So your small roastery is thriving, and you’re thinking about expanding. You’re in a good position to do so: you’re non-stop roasting, trying to meet all your orders; you’ve got plenty of customers; and you’ve already got the capital and resources.
But before you go ahead and announce your expansion plans, read these tips from Joe Bean Coffee Roastery. They’ve recently expanded from a small to medium-sized operation and they’ve agreed to share everything they’ve learned about making the transition.
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Joe Bean’s Head Roaster, Janine Melnick, works with a new Probat roaster. Credit: Cris Van Grol Photography
1. Planning & Preparation
“Everything is always harder than you think and everything always takes so much more of a learning curve,” Kathy Turiano, Partner and Founder of Joe Bean Coffee Roastery, tells me.
For her, nothing is more important than the planning and preparation stage. You need to take your time, do your research, build relationships, find the right staff, adjust your marketing… and more. Create a strategy to see you through this difficult transition period and remember to always allot time for unexpected problems.
“It’s really been a three-year process,” Kathy says, explaining that they spent a lot of time analysing where the company was going and where they’d like to take it.
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Doing this allowed the team to not just manage the risks of expansion but also launch other offerings at the same time. They knew they were going to have extra space and, eventually, extra time thanks to the larger roaster – what used to be ten hours’ worth of roasting now takes just two. So they decided to add a full commercial kitchen and also start a new nitro cold brew programme, for which they’re currently looking for wholesale distributors.
These opportunities would not have been possible without in-depth planning.
Joe Bean Co-Owner Ben Turiano helps to judge a micro lot competition in Colombia. Credit: Ben Turiano
2. Physical Space
Your new and larger roaster is going to take up more space. So too will your new staff members. And then there are all the other items that require storing somewhere, like those extra bags of green beans (and those extra roasted ones). The packaging. The paperwork and filing cabinets and break room space and – well, you get the point. Expanding your roastery requires far more than just a larger machine.
Calculate how much space you currently have and how much you’ll need. This is not the time to use conservative estimates.
Next, consider your options. If you’re already in a large unit, you might not need to change anything. If you need more space, however, look into whether you have to move or can expand into commercial space bordering yours. Luckily for Joe Bean Coffee Roastery, the space next to theirs became free at just the right moment. They were able to get permission to knock down the wall and turn the two units into one.
Once you’ve worked out what space you’ll have, you can then plan the best way to fill it. Joe Bean Coffee Roastery didn’t just add a larger roastery: they moved the roastery and added a kitchen behind the bar, where the roastery used to be. “It makes so much more sense to have the kitchen there,” Kathy says.
More space isn’t just a necessity: it’s an opportunity. Invest time and effort into planning your new layout, because it will become a lot harder to change it after you’ve already expanded.
Joe Bean’s Head Roaster, Janine Melnick, inspects the company’s new Probat roaster. Credit: Cris Van Grol Photography
3. Staff & Company Structure
When expanding, it’s important to have dedicated employees who share your vision. Operations Manager Dena Jones tells me that Joe Bean took on new staff during the expansion and that they were critical to the company’s success.
“Having all of these other people in the mix has been tremendous,” she says, “and recognising that everyone has something they bring to the table. Where I see our biggest growth has been in our people resource.”
As your business evolves, you won’t just need more people: you’ll also need people in new roles. Depending on your planned operations, you may find yourself looking for a roaster, business development manager, or green buyer.
It’s unlikely that it will be business as normal for your current staff, either. Will their roles change? Will they have more or less work and how are you going to help them manage it?
And, perhaps more importantly, how are you going to ensure that the team runs smoothly? Kathy tells me that, since their roastery is now in a different area from the café and restaurant, communication between the different units has become harder.
“We really had to rethink a little how to make sure that the different departments are communicating with each other,” she explains. “We scheduled our time more, making sure that we have a production meeting on a regular basis, we have a bar and a roastery meeting on a regular basis, just to make sure that communication is actually happening.”
Joe Bean Co-Owner Ben Turiano talks with producers in Nicaragua. Credit: Joe Bean
4. New Equipment
With a new roastery comes a new roaster. Joe Bean started with a 10-kilo Ambex machine that did approximately 60–80 lb/hour. When they expanded, they invested instead in a Probat 25-kilo machine that does approximately 250–300 lb/hour.
With new equipment comes a steep learning curve. Head Roaster Janine Melnick tells me, “When you’re changing from a smaller roaster to a larger roaster, your heat transfer changes and the thickness of your temperature probe changes, so the mass of your roasting has to change.”
Mastering the processes of a new machine takes time, and roasters must go through a trial and error phase (as well as doing significant amounts of research). Janine tells me, “Every roaster has their own personal roasting theory that’s made up of books that they’ve read and roasters they have talked to.”
In other words, plan to buy a new machine – but also plan to spend some time learning how to use it.
Joe Bean’s Head Roaster, Janine Melnick, at work. Credit: Cris Van Grol Photography
5. New Offerings
As you expand your roastery, you may be thinking of approaching different customers. This will require changing your business model as you understand their needs.
Kathy tells me that Joe Bean Coffee Roastery started to diversify their offerings. They now sell the same high-quality specialty coffees they used to, but also added more affordably priced coffees to the menu. She tells me that while these are still specialty-grade, they’re “community-blended lots” rather than single origins, which allows them to be priced more competitively for wholesale customers and distributors who want larger orders. In turn, this puts their coffee on the shelves of grocery stores.
They also had to reconsider their client relationships. “Even our sales department,” she says, “[we had to] kind of retool what kind of customer we were going after… It has just taken a little time for us to reimagine and change our mindset, our approach, and who we approach, as far as wholesale customers go.”
Not only did they have to adjust their menu and adopt new sales practices, but they also had to build new relationships – something that brings us to the point number 6…
Joe Bean’s Wholesale Director, Katie Hagstrom, with some of the company’s coffees. Credit: Rachel Liz Photography
6. Promoting & Relationship-Building
Many of Joe Bean Coffee Roastery’s business relationships have been years in the making. They were met at exhibitions, training programmes, and other industry events. “One of our strongest direct trade relationships,” Kathy tells me, “Ben [Turiano, Co-Owner] met them… probably about seven years ago at a coffee event and they just maintained the relationship.”
As you begin to think of expanding, look out for potential new partners and clients. Consider if you could work with any of your current contacts. And always make time to network.
Expanding your roastery can make it easier to promote your business and build new relationships for the future. With their extra time, resources, and staff, Joe Bean Coffee Roastery has been sending team members out to events, coffee farms, and more.
Janine, the Head Roaster, has been competing – something that both rewards her hard work and promotes the brand. The company also sent one of their baristas to origin. This motivated the barista and benefited the company, as the barista’s additional knowledge could be shared with the team and used in client materials. Ben Turiano, Co-Owner, also judged a micro-lot competition in Colombia.
Kathy tells me these have been valuable opportunities “that really swung the door open for us”. The team plans to continue sending their staff to events.
Of course, events are not your only options. You may decide that origin trips and competitions do not fit your strategy. But no matter what you do, it’s important that you have a plan for how you’ll raise awareness of your brand and create new business relationships.
Joe Bean Co-Owner Ben Turiano in Nicaragua with Gold Mountain Coffee farmer Don Roger. Credit: Ben Turiano
Expanding a roastery is never easy. However, with hard work and strategy, you can succeed. Consider the space, staff, and equipment available to you. Invest time and effort into relationships. And most importantly of all, plan, plan, and then plan some more.
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Interviews conducted by Brendan Nemeth.
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