HomeRoast Digest


Topic: Economies of starting a "real roast" coffee shop (17 msgs / 593 lines)
1) From: Eric B. Stauffer
So this morning I'm in my local coffee shop, (Cath Inc. in the
Meridian-Kessler neighborhood of Indianapolis), and I order up a tall eth
yirg for my trip into work. I see the barista cut open a large plastic &
gold foil bag, the beans spilling out like a toasty brown waterfall into the
grinder, eventually to become someones roasted-who-knows-when cup of jo.
I find it hard to believe that in Indianapolis, a city of over a million,
there are only two shops that roast their own beans. It got me to thinking,
what exactly is involved in converting an otherwise great coffeehouse into a
great "real roast" coffee house. This shop clearly has the real estate,
having been converted a few years back from a Jiffy Lube, to install a
roaster. Kennetch David's "Home Coffee Roasting: Romance & Revival" would
lead one to believe that for around $10,000, you could acquire a decent
small shop roaster. Is there an economic model that would lead one to real
roast rather than buying roasted beans and show a profit for it? How much
experience does it take to match distributor purchased coffee? I've even
seen small "table top" roasters for about $3,500. Are these things real?
They have about a zillion digital readouts and their web-literature leads
one to believe anyone could do it.
Clearly, I love my homeroast, but I'd love to see my favorite local
coffeehouse pour a truly excellent cup rather than the very good cup they
pour now.
Thanks,
  Eric
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2) From: John Abbott
Eric.
  Take a trip down to the Broadripple area and run down the streets
behind the main drag - can't remember them off hand - but on the corner
is an in-house roaster and they always poured the best coffee in the
state.  I'll remember the name at about 3 am!
  John - to old to remember names - and some faces
On Tue, 2002-08-27 at 21:08, Eric B. Stauffer wrote:
<Snip>
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3) From: Gary Zimmerman
There's a local coffee joint that opened about a year ago.  They roast 
their own.  I was thrilled to hear it, even though I didn't plan to 
patronize it much, since I roast my own.  But I did plan to visit 
occasionally just to support them.
The first time I went in, they told me (after I had been served my coffee!) 
that they weren't roasting their own yet, because of local regulations and 
approvals.  I think it had to do with the venting and such, but I'm not sure.
When I finally went back, I checked to make sure they were roasting their 
own before ordering.  The kid behind the counter assured me they did, and 
told me if I waited a few minutes he was about to brew a fresh pot.  I was 
eager to try their roast and compare with my home roast... until I watched 
him make the stuff.
They use a commercial Bunn or Bunn-type machine and brew directly into 
thermos dispensers.  So far so good.  But he was obviously following a 
written-down "recipe" they use for brewing ALL their fresh roast, without 
regard to the variety or degree of roast.  He weighed out the beans 
carefully.  I couldn't see how much and didn't know how much the brewer 
made.  Then he ground them.
That might have been okay, but next the guy pulled a paper filter from a 
box, put it in the brew basket, dumped in the ground coffee and started the 
brewer.  True to my expectations, my "fresh brew" tasted like nothing so 
much as wet newspaper.
WHAT A WASTE OF FRESH ROASTED COFFEE!  I assume the amount he weighed out 
was also insufficient, otherwise the paper taste probably wouldn't have 
been so overpowering.
I'm ashamed to say that I said nothing at the time.  I figured this guy was 
a kid who didn't really care about coffee, and he probably would have said 
"really? thanks." and gone on to do the same thing.
I'm still planning to go in one day during the day time, when the 
roastmaster is there, and I'll mention it to him.  I'm sure HE would care 
about it - after all, what a waste of his efforts if the end product is 
swill.  Now coming up with a custom instruction set for every roast may be 
prohibitively intensive or expensive, but the very least they can do is 
rinse out those paper filters with hot water before dumping in the ground 
coffee.  It would make for a 100% improvement, and maybe the customers 
would actually taste fresh coffee.  I wonder how many unsuspecting patrons 
now think that "fresh roast" coffee tastes a little bit like a wet napkin.
-- garyZ
Dan Bollinger wrote:
<Snip>
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4) From: Ted Kostek
Probably all of us have kicked around the idea of starting up some kind of
little business.  My latest idea is a coffee cart, sort of like a hot dog
cart.  It would be a neat marketing ploy to let people watch you actually
roast the coffee before you pour their cup.  Of course, you'd want to store
that and serve some of the rested stuff.  Some folks here have raised the
issue of venting the exhaust, which I hadn't considered.
Two problems with my dream:
-- how to keep enough quality water on the cart;
-- how to economically deliver individually crafted cups of coffee.
That second one strikes me as a real problem. It's no biggie for me to watch
every second of my roasts because they are every other day and only for 7
min or so.  At a profitable scale, however, it seems like the amount of work
would be daunting, and I would quickly be cutting corners.
tmk
--
Ted Kostek
765 494 2146 (desk)
765 494 1489 (engine room)
765 494 0787 (fax)
"Always keep in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important
than any other thing."  Abraham Lincoln
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5) From: =?iso-8859-1?q?Bob=20Cassinelli?=
A bigger problem (Dan and I have been tossing this about).. 
is... WHERE TO SET ONE UP? 
 
