When Peter Dore-Smith couldn’t find a “decent cup of coffee” he opened his own café, Kaffeine, in London’s Fitzrovia. Just 18 months on, it has already picked up awards. Neil Gerrard reports
Peter Dore-Smith has a long experience of working in hospitality, having been employed in a series of front-of-house roles in hotels, restaurants and bars in his home town of Melbourne. Later he worked in hospitality workplace training and assessment before coming to London in 2005.
After a stint as a hospitality recruitment manager for Berkeley Scott he took on the role of staffing and recruitment manager at Lord’s cricket ground. But one thing about living in the UK bothered both Dore-Smith and his wife – they couldn’t find what they term a “decent cup of coffee”, so the plan to open Kaffeine was hatched.
It took time to raise capital in a fierce financial climate but Dore-Smith eventually found a site in Great Titchfield Street in early 2009. By late summer 2009 it was open, after a refurbishment of just five weeks.
How it stands out
Dore-Smith wanted to make a statement with the cafe’s design. He chose architectural firm WTAD to create a clean and stylish design for the small high street site, with walls stripped back to the original brickwork and floors stripped back to the original floorboards. The business is located in an area of London that is remarkably chain-free, with none of the big coffee chains like Costa or Starbucks operating on the same road.
Even before Dore-Smith started Kaffeine, he began attending coffee community nights, which would see around 30 or 40 enthusiasts meet up to taste and talk about coffee. The nights were organised by Square Mile Coffee, a company founded by James Hoffmann, the 2007 winner of the World Barista Championship, and Anette Moldvaer, who won the 2007 World Cuptasters Championship (where competitors observe the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee).
“I started to get to know them, told them what I wanted to do, showed them my business plan and visuals and James said he would supply coffee,” Dore-Smith says. “His name helped get us noticed in media circles.”
Dore-Smith uses Chef’s Connection for fruit and vegetables, Seven Seeded Bakery for pastries and bread (Kaffeine’s sandwiches, salads and baked treats are produced fresh on site) and London Dairies for milk.
The stylish design of the site helps Kaffeine in its bid to appeal to the local demographic. The area is full of office blocks occupied by media, design, TV and advertising companies, with the likes of the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation within easy walking distance of the café. That means Kaffeine is full throughout most of the day with style-conscious professionals taking time out from work or conducting informal meetings.
To help draw that type of customer in, Dore-Smith has resorted to the latest technology. His main marketing tool is Twitter, which he used recently to publicise the fact that Kaffeine was raising money for victims of the Australian floods, as well as serving Lamingtons (an Antipodean sponge cake treat) to mark Australia Day. Thanks to Dore-Smith’s 1,300 followers retweeting his messages, he estimates word got out to around 10,000 people.
Aside from Twitter, he is dabbling in FourSquare – another social media website, which encourages users to “sign in” to a location and alert their friends as to where they are. The person who signs in the most becomes the “mayor” of that location, and in Kaffeine’s case, they win a double ristretto. Dore-Smith has made enough of a success of the tool to feature in a CNN America report about businesses turning the web to their advantage.
The original business plan for Kaffeine was to open more sites under the same name. But Dore-Smith now plans to open other individual businesses. “I don’t want to have a Costa, or a Nero or a Starbucks,” he says. “I want to have individual businesses – maybe five or six or more. I am very lucky that after 18 months of operation, I am where I thought I would be in four years. This year is about consolidation but something may happen next year.”
Spotlight on the coffee machine
To try and mark itself out from the crowd, Kaffeine splashed out on what many consider to be the Rolls-Royce of coffee machines – a Synesso Cyncra (worth around £7,500).
“La Marzocco machines are very popular but I wanted to invest a little more just to be a bit different,” Dore-Smith says. “We were the first café in London to have Square Mile coffee from a Synesso machine and for coffee geeks that is an attraction.”
The machine sits prominently on the bar, and staff are encouraged to get customers behind the bar and talk them through the technology and the beans they use to make their coffee by making a double ristretto.
“An espresso is 25-30ml of coffee extracted for 25-30 seconds and we use about 20g of coffee to get that. A ristretto is half that, extracted through the machine for 15 seconds and for a single you only get about 10-15ml of coffee. The flavour is amazing. It is really intensified,” Dore-Smith explains.
“We get our customers involved and people are blown away because they often don’t realise so much goes into coffee and our staff are so knowledgeable and passionate.”
Peter dore-smith’s revelations
Favourite café Seven Seeds Roastery, Melbourne, Australia
Favourite restaurant Caravan, Exmouth Market, London
Favourite books The Art of War, Sun Tzu; The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber
Motto Be particular and pay attention to the details
Who do you most admire? My grandfather
Who has inspired you in your business? Nick Jones, Soho House Group
Describe your business in five words Busy, buzzing, quality, passionate, hospitable
Facts and stats
Manager Catherine Seay
Chef Jared Bryant
Members of staff 10 (1 part-time)
Customers per day 450-500
Average spend per head £4.50