Want less wastage in your cafe? Use the right equipment

It’s no secret that rising rates, higher bills, and staffing woes are taking a big toll on the Australian hospitality industry, which, outside of Europe, is the biggest in the world per capita

That’s why we’ve crafted this special series of articles based on our findings from MICE 2024 (Melbourne International Coffee Exhibition), where expert industry panelists gathered to speak about how cafe and venue owners can run better businesses.  

In Part 3, we receive insights from Jamie Thomson. Jamie has been a champion barista, has extensive hospitality experiences, and he now works for Silverchef, who provide flexible funding for commercial kitchen & restaurant equipment. 


Tim Adams in Brisbane

Today’s venue or cafe owner has a lot to think about. There’s menu creation, there’s marketing, and there’s human resources. Then theres's sustainability and waste management, key factors in a financially healthy business, as well as a socially responsible one. 

One of the keys to ensuring you’re on top of waste in your business is to review invoices and understand the product that's going in versus the product that’s going out. And once you’ve done that, it’s just as important to review your equipment. 

“Equipment is really important,” says Jamie. “If you've got efficient working equipment, it massively reduces waste and ends up saving you money, as well as making your business more sustainable.”

Use the right coffee grinders

For example, using the right coffee grinders can have a huge impact over time.“There are some coffee grinders, like the old Mazzer grinders, that simply don’t work as well as they should. In some high volume venues, around 15 years ago, we used to joke that we were working in a sand pit because half of the coffee grounds were on the floor.”


Gabriel in Melbourne

Another insight from Jamie is around the efficiencies of milk steaming. “In cafes, people steam too much milk and tip half of it down so that they can do latte art. It’s a big waste and there’s too much product for what’s being served. It’s important to look at milk wastage from a broader perspective and ensure that you’re efficient with your product.”

To do this, Jamie suggests assessing the different milk steaming units on the market from brands like Uber Milk or Latte Art Factory. 

“These steamers allow you to dial in a steamed milk recipe so you get the right amount of product. 

Work with suppliers to optimise your P & L 

Jamie is also a proponent of cafes working with suppliers to optimise their P & L. “Some suppliers will do just that, which is supply product. But many suppliers, especially coffee suppliers, will work with their customers to see where efficiencies can be created. Then there’s other suppliers who might turn a spotlight on the fact that you’re throwing a lot of food out unnecessarily.”

The busy nature of running a cafe means that changes in the business can sometimes be misinterpreted. “During COVID, I saw many cafes who increased their coffee sales. But it turns out they weren’t doing great because their food sales went down about 80% from people not sitting in - and in turn they were throwing out a lot of food each week.”


Tim Adams in Brisbane

Work with equipment suppliers to minimise waste

As a supplier of equipment, Jamie says Silverchef likes to partner with their venues to minimise waste. “We work with venues to ensure they’ve got the right piece of equipment in their venues to actually get what they want out of it.” 

He gives an example of a cafe who upgraded from an old Mazzer coffee grinder to a Mythos coffee grinder. =

“We did a review after three months and it turns out, from using the same amount of coffee they sold 15% cups because they had less waste.” 

Another example he gives is a cafe who had decreased their milk spend by about 12% just by using a product that allowed them to measure and steam more efficiently. “Good equipment ends up paying for itself, and you have the double sided benefit of becoming more financially healthy as well as a more sustainable business.” 

Negotiate on price

Once you're satisfied that you're using the right equipment, the next step is to negotiate with your supplier.

“Smart cafe owners will go back to their supplier and ask for a small drop in price, maybe a dollar per kilo. On a 30 kilo account, that’s $30 a week."

But even if you're saving a decent amount, it won't matter if you're not efficient with the product - and this always goes back to the equipment.  

At the end of the day, whether it's the right equipment or getting the best price, relationships are everything in hospitality. As a first step, choose suppliers who want to cultivate relationships, and as a second step, don’t forget to grow and cultivate those relationships too. 

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