This post is another in our Cafe Case Study series. We interview cafe owners to learn about the vision behind their space, the demographics of their city and then ask them a bit about the equipment they chose and why they made that decision.
Use these case studies as inspiration for your own cafe dreams or simply to get a behind the scenes look at some beautiful coffee spaces around the world.
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Coffeebar – Squaw Valley
Cafe open since February 2017 (first Coffeebar location opened in October 2010)
Squaw Valley, California (various locations throughout California & Nevada as well)
What made you want to open a cafe?
I have been in the coffee business for over 20 years. If you boil it all down to one thing, making people feel great is my personal M.O., so being able to offer daily hospitality in the form of great coffee is the main reason why I chose to open and work in cafés.
How would you describe the brand of your cafe?
We are a radically-inclusive, community focused cafe concept inspired by the cafes on every corner in Italy. Hospitality is our foundation and at the forefront of everything we do. Over the years, that has manifested into sourcing and roasting our own coffee, offering a true farm to table food program and creating rich relationships with producers who we believe in. We provide the fuel for our customers so they can go out and kick ass at whatever they do best!
Describe the location/demographics of the area where you opened. why did you choose this area?
Since opening our first café in Truckee, CA in 2010, it felt like a natural move to open in Squaw Valley as both areas celebrate that mountain lifestyle. I grew up ski racing in Winter Park, CO and have skied all over the world, and there are not many mountains that have the challenging terrain of Squaw Valley. The cafe sits right at the bottom of KT-22 , offering our baristas what is arguably the best view of any shop in the country!
The Squaw location opened February 27th, 2017. It was our fourth location. Here’s a timeline of our progress and future plans:
- Coffeebar Truckee, October 2010
- Coffeebar Reno, January 2014
- Coffeebar Bakery, April 2015
- Coffeebar Squaw Valley, February 2017
- Coffeebar Menlo Park, January 2018
- Coffeebar Roastery, opening in June 2018
- Coffeebar Redwood City, opening in December 2018
What equipment are you using to make coffee? why did you choose this equipment?
In Squaw, we wanted our bar to be super sexy yet also be able to handle high volume, so we used two Modbar Espresso EP units and four Modbar Steam units. For our espresso grinders we use Mahlkonig K30 and for drip coffee, the Mahlkonig EK43. Our drip coffee brewers are Wilbur Curtis!
Describe your bar or customer flow. break this down for us. how did the equipment influence the flow?
The Squaw build-out was a challenge because we needed a space that we could easily operate with just two baristas in the off-season while also being able to scale and accommodate long lines and up to twelve team members on busy holiday weekends.
We also wanted to have a more intimate connection with our guests during their experience in the store, so the Modbar was a perfect fit for that experience.
In order to keep everything running in the same direction, we have the two grinders, two espresso taps, then 2 steam units, the delivery space, and then the two additional steam units. See photo below for how this looks in real-life.
We set up four stations with designated baristas:
- the “Shot Packer,” who packs up to four portafilter handles at a time and brews shots
- the “Milk-ista,” who builds all drinks and steams
- the “Pour Pony,” who pours art, calls drinks and makes those all-important connections with customers at the hand-off
- We knew we were going to be steaming a ton of chais & hot chocolates so we also added a “Tea-ista” station to help offload non-espresso based beverages to keep ticket times at a minimum.
Last year during World Cup weekend, we had lines of 80-100 people for five hours straight, and operated the line with four baristas keeping all ticket times under five minutes! SUP!
Here’s a little more information on our ticket times and how we staff for huge volume days:
- An average busy weekend for us is 450/tickets a day. But, on huge weekends or holidays we see almost 650 tickets per day. Most of which have an espresso based drink or drip coffee, meaning not many with just food. Side note, about 40% of tickets have multiple drinks.
- Even with this volume, we’ve estimated that the 10th person in line, from start to finish, should be less than 10-15 min if we are properly staffed (drink only – food is a whole other issue depending on the crowd and what they are ordering).
- How do we keep up with this pace? We’ve noticed in both Squaw & Menlo, where we are seeing 4-5 $1,000+ gross revenue hours, that the big difference for us is that 4th person. Having only 3, you can only achieve 10-15 min times at best, where if you have that 4th person you can usually keep them under 5 min (unless there are mistakes or remakes (wrong milk, bad shots, adjusting grind, someone takes the wrong drink, etc.).
What’s one thing that makes your cafe special?
Our secret sauce is our ability to make our guests feel as if our café is the community hub they have always wanted and needed. We like to select underserved, niche communities and we are really, really good with our guest connection. We believe that each experience should be authentic and individually tailored, offering each guest exactly what they need in the moment and nothing they don’t.