Adventures of a coffee consultant by Raf Mlodzianowski
With Brexit pending, the lack of quality staff has increased, cafes are struggling and what will happen to our international trade deals?
There is also a lot of discussion around C Market pricing, transparency in the industry, coffee production and sustainability of coffee with low profits, diseases and climate change.
There is big uncertainty at the end of 2018 but we do not need to fear. There are solutions and fixes, we just need to discuss them and work out how to move forward.
How can the cafe industry survive? Automation! I had an idea some years ago that a good head barista and a good bean-to-cup machine could be the solution. This has actually been actioned in Starbucks, and I must say that quality did improve.
It wasn't until a brief trip in Vilnus, Lithuania that I saw something like my vision. There is a café, operated by one person, with the coffee served from a fully automatic bean-to-cup machine. I ordered a sandwich and a coffee and the entire time I was able to have a great interaction with the staff member. For me a good barista is able to make such a set-up taste wonderful. If we apply regular checks to the espresso quality throughout the day (like a barista in a traditional cafe) automatic machines can provide equally good coffee.
The benefit of this is that it lets the staff interact with customers, be less stressed in busy times and also it helps owners because there is no need to spend weeks/months desperately searching for staff while all the other staff members are over-worked and getting demoralised etc....
With the new gravi-tech systems on traditional machines and weighing on-demand grinders, companies are essentially building modular bean to cup machines. However, for the cost of such a setup you can also get a high-end automatic machine.
So what's the difference? Well it depends on your business and its philosophy. I am by no means saying to fire staff or keep paying low wages. My point is to keep the staff you have, pay them better but fill the gaps in staffing with the new technology that is being developed. Technology is there to support us and if we use it this way everyone will win.
However, some businesses may decide to reduce staff and keep low pay while automating things and this is already happening in many chains.
Also Matt Purger has said a lot about this in 2018 so there must be something to it.
As for brands and customers, with all this talk about sustainable farming and supply chains, the average consumer seems a bit confused.
My belief is that 2019 will be a year when more brands try to clearly identify producers in their ranges that are ethically sourced and supporting farmers. How much of this can be backed up I don't know. (CBW 05Dec). However, with so much mainstream media discussing this topic recently, it will surely influence coffee in 2019.
2019 will see many more innovative solutions to making coffee, more adventurous machinery and more awareness about how to help shape the coffee industry into a more ethical and sustainable future.
- Raf Mlodzianowski has joined European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo as a consultant and Coffee Business World as a columnist
- Raf Makes, his consultancy will be exhibiting on stand A26 at European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo on 21-22 May 2019.
- Raf Mlodzianowski is a Certified Arabica Q Grader and an SCA Authorised Trainer (AST) in brewing, barista, sensory, green and roasting skills.
- For more information on European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo, contact Sukhvir Hayre on +44 (0) 203 668 9809 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and check out stand and sponsorship options.
- Visitor registration is now open for the European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo. For fast track entry click here.