This post is another in our Cafe Case Study series. We interview cafe owners to learn about the vision behind their space 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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CombiniCafé. Market Street, St Andrews, Scotland. Opened 16 June 2019. Co-founded by Alex Longson (24) and Juno Lee (23). As told by Alex Longson.
All photos courtesy of Cameron Prentice
Juno Lee (left) and Alex Longson (right)
What made you want to open a cafe?
Juno and I were students at the University of St Andrews, where we met and became close friends. We both shared a passion for minimal design, environmental consciousness and sharing our Korean heritage with others. Naturally, these overlaps led to us wanting to start something together to solve the problem of a lack of great lunch options in our college town. In 2017, we decided to launch CombiniCo, a fast-casual food brand which focusses on healthy and convenient Korean-inspired dishes for university on-the-go life. After the initial success of our first location, we wanted to extend our range to Japanese and Korean specialty tea and coffee served in a sleek, minimal setting with great customer service.
How would you describe the brand of your cafe?
We designed CombiniCafé around our three key values of minimalism, environmentalism and superior quality. It starts from the menu. We only offer 3 drink options — shot, filter and latte (more of a flat white). By reducing our customers’ choices, we’re able to give them the best and most consistent experience possible. We also treat our tea just like coffee, so you can order a roasted green tea latte or matcha shot, for example. This concept is unique in Europe since we are able to source our powdered tea directly the tea farm in Japan who grind the leaves specially for CombiniCafé.
CombiniCafé is 100% plant-based. We only serve our coffee with oat milk and all our pastries are dairy-free. We also have invested in 100% compostable packaging for all our takeaway items, which is unique for a Scottish start-up.
What equipment are you using to make coffee? Why did you choose this equipment?
In terms of equipment, our commitment to offering highest quality and experience left us with only one option. We are really proud to be the first and only café in Scotland to be using a Modbar AV system. Since we were inspired by the tea houses of Korea and Japan, our grinders and cleaning units were chosen to be as quiet as possible. We use a Malhkonig Peak grinder for our espresso beans and a silent Profondi portafilter cleaning unit so that the ambience of the cafe is never disrupted.
Describe your bar or customer flow. break this down for us. how did the equipment influence the flow? or vice versa?
CombiniCafé is located in a 600 year old Grade-B listed building. We discovered original sandstone architecture behind the plasterboard when we moved in and decided to panel it in glass to showcase the history of the site. The bar is the first thing you see when you enter the cafe and the beautiful matte black Modbar system draws customers in where our sales team can then take the order. Our glass display sits on the right of the bar, holding our 100% plant-based breakfast pots and matcha-infused croissants.