 Ted Kostek wrote:Probably all of us have kicked around the idea of starting up some kind of
little business. My latest idea is a coffee cart, sort of like a hot dog
cart. It would be a neat marketing ploy to let people watch you actually
roast the coffee before you pour their cup. Of course, you'd want to store
that and serve some of the rested stuff. Some folks here have raised the
issue of venting the exhaust, which I hadn't considered.
Two problems with my dream:
-- how to keep enough quality water on the cart;
-- how to economically deliver individually crafted cups of coffee.
That second one strikes me as a real problem. It's no biggie for me to watch
every second of my roasts because they are every other day and only for 7
min or so. At a profitable scale, however, it seems like the amount of work
would be daunting, and I would quickly be cutting corners.
tmk
--
Ted Kostek
765 494 2146 (desk)
765 494 1489 (engine room)
765 494 0787 (fax)
"Always keep in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important
than any other thing." Abraham Lincoln
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6) From: Spencer W. Thomas
Eric B. Stauffer wrote:
<Snip>
It doesn't take much in the way of "real estate."  I think it takes a 
commitment on the part of the owner to roast only as much as they can 
sell in 2 weeks, and that sort of thing.  
I've been in roasting coffee shops that are tiny.  Most recently I was 
in a shop called "Uncommon Grounds" in Saugatuck, Michigan.  This place 
not only roasts their own coffee, but makes at least some of their own 
pastries.  All in the ground floor of a smallish house.  The roaster is 
installed in a space that looked to my eye to be less than 100 square 
feet.  
They do have the advantage of being in a tourist town, so they probably 
get a lot of traffic for the size of the community.
I've also visited roasting shops in Long Beach, CA (Polly's on 2nd Ave 
in the Belmont Shores area); Salt Lake City (of all places!); and Glen 
Lake, Michigan (another tourist town). Small World roasters in Princeton 
is one of my favorites.  I suspect that they no longer roast on premises 
(if they ever did), as they're now shipping coffee around the country.
The Salt Lake Roasting company was, in fact, my first introduction to 
fresh roasted coffee, 20 years ago.  I started going there right after 
they opened. He had a big German-made roaster (don't remember what kind 
now).  I remember him saying it came in pieces without instructions (or 
else the instructions were in German). I used to stop in for a cup after 
visiting the public library (across the street), and would buy coffee 
based on what was most recently roasted.  After I moved to Michigan, I 
continued to order from them for many years.  Salt Lake City seems to me 
an improbable place for a high-quality coffee shop to thrive, but he's 
been in business for 20 years, now.  (Note to the confused: the Mormons, 
who are still a majority of the population in Utah, don't drink coffee 
at all.)
So I really think it has less to do with the space you have, and even to 
some extent the customer base, and more to do with a commitment to quality.
=S
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7) From: floyd burton
This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
When traveling to a customers site north of Milwaukee a few months ago, saw
an Airstream Trailer sitting at an intersection and noticed a
coffee/espresso sign on it.  Saw a few customers lined up and then a couple
of months later the owner-Ken I think-posted something about roasting his
own beans and buying a Deidrick (sp??) Roaster.  He had some roasting
questions and told him to make a right turn out of his business-drive 3
miles to the main drag of the next town, hang a right and at the far end of
town is a small roaster-go on Sunday morning and watch Gonzo roast.
Yeah location is everything.

8) From: floyd burton
If you are ever in the Tampa/St. Pete area-check out their PBTC (person
behind the cart) serving those dogs-young ladies wearing thongs-what an
original marketing idea.  Some towns banned them due to accidents caused by
rubber neckers.

9) From: =?iso-8859-1?q?Bob=20Cassinelli?=
'rubber neckers?' from those ladies in thongs? 
That's usually what happens (nevermind;)
 
 floyd burton wrote:If you are ever in the Tampa/St. Pete area-check out their PBTC (person
behind the cart) serving those dogs-young ladies wearing thongs-what an
original marketing idea. Some towns banned them due to accidents caused by
rubber neckers.

