How a suite of automated products are helping train café staff

Barista Technology Australia

Barista Technology Australia explains how its suite of automated products are being used to train café staff effectively and keep costs down.

Barista Technology Australia Director Brett Bolwell keeps hearing the same thing: “everybody’s struggling to get baristas”, and says it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

As more café operators apologise to customers for the cost of coffee going up, Brett says venues that are scared to raise their price for risk of losing clientele are going to carry a heavy burden. The only area they can mitigate some of those costs, is through labour and the use of technology.

“I was watching an efficiency video we did for a client, where we split the screen in half. On one side we showed a video of a barista manually tamping and steaming milk. On the other side of the screen was the barista using two automated products: the Perfect Moose and Puqpress. They both made three coffees and the barista that used the Perfect Moose [automated milk-steaming device] and Puqpress [automated tamper] was 40 seconds quicker than the manual operation,” Brett says. “The ability, efficiency and consistency of these products are proven, now we just have to get creative in the way we deliver the message.”

Brett says while most people now understand that automation can have a role in the way coffee is made, they don’t understand the actual net result of using such devices.

“No-one’s actually measuring the cost of recruitment and training, but I can tell you, it’s a lot,” Brett says. “When I spoke to Eddy Nader [Managing Director of Urbanista Coffee], he said he was spending $500 a week just on recruitment for one person. Then there’s the cost of training staff who last just two to three months before they up- and-leave, and the café owner has to go through the whole process again.”

While some café operators think the quick fix is to change coffee machines altogether, Brett says there’s a more cost- effective fix.

“The in-between solution is simply adding a few Perfect Mooses and Puqpresses and saving a third of the cost it would be to change a fleet of espresso machines, and a quarter of the cost it would take in annual maintenance fees,” he says.

“Think about the breakdown of costs. You can spent around $20,000 on a Perfect Moose, a grind-by-weight grinder and a Puqpress – which is going to cost you under $1000 for service annually compared to a new machine at $30,000 to $35,000 for example, and servicing fees which can total anywhere between $7000 to $11,000 or more per year.”

And it’s not just the return on investment that’s appealing. Brett says a busy café doing around 350 to 500 coffees a day typically has a second barista on hand for about three hours a day. That person is costing the business about $35 an hour, plus superannuation and more on public holidays, which quickly tallies to about $150 a day minimum.

“The [return on investment] for a Puqpress and Perfect Moose is pretty simple. The equipment pays for itself in under eight months compared to paying an extra salary,” Brett says.

“One barista could effectively operate two three-group machines with three Perfect Mooses and do the work of three baristas. I know of one Seven Miles account doing about 70 kilograms a week, mostly with one barista thanks to the Perfect Moose.”

One of the most time-critical components of coffee making, is milk texturing. If an average coffee extraction is 28 to 32 seconds, texturing a jug of milk takes on average 40 seconds. Manually, that time adds up. But rather than doing each step sequentially, Brett says a barista could be using the Perfect Moose to texture the milk and use their hands-free time to prepare cups for the next order, add sugars, take customer payment, or even prepare the next shot of coffee.

“What it does, is give you the ability to operate more efficiently, and ultimately, it’s less stress on the barista. At the moment, keeping them should be a priority,” he says. “Most other industries are looking to offer workers incentives to keep them happy, but in the barista world, you’ve got to incentivise them with products that makes their job less stressful.”

Brett says businesses also need to be thinking about their longevity and surviving in an inflationary economy where businesses, and small operators in particular, are at risk of shutting doors if they can’t find ways to save.

“Automation is part of our society now. Humans are still there to provide a level of customer service and share their knowledge, but I think if businesses aren’t looking to include at least one automated product in their equipment line-up, then they’ve completely missed the boat. If your barista is still weighing shots manually instead of grinding by weight, or manually tamping instead of automated tamping, you’re being left behind,” Brett says.

“You need to be monitoring what’s actually going on in your business. If you want to continue to train people properly, you need to know when they’re having problems and how to address them. That’s where products like Flow telemetry are so important. The amount of conversations we’re having now about the product is just nothing short of ridiculous. I’m talking to businesses with thousands of sites, and they all want this data and insight knowledge. I think everybody’s finally realised that what’s not measured can’t be improved on.”

The Flow system is designed as a tool to help coffee businesses monitor the output and skills of baristas in a constructive way, with information and data about how they hit or miss
set recipes, and maintain extraction consistency. It’s also a device that helps businesses maintain a high level of quality control, even when non-skilled baristas are employed.

“Flow is becoming the benchmark of the tests across the industry. It’s going to enable competition within the industry where we start to put out results of customer’s favourite cafés through an online portal. Customers could then see which café is hitting 89 per cent of [set recipes], which is the venue you want to get your coffee at compared to one that is only hitting 50 per cent, for example,” Brett says.

To back-up the technology with support, Barista Technology Australia has trained more than 250 technicians in the last two years, providing nationwide customer support on its complete range of products.

“Coffee making has to be simplified. We want people to be able to make their own on-site adjustments really easily, and simply. We don’t want them to have to call a technician or ring up a helpline to ask how to change the texture of the milk, how to make their tamp harder or softer, change their recipes, or how to add more coffee into the basket. It’s something they need to be able to do, and they can be taught in under 10 minutes with our products,” Brett says.

The future of training, Brett adds, is now, and its future, is in video format.

“My goal, to convert a three-hour face-to-face training session with a three- minute video, and democratise training across the entire industry,” he says.

“Current training is only adding more costs to the current commodity when the goal is to drive the cost down.

“The overall goal is to make the industry more sustainable. If I’m helping people who have put their livelihood and everything they own into their business, like most of us, then I want to see them succeed. I don’t want them to be a statistic, and the statistics of failure rates are there and real, so we’re hoping we can do some good and change people’s minds. Once we’ve moved forward, there’s no turning back.

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This article appears in the October 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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