Hiring a consultant...

almico

New member
Feb 17, 2015
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So...I'm opening a coffee bar in a couple of months. It's going to be located in a new, indoor public food market in a very popular eastern PA tourist town. There will be 20 about vendors in phase 1 and possibly another 40 will come on board for phases 2 and 3. I will be the only coffee vendor. In town there is only SBs and DDs.

I've been roasting 4 years, working the day job M-F and then doing farmers markets on weekends, even through the winter. I don't remember my last day off. I wish I was starting this at 40 instead of 57, but you gotta dance with who brung ya.

The market is supplying the build out, including the 12 x 24' booth and all the plumbing and electric. I will be supplying the equipment. The layout has been established already, for better or worse. The rent is very reasonable and the business plans and financial spreadsheets are done. The projected numbers are very conservative and work well. My concern is not attracting customers; it is being able to keep up with the inevitable lines.

I'll be offering pre-brewed Fetco 'quick cups' for early morning commuters, individual pour overs (like at my markets) and espresso via a Victoria Arduino Athena Leva. Other menu items with be iced coffee and fresh-brewed iced tea. There will be a gluten free baker at the market, but the coordinators would like me to offer an 'extra gluten' alternative. So I've been toying around with my options. I will not be able to cook or prepare food in my booth, but I might squeeze in a toaster. I love toast with coffee. I'm also pretty good and moving bags o' beans. My revenue stream has been 60/40 beans to brewed coffee.

I've purchased a bunch of equipment already and my house and yard are looking more like Fred Sanford's every day.

The market will be open 6 days a week from 7-7pm, and vendors are asked to be open a minimum of 8 hours a day. So far it will be me and my son supplying the man hours, but I'm resigned to having to hire a couple of employees, maybe even a barista/manager.

I am not an official barista. I've never been properly trained and have learned everything I know about roasting from trial and error and info I've gleaned online. I own a Londinium lever at home and have been making my own espresso for a couple of years. I've also been making 100-120 pour overs every weekend for 3 years. My customers love my coffee and I get at least 3 or 4 "this is the best coffee I've ever had" each weekend. But I'm pretty certain I'm not prepared for the 20,000 visitors this market is likely to get the first weekend it opens. I was going to attend SCA classes at RoyalNY's new lab in NJ, but it appears they're having staffing issues and all classes have been canceled. I'm not opposed to roaster education, but I find most of it is oriented around drum roasters, and I prefer fluid bed roasted coffee.

There are many more details, but the point of this post is that I think I would like to solicit the help of a consultant and am having a hard time finding a match on the easy coast. I guess my dilemma stems from the fact that I am opening a coffee bar, but I roast my own coffee. Most coffee consulting services seem to come from roasters that want to sell roasted coffee. I have not found the same eagerness from my green bean suppliers. I clearly don't buy enough greens.

My business vision falls between the cracks. I'm a roaster that has no desire to sell wholesale and a coffee bar that doesn't buy roasted beans. I do not want to spend all my time at the roaster, or packing little boxes with coffee bags and sticking labels on them. I want to be in front of people educating them about coffee, making their day with a great brew and sharing a little conversation-connection in the process. I also want to control my product as much as possible, which is why I don't want to forgo the roasting. I love roasting. I just don't want to do it 40 hours a week.

I want to make this, as much as possible, like an authentic Italian coffee bar. The booth will have a 14' standing bar in front and a 12' sitting bar to one side. I am not going to force people to drink 7g espressos, drink them standing up and never with milk after 11am, but I will encourage them to try. I'm as Americano as they come and drank 32oz doses of coffee broth my entire life before I discovered the heavenly world of specialty coffee and it's preeminent delivery system. I would like to share that experience with whomever is willing to listen.

So...any suggestions on where I can find some help getting my new venture set up, organized and off on the right foot? I've searched many threads that say "Hire a consultant". OK...how? Where?
 
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John P

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Jan 5, 2007
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Salt Lake City
What problem do you need solved? Is it the logistics of the operation - managing lines, work flow, roasting schedule? Or is it fluid bed roaster finessing and such? Then there is a better idea of where to direct you based on your needs. Not every consultant does every aspect.

And "in a couple months" is quite soon. :decaf:
 
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almico

almico

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Feb 17, 2015
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Yes it is...

The good part is I've been operating a coffee stand for a couple of years and have my rap down. I know what I like and I know my coffee. This venue is like an extension of my current farmers markets, but on steroids. Now that I have a permanent location I can add things like grinders and brewing devices to my offerings. And the hours are not 6am to 11pm 7 days a week. I don't need a staff of 10 at the start. I think I can run it myself with a helper until I see what it demands. It was supposed to open the 1st of June, but the BoH and town building inspectors had other ideas. Now it looks like it won't open until after Labor Day. Here is a pic of the booth from last week:

FullSizeRender.jpg

The bad part is this is a very popular town and people come from all over to walk the streets and visit the shops. It is going to be a very high profile spot. The town is a big lunch and dinner destination, but nothing in the way of breakfast. The organizers are trying to make this market the local breakfast destination.

Also, I have not made espresso for anyone but myself and a few friends. Workflow is something I will figure out by default, but I'd rather not fall on my face in the process. Finding someone to train me on 3gr commercial lever workflow might be a challenge.

I have a Compak K10 WBC, F8, E5 and R120 to get me started. I'm also going to try and smuggle my Fuji Royal R220 past the BoH for doing pour overs.

As far as roasting schedule, I need to see where my busiest times will be. Am I opening at 7am and closing shop at 3 and going home to roast, or will it be too busy to leave early? Do I leave at 3 on Weds and Fridays to roast? I'm not opposed to putting in 70 hours a week for the first few months. Time will tell.

On a positive note, if someone is looking for an R120 shot, pulled on a Victoria Arduino Athena Leva, I might be the only spot for a few 100 miles!

I don't want to compete with SB and DD. I plan on offering classic Italian espresso drinks: espressos, doppios, macchiatos, cortados, cappuccinos, lattes and maybe an affogato. Iced espresso drinks will be on the menu, but no cold brew. I've been making cold brew for 2 years, but a few weeks ago I had a mishap and dumped a whole batch out of the back of the truck while packing for market. No time to make more, I made a strong batch in the Fetco into a Luxus half full of ice and everyone loved it. Thank heavens I don't have to faff with cold brew any longer. No syrups or flavorings either.

This is a fairly unique location and opportunity, so what I'm looking for is someone that has a range of experience both roasting and retail and can give me a few "if I were in your position, this is what I would dos".
 
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