Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Week beginning August 20th - Reflection - Opening Kaffeine

I am asked on occasion, 'what was it like when you opened?' or 'what was it like to open a coffee shop?' So I have been thinking about those types of questions recently and how to answer them. This is my attempt, but I am going to go back in time to before opening, because it is not about the opening, it is also about the infinite amount of planning that happens prior to opening. I will keep it short and simple and then will continue the theme next week with after opening.

  • My wife and I came to the UK in June 2005 and on our first weekend, wanted to find a place in London to 'go for coffee' but could not find anywhere to go.
  • The only places we found in the first month were Costa/Nero, but as we had very little money, we used to share one coffee between us on our days out.
  • Before finding a real job in recruitment, I worked as a waiter for 3 different agencies, earning £5.85 p/h, but worked at the Buckingham Palace garden parties, on board the Orient Express train and at the amazing Claridges Hotel.
  • In June 2005 I applied and was interviewed to be the head trainer at Nero. I was unsuccessful.
  • Around August 2005, I was walking down Berwick st at 8:30 am one Saturday morning, saw a shop called Flat White, ordered and consumed and then called the wife to 'come meet me as soon as possible'.
  • I then used to go to Flat White and sit in the now extinct front window seats, deliberately to watch the baristas behind the machine, until one day they told me off for doing so and asked me to move.
  • In April 2006, I got a job at Lord's Cricket Ground as the staffing manager for the Catering department.
  • I did enjoy three and a half years there, but after about two and a half, realized that opening a cafe was a dream and an opportunity. Plus my wife said to stop talking about it and just do it.
  • I used to work at home at night in writing the business plan, I read several books on the matter and went to two courses on how to write a business plan. At one course with over 150 attendees, on my table was another man who also 'wanted to open a cafe'.
  • I used to go to work early, 7:30 am, and write and re-write the business plan before the other staff arrived at 8:30 am/9:00. My boss used to hear me typing away and would say 'working hard?'
  • I found Square Mile coffee who at the time were doing espresso tasting nights in the roastery. I used to go along, started off being the lonely boy in the corner, until one night I got up the courage to say hello to James/Anette.
  • I then got the courage to write on their feedback wall. I remember one night being the only person to say I liked one of the coffees. Awkward.
  • I used to spend countless nights, poring over the fine details of my finances, trying to work out how much people would spend, how many people would come, until my wife said 'stop worrying about it!'
  • I used to go into Fernandez and Wells in Beak Street at 7:30 am before work and make notes, work out my list of things to do, while taking in as much detail as possible.
  • I used to ride my bike around our designated preferred areas in the summer evenings, looking for places to rent. 
  • My wife who works in packaging design put together a mood folder with photos of other cafes in Australia, to try to be able to put across out intentions to the bank and our friends/family.
  • I printed out hundreds and hundreds of pages on the work printer, trying to get my business plan/finances just right.
  • Around September 2008, I first approached our bank, HSBC. I was put in touch with the person who turned out to give us the loan, but he did not give it until February 2009. 
  • The recession had started, and they told me to come back with more money, even though I 'had the best business plan they had seen in a while'. I was hoping for 60% bank / 40% us, they wanted it to be the other way around.
  • Natwest said they are not seeing anyone. No business.
  • I approached two very good friends to ask if they wanted to invest and help raise the cash. One of them said yes, the other who had been affected in the recession was unable. 
  • In January 2009, my wife who worked around the corner, came home and said her boss had found a site on Great Titchfield Street.
  • My wife and I travelled to Brighton one weekend to meet up with the Tolleys from Taylor Street baristas, who met and went over my plans for about 30 minutes. It was an extremely valuable 30 minutes
  • I once went to meet James etc at Square Mile and when they asked if I wanted a coffee I said 'yes please a flat white', then realised, when silence followed, that I probably should have asked for an espresso. Awkward again.
  • We found the site in January 2009, and it was closed, but the leaseholder was still paying rent to the landlord. I contacted the landlords agent, who told me there was nothing they could do, as long as he kept paying rent.
  • It took until July 2009 to get the keys
  • I also asked the owner, Jorge, of Fernandez and Wells, as I planned on using the same architects as them, if he had five minutes to talk. He spent over half an hour and gave some of the most valuable advice I received. I have only just recently met him again to say thank you.
  • We signed the architects and paid the deposit of about £4k, then found out we were having a baby.
  • The architects came in before we got the keys/signed the lease, did the drawings and tendered for the work and one week after handover, we started building. Thanks to Jorge for the advice.
  • Our very good friend and amazing designer Tony C came up with the logo/branding.
  • July 2009, we had just finished the World Twenty 20 at Lord's and was about to go into the Ashes Test match.
  • We invited about 15 friends around to our one bedroom flat where I cooked up and made a whole lot of menu idea items, showed them the plans, made french press coffee, played music and gave them all feedback forms.
  • Our predicted opening date was August 12th. I would ride my bike down from the ground on my lunch break and come in before and after work to check on the site.
  • I finished the Test match and left Lords on July 25th.
  • I did not sleep for a week and had my 40th birthday on July 29th.
  • I met with Taylor Street again who assured me we could have an oven on site and cook if we wanted to (at the time I still did not know this for sure).
  • We did not have tables or stools until the week before opening. 
  • My wife, a girl friend of hers Lara and I worked all of one weekend removing the concrete from the brick wall ourselves to save money.
  • I used the cafe of Scandinavian Kitchen as my 'office' for almost two weeks. I interviewed my potential staff there, finalised all my plans, met with architects and builders. 
  • I took all the successful interviewees, including Catherine who one day turned out to be lead barista and manager and our chef Jared, to Square Mile for training before opening.
  • We opened on August 12th for a soft opening and invited all my wife's company down for lunch.
  • We had one domestic electric cooker and one chef, two baristas, one part time floor girl and me and a little help from a good friend and a two group synesso and no glass cabinet.
There is so much more, I hope if you are planning on opening you will read this and it will help you, or, if you have already, will read it and laugh and remember what it was like.

