Toby’s Estate launches new training program

Toby’s Estate explains why 2020 has been a year of action with a new training program committed to the realities of café ownership.

While COVID-19 was making its presence in Australia felt, Simon Gautherin, Head of Training for Toby’s Estate, was in France. Simon had travelled to his native homeland to compete in the national Brewers Cup competition, but on arrival, discovered the competition was cancelled. 

On his return to Sydney, he discovered dine-in service at cafés was restricted, and the Toby’s Estate’s training school, which had previously run several classes per week for wholesale customers and public members, had also shut its doors.

While disappointing, Simon and Nich Rae, Head of Coffee, made the most of the situation and reflected on how they could improve Toby’s Estate’s training program.

“The shutdown happened really quickly, but it gave us the opportunity to take a breather and refocus the vision, strategy, and content of our training program. We asked ourselves, ‘what did we want the classes to reflect? What did we want our café customers to learn? How could we integrate them more within our business?’” Simon questioned.

“We spoke to our customers, listened to their needs, and developed an ambitious new program that we think is more in line with the current needs of the market. It was a great opportunity for Nich and I to work together because Toby’s Estate is one of the biggest specialty coffee roasters in the world, therefore everything we do has to be scalable. We need to think how our actions can be implemented to 900-plus cafés, throughout Australia and overseas.”

The pair decided on three main goals for the Toby’s Estate training program. The first, to support and train wholesale customers. The second, to continue holding public classes, and the third, to use it as an educational tool within the company. 

The new training program for wholesale customers is broken into four modules. Level one is foundation training. This practical module will teach the basics of coffee making. After completion, someone who has never touched coffee will be able to make espresso and steam milk. 

Level two is focused on taste. Customers are taught how to analyse a cup of coffee, describe it and then troubleshoot when coffee is not tasting right. Toby’s Estate trainers will use its newly-released tasting grid to rank acidity, flavour, finish, and mouthfeel on a scale of one to eight. This system helps customers understand the benchmark when they make coffee and provide an extra level of consistency. 

“Q grading courses are in-depth and more focused towards baristas with extensive industry experience. But when you’re a barista behind the machine daily, what’s important is being able to practically adjust when the coffee is not tasting right. That’s where the grid is a great tool to analyse and troubleshoot any issues,” Simon says. 

Level three is focused on latte art. This module delves into advanced pouring techniques. And level four, Simon explains, will be one of the “most exciting” courses Toby’s Estate offers. Focused on single origins, it will be a continuation of level two, so users will need to understand how to use the Toby’s Estate grid to progress. 

“Level four is about identifying different origins, processing methods and varietals in coffee, and setting expectations on how they will taste,” Simon says. 

Toby’s Estate rotates about seven single origins each month. As such, Simon says customers were keen to gain more knowledge on how to assess which single origins were right for their venues and customers.

“It’s the same when you go to a bottle shop. There’s often hundreds of bottles with different labels of different varietals and regions. It can be very difficult to see what wine matches your needs, and it’s the same for coffee. We want our café customers to be confident and excited about the coffee they’re buying and tasting,” he says.

 The new training program is set for release in early 2021. The course length has been trimmed from eight hours to four, meaning most customers can complete the course over two days. Ideally, once restrictions ease, wholesale customers will be allowed back into the Toby’s Estate’s training facility. However, the team are also assessing how the new modules can be delivered should restrictions remain.

Besides redesigning the training program, Simon has been busy supporting Toby’s Estate’s café customers, completing close to 70 in-person training sessions since May. 

“When our customers couldn’t come to us, I went to them. We had to adapt and rethink the way we worked entirely. I spent more time with our sales team to visit their key customers and customise the training to their specific needs. It’s been one of the most innovative things we’ve done this year,” Simon says. 

“Each training session was different. I got to see the customer in their own environment, identify any issues, troubleshoot, and train them on everything from recipes to workflow and technique. We used to train 10 people together at once, but this way I’ve been able to address issues I see in person, such as incorrect grinder placement for efficient workflow. This experience really helped us build the new training curriculum to be more focused on problem-solving.”

Simon says his customers were “relieved and grateful” to see how much the Toby’s Estate team has supported them throughout the year, and the results speak for themselves. After spending time in-person with one of his customers, Simon did a follow-up session and saw the coffee experience improve ten-fold. 

“This customer wasn’t using scales. Now they do and follow a strict recipe. As a result, they’ve had a lot more returning customers who have noticed how consistent the coffee is. Customer feedback is the ultimate compliment. It really does reinforce that we’re moving in the right direction,” Simon says.

As such, one of Toby’s Estate’s goals is to have every café account using a scale to weigh shots by the end of 2021. Simon also hopes to measure the correlation between training and improved cup quality and increased volume.

While this year has been one of reflection, it’s also given Nich and Green Bean Buyer Charlotte Malaval, more quality time together than ever before. 

“Between sales, production, roasting, green bean buying and relationship managers, we have embraced everyone’s input, challenges, and vision into the new training program,” Simon says. 

“Our interaction has provided the entire team with a deeper knowledge and confidence on different areas of the business. Our training program is therefore not strictly focused on our wholesale customers, it’s beneficial for the growth of all staff.”

Prior to joining Toby’s Estate one year ago, Simon was running his own barista training company in Sydney. He says the opportunity to work with a national brand has allowed him to make an impact on a larger scale with access to greater resources and a large team to learn from and grow with.

“I love the way the team works together to achieve a common goal for the benefit of our customers who enjoy using Toby’s Estate coffee,” Simon says. 

“I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to achieve this year. The ultimate goal is always improving cup quality, and if we can continue to do that and serve even more Toby’s Estate coffee throughout the country, then it’s a real win-win.” 

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