beverage is concerned. In those situations where a company's primary product is specialty coffee and they choose automation to prepare that product, the reasonable assumption is that automation is assisting unskilled labor (the "we can hire inexpensive labor to push buttons" approach); note that this statement exempts those situations where coffee is not a primary product, such as a restaurant or hotel, for example, where there may not be employees dedicated to the process of preparing and serving coffee. Hotels and restaurants are ideal places for superautomatic espresso machines and I wish that more would use them.

    I believe and have personally experienced that paying a little more to hire a better caliber of employee, as would generally be suitable to learn and perform a specialty skill, brings additional benefits beyond the task at hand; though, in less tangible areas such as customer service and employee morale. Your people - whether button pushers or skilled Baristi - will be the face (or talking speaker box) of your business. It is my philosophy to prefer candidates that have the capacity to become a skilled worker under my direction, at which point I may as well train them properly; and as a result the automation becomes unnecessary -- a hindrance, even.

    I believe that the larger coffee companies have found that it is difficult to meet the short term quarterly demands of Wall St. by paying the higher wages and offering the benefits and developmental opportunities that are necessary to attract retain suitable employees, as such human dividends that result are paid over a long duration of time and difficult to quantify on a balance sheet. It is indeed a Fast Food Nation (great book).

    One final point: if you side with the traditional system, get a 3-group. The 2-group is nice, but during peak times you will benefit from the additional steam capacity and it's always nice to have an extra group head handy when you need it. The cost difference between the 2 & 3 is negligible, so I would only recommend the 2 group in situations where low volumes are anticipated or where counter top real estate is at a high premium.

    Again, I wish you the best of success in your venture - please let me know where in the country you're starting up and I'll be sure to drop by when I come to your town.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

  5. #5
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    Thanks

    Andrew:

    Thank you again for the wealth of information. I will "pay-it-forward" when the opprotunity arises.

    I think I am going to start out with the Linea 3 group and Swift grinder. From the information you have given me, along with other research, I think this might just be the middle of the road approach I am looking for. I also like this combo because it affords me the ability to move to a more traditional grinder combination should the opprotunity/need arise.

    I again would like to tell you how much I appreciate your comments as I truly understand how precious time is.

    Oh, and I will be opening my shop in Florida and will be announcing it here with fireworks, hoopla and photos the day of its opening.

    Sincerely,
    Alan

  6. #6
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    You're welcome to call or write me anytime. I've got a customer project planned in Orlando that should bring me out there next Spring or early Summer; hopefully on the right side of the State to say howdy. With the amount of development happening in Florida right now, I would not be surprised if others come along soon.

    Best of success with the business!

    Andrew

 

 

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