Perhaps you will read it will sitting in Kaffeine enjoying an espresso and a friand.

Traditional bircher muesli with rhubarb and raspberry compote 3.30
Granola muesli with pomegranate molasses and rhubarb and raspberry compote 3.30
Fruit salad (pineapple, mango, strawberries, grapes, passionfruit, peach) 3.50
(add 30 p for granola or yogurt)
Ciabatta roll with omelette, pancetta, rocket and tomato salsa 4.70
Ciabatta roll with courgette omelette, rocket and tomato salsa 4.70
Croissant with Italian roast ham, talleggio cheese, spinach & plum tomatoes 4.70
Croissant with gruyere cheese and plum tomatoes 3.90
Seven seed bakery bloomer toast with homemade preserves 1.70
Pumpkin seed toast 2.30
Banana bread 2.20

Pastries by Seven Seed bakery
French butter croissants 1.70
Pain au chocolat 2.30
Almond croissants 2.70

Baked Treats
Blueberry and apple sweet muffins 2.00
Four cheese and black peppercorn savoury muffins 2.00
Strawberry friands 2.00
Super moist chocolate brownies 2.30
White chocolate blondies 2.30
Portuguese tarts 1.90
ANZAC cookies 1.70
Melting moment biscuits 1.70


French retro baguettes 4.70
Aubergine with goats cheese, lime mayonnaise, rocket
Ham, apple butter, gruyere, gherkin, spinach

Foccacias with sea salt and rosemary crust 4.90
Roasted beef with red onion marmalade, aged cheddar, rocket
Mushrooms with Welsh rarebit and spinach

Salads 4.90/5.90
Aubergines with nectarines, little gems, coriander, brown sugared cod
Broccoli with oyster sauce
Beetroot, radishes, black kidney beans, cannellini beans, edamame beans, cherry tomato, red onion and roasted cashews

Tart 4.00 or 6.90 with salad
Creamed corn with sweet potato


  1. In fairness my blank stare when you asked for a flat white was probably down to me panicing that I'd forgotten to buy milk before a meeting!

  2. Phew, what a relief then! Still, I should have asked for an espresso though. So much to learn, so much learnt.....Your patience and understanding is much appreciated.

  3. What an inspiring post. So much more useful and helpful to talk about what it takes to open a place. It is a future dream of mine, and I always appreciate honest accounts of a particular experience. Congratulations on what is clearly a phenomenal achievement, and I am looking forward to dropping by for an espresso! Your menu also looks fantastic. Best of luck with all your future ventures. Kathryn