Kent History and Library Centre

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In January we embarked on a partnership with Kent County Council in the History and Library Centre in Maidstone.

KCC were looking at a way to make the library more welcoming and inviting and approached us to come up with a proposal. This was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the coffee cart package we have available.

We built the cart, purchased all the equipment we needed and opened the cart at the end of January for a trial through to 2nd April.

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We employed two members of staff to cover the 6 days a week that the cart was due to be open.

When the cart opened it took a few weeks to begin seeing a consistent number of customers, as people learned that the cart would be there and that they were allowed to eat and drink in the library.

Our initial prediction for how much money the cart would make, based on the users figures  was unfortunately much higher than the sales actually were. The demographic of the people using the library was actually not people who had available money to buy coffee during the visit; they were often using the computers following appointments at the job centre. Although the takings became consistent , it unfortunately was not enough to cover the staff costs.

We decided to keep the trial going through to the end date, despite losing money as the reception of the cart from staff and customers was overwhelmingly positive. In the photo above you can see the back of the coffee machine covered in positive feedback cards. We hoped that we would find volunteers to man the cart once the trial had finished but unfortunately this did not come to fruition.

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The cart functioned extremely well and we were really pleased to see our design  come to life. Our vision for this cart is it the sort of thing young people could take on as a start up business that they run and manage themselves. It would be perfect in office blocks and similar locations.

We are continuing to explore different models of making it work within the library and are in discussions with KCC about the possibility of trying it in different libraries in the county.

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Sevenoaks KAE

 

Way back in October we embarked on a new venture, opening our own cafe, within the Kent Adult Education centre in Sevenoaks. Although we originally planned to just help other people open cafes, this has been a great opportunity to refine our model and diversify our experience.

In the student common room there is a refectory and the previous company renting it had ended their contract so Kent County Council decided to put the vacancy up for tender. We put forward a proposal and won. We started with a three month trial period, which was very successful, so we now have a permanent contract in the centre.

We employed Sammie to work in the cafe, and she was exactly what we needed. She does a fantastic job working there, managing all the stock and doing all the food preparation. Sales have been good since we started but Sammie comes up with great ideas of new products and promotions we can try to push the sales.

The cafe serves the students during their break times from classes, and as all of the classes tend to kick out around the same time it gets really busy between 10.30 and 11.30 and again 12.30 to 1.30 for lunch. Because of this we decided not to install an espresso coffee machine as it would really slow down service and the students would not get time to have a drink before going back to class. Instead we serve excellent quality freshly brewed filter coffee, teas and speciality teas.

When it comes to food offering we wanted it to be excellent quality and affordable. Sammie does a huge range of packaged sandwiches which she makes fresh in the morning. There’s also jacket potatoes, soup and sausage rolls. Until recently the cakes and biscuits have all come from the cash and carry which are really good, but a trial win home made cakes was a huge success. Unfortunately Sammie alone just doesn’t have time to make the cakes as well so we are exploring some options to find volunteers to help out.

Having volunteers working in our cafes is one of the main values of our business. The skills that can be gained from working in a cafe can be transferred into many different industries. Volunteers  working with Sammie, could learn customer service, money handling, stock management and food preparation. We would love to give young people the opportunity to work alongside Sammie if they are interested in having their own business in the future. This would be the perfect segway into taking on one of our “Coffee Cart Packages” which they run and manage themselves.

Fracino Coffee Machine Factory

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Since Roy started working at Switch Youth Cafe, he used a Fracino Brambino machine. This machine then got moved onto The Cafe at the Free Church so I have been using it the last two years. We have had it serviced once recently, and the engineer said they are a great machine that will last years.

Personally I think it is almost as good as the super expensive machines that Caffé Nero use. We have the semi-automatic version, which is obviously different from a high street store, but in a quieter pop up cafe it is more than sufficient. The espresso looks lovely and the milk froth is great. My only criticism would be that the hot water tap lets out a lot of steam as well as water making it quite hard to see what you are doing.

As we both agreed the Fracino machine is great, and comes at a really good price. We decided to chose this as our machine of choice for any of the projects we are involved in. We contacted the company and were thrilled to be invited up to the factory for a visit.

Fracino are a British company, with their factory and offices in Birmingham. The company was founded in 1960 by Frank Maxwell, who bought a coffee machine on holiday in Italy, stripped it down in his garden shed and started importing and supplying machines to British retail outlets. Since then the company’s manufacturing as grown to a site over 50,000 square foot where almost every single part of the machines are made. In fact they now sell their machines to Italian coffee makers.

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When we arrived at the factory, we were greeted by Hayley, who took us to a room filled with all of the coffee machines and grinders and everything else that they make. Hayley gave us a run through of all the machines and we talked about our different needs. She then showed us how machines we haven’t used work. We still love the Bambino, but we also think the Little Gem – which is a manual fill machine – would be great for coffee carts and pop up cafes, where a plumbed in machine would not be practical.

Hayley said the company are aware of the problems with the hot water tap, she said it is something they are working on but due to the engineering of the machine it’s not something that could ever be fully rectified. She suggested an urn for places that make a lot of teas and americana which is exactly what we would suggest.

IMG_0037Hayley then took us down to the actual factory where there were hundreds of machines in various different stages of production and boxes upon boxes of parts. Some bits were familiar to me, and things we would desperately try to get hold of when working at Nero, so it made me laugh to see them in such abundance.

IMG_0038The tour was really helpful and informative. We also became a distributor of Fracino machines, so we can get them for any of the project we work with. We would like to thank Hayley and Fracino for inviting us up. It has helped us a lot with decisions about machines, but also means we have much better knowledge to pass on to our future clients.

Welcome to BeanBag Cafe

So here is the first blog post I will be writing about BeanBag Cafe.

Many friends and family ask me “So what is this new business?” and any potential new clients are going to be asking us exactly the same. So I thought I would begin with an overview of exactly what it is we do.

A couple of years ago Roy was instrumental in opening a pop up cafe in the Staplehurst Free Church’s new building. It is open every Saturday during term time and completely run by volunteers. Roy used his previous knowledge of running a cafe and a little of my experience as a manager for Caffe Nero as well.

A lot of time and effort went into sourcing all the equipment, coming up with recipes and implementing policies. We realised that this is the biggest difficulty other people will face in trying to start up their own projects. We decided to put our knowledge and experience into a manual, training sessions, affordable packages and support. Other community projects can employ us to make the opening of their own cafes smooth and easy.

We want to help organisations use even the smallest spaces to open anything from a coffee cart to a full blown cafe and have packages to suit everyone’s needs and budget.

Our long term goal is to have high street cafes as well, that will serve communities through providing volunteering employment as well as affordable places for people to meet and become engaged in their community.

Currently we are getting all the manual and training programs written ready for our first clients to come through the doors. Recently we visited the factory where the coffee machines we shall be using, so look forward to a post on that.

Bec 🙂