10) From: Michael Vanecek
Convert a panel truck. Park it, with permission, in the busy lunch-hour 
districts downtown or similar. Also in the morning where everyone is 
going from the parking lots to their offices and evenings when a 
relaxing espresso would make the commute home all that better.
Quality water would have to be tanked - but with a panel truck (with the 
side that opens out so you can service your customers), you'd have more 
room that strictly a cart. You can also run the engine (diesel does much 
better than gas for this purpose) for power, and could better integrate 
your little roaster with perhaps an afterburner to help with the fumes. 
Then, park. Let your truck/cart become a common site. If you don't draw 
the business, move it just a little to where you see a greater 
concentration of people walking by - or get a monkey. :) Ice-cone stands 
seem to do very well in the heat of the summer - there's no reason a 
coffee cart (you can serve ice coffee drinks and ice cones too).
As far as pulling shots fast enough to maintain quality - be the 
espresso nazi - if they want it they'll wait for it - and if your good 
enough, they'll return. You could set up a couple of pull stations if it 
gets too busy, but there's only so much room for growth, even in a panel 
truck...
Of course - this assumes you live in a large enough city for this to be 
practical. Otherwise - seek out the parts of town that people normally 
congregate. I wanted to do that in Phoenix, but we've since moved to a 
little town in Central Texas, so a cart would be out of the question 
here - people are too busy and there's no pedestrian traffic at all. 
Kinda like that Back-to-the-Future mentality "You meen people run fer 
fun?" So, the best I can do here is integrate it into my computer shop.
Be well,
Mike
Bob Cassinelli wrote:
<Snip>
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11) From: Michael Vanecek
You mean we're not in the 60's anymore? Bummer... :)
Yeah - one of them thingies. Actually, I've seen used panel trucks that 
are relatively inexpensive and in need of some TLC...perhaps a project 
for somebody. It'd be neat to get a classic and restore it with 
appropriate modifications for it's use.
Cheers,
Mike
Dan Bollinger wrote:
<Snip>
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12) From: Lahtaydah
In a message dated 8/28/02 9:18:50 AM Central Daylight Time, 
febco writes:
<< When traveling to a customers site north of Milwaukee a few months ago, saw
 an Airstream Trailer sitting at an intersection and noticed a
 coffee/espresso sign on it.  Saw a few customers lined up and then a couple
 of months later the owner-Ken I think-posted something about roasting his
 own beans and buying a Deidrick (sp??) Roaster.  He had some roasting
 questions and told him to make a right turn out of his business-drive 3
 miles to the main drag of the next town, hang a right and at the far end of
 town is a small roaster-go on Sunday morning and watch Gonzo roast.
 
 Yeah location is everything. >>
Hi Floyd!  
It's Lee, not Ken and we are up and roasting!  Location is most when setting 
up, but dedication to quality is what is going to set you apart from the 
competition.  And, if you are going to set up shop, whether it is a 
drivethru, cart or whatever, it is extremely cost effective to roast your 
own.  Having total control over what, when and how much to roast is a dream 
come true!  Still haven't been to visit your friend roasting in Cedarburg, 
but I will make it a point to see him in the next week.
Take care, Lee
Milwaukee, WI
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13) From: Dan Bollinger
The table-tops seem to be OK.  It is all a matter of matching the roaster
size to the store's volume.  If the building isn't single story you will
have the added expense of a stack (chimney).  A multi-story building is
almost out of the question.  Also, depending on local regs and roasting
volume, you may need an afterburner to deal with smoke.   I've seen large
roasters on ebay.

14) From: floyd burton
Sorry-my memory escapes me at times-how goes it with the roaster.  Do you
plan to sell roasted beans-if so may have a customer just down the street
for you.
take care and visit Gonzo on any Sunday morning around 10 AM-assuming he has
not been out on the tiles the night before.

15) From: Michael Vanecek
I moved my business once and actually had an increase in business - went 
from renting on the square to purchasing a building a couple of blocks 
away. Strange - woulda thought the square would have been busier, but I 
do have better parking here and perhaps purchasing the building gave me 
a bit of permanance that made my clients more willing to use me...the 
market here is really tough to get into. Interestingly enough, the other 
two competitors here are now out of business while I tend to have more 
business than I can handle. Guess quality does count...
Cheers,
Mike
Lahtaydah wrote:
<Snip>
<Snip>
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16) From: Dan Bollinger
Mike, You are probably thinking of a delivery van like a Metro.  They have
slab sides and stand-up room.  Panel trucks haven't been made since the
early 60's when vans started into manufacture.  The 'PT' in Dodges'
'PT-Cruiser' stands for Panel Truck.  This retro-panel-truck is a reduced
size of what a real panel-truck looked like.
<Snip>
dog
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actually
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the
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17) From: TFisher511
Oh, I live in Clearwater and have often wondered exactly what those gals were 
selling. I guess I have always been blinded by the small neon stripes they 
are almost wearing to notice what they were peddling. There always seems to 
be a crowd wherever they are.
Terry F 
febco writes:
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