Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Week beginning August 27th - After Opening

Last week I wrote a short list of what it was like to open a coffee shop, but focussed on before opening. This time I will update a few more words on the before, but then focus on the after, especially the first six months.

In other good news, it is the end of the month, so that can only mean one thing, payday lamingtons.  Yes....

Before opening.

I have worked in hospitality all my life, now going on 25 years. However I am not a barista, but was not too bad at it back in the early days of Kaffeine.

James and Annette at Square Mile were and always have been an amazing support to us. James recommended the Synesso, helped with training, came to see the shop before opening and has continued to support us to this current day. Fantastic.

I asked James once if he thought Gwilym Davies would be open to me coming and working at Columbia road one morning. It was arranged, and I turned up at 9 am, and was put straight onto shots and worked alongside the current WBC champion for two hours. Absolutely amazing.

Gwilym has also been a great support and provider of inspiration to us. Very much appreciated.


We soft opened on Wednesday, did not charge for anything, two of our customers who had businesses in the area insisting on paying for their coffees. It was the first five pounds in takings.

We then did Thursday and Friday with free coffees for all but pay for food. It went very well.

On the first Saturday we opened, it was just Catherine, myself and Jared. We took £240 total, £107 was in coffee.

Catherine had booked holidays to Greece, we had another barista but could not/did not want to ask him to work six days 12 hours per day. I called James, who suggested we call Ristretto, as they were not so busy. Joe at Ristretto sent us John Gordon, the 2009 UK latte art champion, who was working for him at the time.

John worked for us for a week, he is in a lot of the photos that were taken by my friend Kess and also features in the video Kess did for us.

My mate Kess, who I have known since share house and clubbing days of 96/97, came and took some photos one day. He then sent me a video he had 'thrown together'. I watched it, and got just a little bit emotional.

Cath and I would be at work at 6:30/7:00 am to open at 7:30 until close at 6 pm to finish up at 7 pm. My wife would then meet us as we closed and we would go home together, getting home about 8 pm.

Cath and I worked pretty much every hour over the next few weeks. We had another barista but he did not last long. We also had a girl doing part time, the legend that is Rhea. I had promised her full time but as we were not busy, she only got 20 hours per week to start with. Within a month, she was full time hours.

Chef Jared worked in the kitchen by himself, six days a week, for the first six weeks, until we got a part timer in.

A foodie shop next to Lantana had closed, so I went past and they had two butchers blocks they needed to get rid of. One was selling for £800, the other for free. I called Jared who came down and tried to help me carry it. We could not, so put it in the back of a black cab and took it back to the shop where Rhea scrubbed it up and it has stayed ever since.

I would catch the bus, in the dark, at 6:15 am to Bethnal Green from Hackney taking motivation from all the other businesses I saw on the way, thinking, 'if they can do it, so can I'.

I would often have moments in the mornings where the stress built up so much I would be sick before getting on the tube.

I would often go to the 24 hour Tesco at Hackney  at 5:30 am on the way to work and buy stuff to be able to make food or buy necessities.

Around the middle of October, Estelle Bright stated working for us. She had recently competed in the UK Barista championships and came sixth overall. We now had two baristas, Rhea on the floor, myself, Jared and one part time kitchen person.

I used to sit in the back area with my laptop working when it was quiet. One day we got a bit busy and I put my laptop down under our sugar station. I never saw it again.

I was working open to close six days a week, as was Catherine, about 70 hours worth.

I would get home at night and continue working on rosters, updating daily takings spreadsheets, paying suppliers.

I would automatically wake up early on a Sunday, have breakfast and a coffee, then fall asleep again on the couch at 9:30 am for two more hours.

My wife used to wake up screaming in the middle of the night with cramps in her legs from the pregnancy.

Religiously every week I update and check (and still do) our cash flow and break even analysis spreadsheets showing actuals (past) and forecast (future).

One day it was pouring with rain, and I came downstairs to find the floor flooded and all this 'water' pouring out of the man hole cover near the toilets. I lifted the cover and we had to close the shop, we had a big problem. I had to use a bucket to remove the blocked up water from the full man hole and transport it to our other manhole further down the pipeline. I then had to call any random drain cleaner on the internet to come unblock it. Luckily it stopped raining, they arrived and we unblocked it.

They gave me a quote for £4,000 to dig up and replace the pipes. I did not take them up on it.

The previous operators had not looked after the drains at all, pouring fat and such substances down over time. Over the next year or so, I became rather an expert at unblocking drains. We now have happy drains. I will now always have the drains checked before operating any other business.

Three months rent was due. I called the agent who agreed to allow me to send three postdated cheques for the months ahead, so I could manage the cash flow.

In December we had pre natal classes booked on a Saturday for four weeks.  I had to have Saturdays off. I handed over the running of the shop to Catherine who had already been doing some opens and closes. It was the first 'day off' from the shop since opening.

We closed over Christmas period. We had 'made it'.

Layla was born on her due date, January 26th, Australia day. Labour started at 2 am and finished at 7 pm. I texted Cath to say I would not be in for the next ten days.

We had £1200 in the business bank account, but the cash flow forecast looked positive.

We now employ 13 amazing staff and are regarded as one of the best cafes in the UK, which is a very big compliment. Layla is 2 and a half and I bring her in to nursery around the corner four days a week, allowing me 90 minutes with my daughter every day on transport. That's priceless.

Kaffeine is  three years old and people often ask, 'you must be happy with what you have done'. Well yes I am, but there are a lot of others out there who are doing better than me who I aspire to, plus, I will only be happy when I have retired and feel I have achieved what I want to. No, I am not happy yet. Almost, but there is still another 20 years to go. That's a long way.

I very, very much appreciate all the support from my wife, our fantastic staff, friends, family, suppliers, the Fitzrovia community, the coffee community and our many, many, many customers. Incredible. Here's to the future.

I hope you enjoy the menu this week, and I hope you've enjoyed reading. Next week we are going to talk about the experience and the coffee at the best restaurant in the UK.

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
Blood peach sweet muffins 2.00
Red pepper, cheddar and basil savoury muffins 2.00
Buckthorn 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
Bufala mozzarella with peri peri sauce, tomato and rocket
Coppa cotta ham with grilled apricots, brie and spinach

Foccacias with sea salt and rosemary crust 4.90
Chorizo with roasted red peppers, roasted red onion, goats cheese and rocket
Tuna with cheese fondue and spinach

Salads 4.90/5.90
Blackberries with popcorn balls, mature cheddar, watercress, ground coriander and burnt butter dressing
Roasted sweet potato with a yellow curry sauce
Roasted jerusalem artichokes with mushrooms, rocket, tarragon dressing

Tart 4.00 or 6.90 with salad
Rosti with duck, carrot puree, damson sauce

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