Dr. Steffen Schwarz began his second career in coffee. While dabbling in coffee consulting, it was after a trip to London that he and his wife fell in love with the concept of opening a coffee shop.
T&C: How long have you been in business?
SS: My first contacts with the food and beverage industry was in 1995. I started my first company “Dionysos Consulting,” which focused on strategic consultancy to the food and beverage market. My main focus was on beer, fish, packaging and coffee. I studied medicine before and worked as a doctor in the field of traumatology. All biochemical backgrounds are still a deep resource for me today in a deeper understanding of different processes, such as roasting, foaming milk, coffee processing, extractions etc.
T&C: How did you begin?
SS: In 1999 I started my second company, “The Coffee Store,” while running four coffee shops in Germany. We increased product range and knowledge, which allowed us our first franchise in 2002. Our baristas participated in Barista Championships from the first moment they existed in Germany (since 2001), and we could increase our knowledge and quality in our shops constantly since that time. We invested a lot in barista training and have built an excellent barista team over the years.
In 2005, I added a third company “Coffee Consulate,” which focused on training with a specifically designed 500-sq.m training center in Mannheim (www.coffee-consulate.com).
T&C: Why did you decide to open a shop?
SS: In 1996, my consultancy company had designed a coffee shop-concept for a large baker-group in Germany that was just taken over a few weeks before the planned start of a first coffee shop. So we did not sell the concept and it was kept in our drawers. I came back to it after a trip to London with my wife. When we decided to open a coffee shop in Germany. We opened a first coffee shop in Mannheim (50-sq.m.) and an even smaller one in Heidelberg (26-sq.m.). Later we added only bigger ones (120-sq.m. ) and are now intending to replace the smaller ones with larger locations, as these are more efficient.
T&C: What tea & coffee product lines do you offer?
SS: We are only a coffee company so far. Yet this will change in the future presently as we are looking into tea . So far we offer: 4 four standard espresso-blends, 2-4 espresso single origins and edition espresso blends (such as Monsooned Malabar AA Espresso); six Espresso-Blends (Barista Edition) created by some of our best baristas (Espresso Bangalore, Espresso Boqu£ron, Espresso Botafogo, Espresso Corcovado, Espresso Dire Dawa, Espresso Ipanema). We offer five standard coffee blends, three single origin standard coffees (Mexico Organic, Guatemala Maragogype, Ethiopia Sidamo Grade 2) and 10-15 changing single origin, estate and Cup of Excellence coffees.
T&C: What food/pastries do you offer?
SS: We serve muffins, brownies, cookies, and bagels (13 different types and various spreads). We also sell different accessories in our shops from cups and saucers to machines, grinders, coffee plants, biscuits, chocolate, and barista-tools. In fact , we offer a product range of over 1,000 products directly related to coffee.
T&C: Who are your beverage line suppliers?
SS: Local soft-drink companies. We have some mineral waters, some unsweetened biological natural lemonades (bionade) and Afri-Cola (a German brand).
T&C: Do you have any signature drinks?
SS: We have many different ones depending on the season. They change and we always try some new things, along with our standards. Just one example is our ‘Cococcino’ - a coffee drink consisting of steamed coconut milk, dark chocolate sauce and one shot espresso. There are others with spices, thyme, dark chocolate and pepper, etc.
T&C: What are your most popular coffee origins?
SS: Ethiopia, Brazil, India, Mexico, Costa Rica, Cuba, Australia and Hawaii.
T&C: What is your most popular type of tea/coffee?
SS: This depends from shop to shop. The best selling products are Caffe Latte, Cappuccino, Espresso and our Cafe Creme (Swiss style coffee roast and extraction).
T&C: Please give us an estimate on foot traffic.
SS: Overall, we have around 70% turnover in drinks, 12% Food, 10% whole beans, and 8% sales in accessories. We are serving 500 – 1,500 customers (per shop) a day. Sometimes the numbers are higher on special days. We are probably one of the strongest “to go” coffee sellers in Germany, as we do around 50% of our coffee in take away paper cups.
T&C: What are the demographics of your customers?
SS: 60-70% of our customers are women. Age distribution ranks from 16-104 years (at least the oldest customer we know in here). Main age is from 25-45. Depending from the time, and of course the location of the shop. You have a time frame with many University students, but our main customer field are bank-clerks, employees from surrounding shops and administration people.
T&C: Can you offer any promotional ideas? Incentives for purchasing or publicity; point of sale items, such as gift certificates, contests, advertising, etc.
SS: We have traditional bonus cards, ‘Best Customer Cards’ — that offer a 20% discount. If you purchase 27 drinks in advance, that are worth 15, that can be cut down to $1.50 segments. We do coffee nights, where customers are served signature drinks and offered coffee blends that we created for championships with our baristas. We offer five different types of seminars (coffee 1 & 2, espresso, machines and barista). For Easter and Christmas we also sell decorational items that we use to decorate our shops to our customers.
T&C: What brand (type of) espresso machine do you have?
SS: Reneka (Viva S) and Rex Royal (for the Swiss Coffee)
T&C: What brand (type of) roaster do you have?
SS: Old German Brand Barth from Ludwigsburg (near Stuttgart).
T&C: Whom do you roast for?
SS: We roast for about 15,000 shop customers, and approximately 50 different smaller restaurants and coffee shops.
T&C: Is it under your own name, or do you do private label?
SS: All private label.
T&C: How do you recruit employees? How do you retain them?
SS: The best employees start working with you while they are in high school or in the universities. We also offer special apprenticeship over two years, followed by a bachelor degree in four different fields, that can be done working in our company. It is an integrated study that we are offering in cooperation with different universities for integrated studies in Germany. Baristas, in average, stay and learn with us for 5-6 years.
T&C: Describe your store’s layout. Do you have a turnkey design, and if not how do you find your furniture, equipment, etc.?
SS: All of our shops are designed the same way. We have our specific chair models and our shop-builders. We are always undergoing special training programs with our team. Belonging to some of the oldest coffee shop companies in Germany, we are still a smaller group as we focus on quality and education.
The Coffee Store Gmb, Geschèftsfƒhrer: Dr. Steffen Schwarz, Sandra Schwarz E1, 16 – 68159 Mannheim – Deutschland. Tel: +49 (0) 621 718 58 08 , Fax: +49 (0) 621 718 58 09. Web: www.coffee-store.de, www.coffee-consulate.com