What coffee culture means and how to create it

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 2, we cover the human element of coffee: why it’s intrinsic to both the customer/venue connection and the venue/supplier connection. Our commentators on this topic are Dave Makin, the founder of Axil Coffee, and Jamie Thomson from Silverchef, a company that provides flexible funding for commercial kitchen & restaurant equipment. 

The Human Element of Coffee

Hospitality, by definition, is just as much about the people and the service than the product. Of course, having a decent product is important - especially when you’re talking about coffee. The issue is, that you can refine and re-refine your coffee making process until it’s perfect - but it’s much harder to control the variables that govern human interaction. 

“I'd rather go to a place with a slightly lesser product, but where I enjoy the people,” says Jamie Thomson from Silverchef. “I really value service. Some baristas keep their head down when they’re making coffee, but what works is when they’re more conversational and adding a service component. People remember that and want to go back for the experience, not just the product.” 

The issue for many venue owners though, is how they should foster the connection between barista and customer. 


Monastery Coffee in Adelaide - a roaster and a cafe

A culture that keeps your barista happy

Dave Makin from Axil Coffee Roasters says that the moment the customer connects with the barista is actually the pointy end of a process that venues should cultivate to keep staff happy. 

“Team culture is so important, and there are certain fundamentals you can’t ignore: make sure everyone’s paid correctly, paid on time, super is in their account when it’s meant to be. These are basics but they lead to a better vibe.”

Additionally, having a consistent team culture combined with a consistent coffee culture helps shape the brand that you want to create. 

“We pride ourselves on trying to be consistent every day. If a coffee one day is a nine out of ten, but the next day it’s a four out of ten, then people aren’t going to go to that cafe. So what we do at Axil venues is serve a consistent eight out of ten every single day. And when that’s combined with a great barista experience, you can’t disappoint anyone.”


St Coco Cafe in Brisbane

Cultivate a deep relationship with your coffee supplier

Dave also believes that the coffee culture at your venue is directly influenced by the venue’s relationship with their coffee supplier. 

“You shouldn’t just be getting coffee in a bag from your coffee supplier. That’s a bad relationship. You should be getting more than coffee.”

To that end, Axil offers free barista training courses - but finds that venues don’t answer the call. 

“We offer huge amounts of support to all of our wholesale customers. And part of that is barista training courses. There's six different courses completely free of charge, and we even offer help with social media marketing…but we struggle to get people to book.” 


Mecca, one of Australia’s most popular coffee roasters

Your coffee supplier can help you (more than you know!)

The disconnect between venues and their coffee suppliers is because time and resource poor venue owners are generally time poor, and some are simply not cognizant of how much help they can actually get from their coffee supplier. 

“A lot of cafe owners either don’t know they need help, or just don’t ask for it, so then they just get their coffee in a bag,’ says Dave. “The other problem is that often when things are free, people don’t see the inherent value in it.” 

Despite this hurdle, Dave still believes that because of the nature of the coffee roaster/venue relationship, “it’s actually up to us to see when someone's struggling and offer help before people have to ask for it.” 

He’s seen the nature of this close relationship play out in different scenarios, which have made it clear that the relationship isn’t just transactional. “Coffee suppliers have such a different relationship to their customers. For example, your coffee machine has a problem. Even if it’s Sunday, you won’t have an issue calling your coffee supplier. But you wouldn’t necessarily call a chicken supplier or a chip supplier out of hours.”

Essentially, the advice from our experts boils down to one simple fact: hospitality runs on relationships, whether it’s the relationship to your customers, or the relationship to your suppliers…especially when it comes to coffee. If you use the knowledge of your suppliers and pass that on to your baristas, and you ensure that you’re doing everything you can to create a nurturing environment for your staff…then you’ll be well on your way to a happy and healthy coffee culture. 

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