BeanScene Magazine

3fe’s Colin Harmon breaks attendance record for Toby’s Estate’s Knowledge Talks tour

From the September 2017 issue.

More than 600 people have turned up to hear 3fe's Colin Harmon speak in Toby’s Estate’s Knowledge Talks tour.

“This is the highest level of attendance ever for Knowledge Talks,” said Toby’s Estate’s Managing Director Cosimo Libardo.

Crowds in Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne packed out venues from 4 to 7 September to hear from the four-time Irish Barista Champion.

“It’s a huge honour and a privilege to speak to Australian audiences. It’s great to come here and steal all your good ideas and pass them off as my own back home,” Colin joked.

Colin spoke to crowds about the inspiration and development of his new book, What I Know About Running Coffee Shops, and the economic sustainability of the specialty coffee industry.

“There were lots of books out there about business and lots about coffee, but none that combined both topics together, so I wrote 55,000 words and created a book,” he said. “There’s no definitive way to run a coffee shop and I’m not the world’s most perfect coffee shop owner, but this book is my case on how to do it, and covers the things I’ve got right and wrong along the way.”

His book has now sold 10,000 units and a second print run is shortly on its way.

This was the fifth time Colin has been to Australia in the past four years.

“Every time I come to Australia I learn new things to take away, and when I go back home people think I’ve got a vision into the future, but it’s only because I’ve been here,” he said.

Despite Colin’s fondness of Australia’s coffee culture, he said the one thing that could be improved was the selling of retail beans and the development of retail walls. He noted it was one of the easiest cafe items to sell – and much easier to assemble than a sandwich.

“It’s the only thing I think you can do an awful lot better,” he said.

Colin also spoke about hiring staff, and the next big movement in the specialty coffee industry.

“I think things will change dramatically,” he said. “Specialty coffee has gone through development stages, from temperature stability, measuring extraction, grinders, water focus, low pressure shots, and this year I believe is all about sustainability. It could sound ridiculous but I think 2018 will be the year of visibility, when Baristas to start to post photos of business plans, spreadsheets and graphs on Instragram instead of their latest single origin. It’s about making profitability more sexy.”

Colin said specialty coffee was still in its “teenage phase” and that it's time to move it into early adulthood.

One way Colin intends to help grow it in terms of visibility, is by the development of WIKARCS (abbreviated from the book title What I Know About Running Coffee Shops). Colin’s new Strava-like monitoring system he hopes to deliver in time for the new year. The system will be mobile friendly and allow users to measure their business performance, from the number of donuts sold per day, to daily coffee orders, and provide comparable data.

“It will not make your business more successful, that’s not the point, but it will allow people who don’t have the fundaments of business in place, to start to understand them better,” he said.

To purchase a copy of Colin’s new book, What I Know About Running Coffee Shops, click here.

Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Las Nubes Daycare and Afterschool-Learning Centre.

The centre supports the education of more than 40 children aged between three and 12. 

To read more about Colin's next chapter, see the latest article in BeanScene magazine's August edition.

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