Thursday, 19 July 2012

The 2 Month Review

Wow, my baby Palmoino Espresso is 2 months old. Time flys!!

Firstly a huge thank you to all our lovely customers. Opening on York Street in the city I never expected to feel such a sense of community with the workers near by. Its been great getting to know you all, learning the coffee orders (slowly) and generally beginning to feel like we're part of the area. Thank you for supporting us, it makes getting up at 3am to bake all worth while!

Other exciting developments since we opened are the start of our coffee tastings on Tuesday afternoons. They've been running these past couple of weeks with customers sampling the cold drip, pour overs and we've even got the antique lever machine running which has been a huge hit. Don't forget to pop in next Tuesday 2-3pm to try something new from our caffeine menu.

You also may have noticed our new menu boards, wohoo!! I've uploaded a couple of photos of us making and installing below. It was quite an amusing / stressful day..... learning on the job for sure, another DIY success me thinks. 

Anyho now that life is a little more routine, I will attempt to be more regular with the blog posts.... attempt :)
Tony looking serious using the lever on Ol Queenie

Charlie looking scary cutting up the menu boards

Me looking stupid trying to hold the boards straight

and the nearly finished menus :)

Monday, 11 June 2012

Lazy long weekend

Charlie studying the menu at Toast

Hope everyone has had a fab long weekend. The weather couldn’t have been soggier but I’ve got to admit I enjoyed the cosiness of it all. I have appreciated some serious chill time after last weeks 14 hour working days. I also got to enjoy relaxing at other peoples cafes which I always find invigorating! This weekend we went to old favourites Toby's in Wooloomooloo, biggest servings of scrambled eggs in Sydney! Toast in Surry Hills, love the ever changing brekkie specials and La Banette Pattisserie in Glebe, nobody does pastries quite like this place.

This morning myself and Wifey were back at the kitchen stove prepping up lots of food ready for tomorrow. We’ve got slow cooked beef and gravy ready for the pies. Made more of our famous granola. Even stewed up some chickens for delicious chicken and mushroom pies. Tomorrow morning we’ll get into the shop and actually make the pies up so they’ll be fresh out the oven ready for lunch. Nothing beats a warm house-made pie on a winters day. Get in quick before they run out!

What the final product will look like!

Monday, 4 June 2012

I wish that I knew then what I know now

Much has been learnt in the past 2 weeks of opening. The learning curve sure is steep but I am loving the challenge. It’s exciting, its nail biting and I have a funny feeling in my toe. What follows therefore is my list of 10 ‘I wish I knew then what I know now’ moments.  Feel free to take the advice and not make these school boy errors in your own business….. oh and you can have a listen to Rod Stewart whilst doing so.
Faces - Ooh La La 
(this link will take you away from page, I'm not clever enough to know how to do otherwise)

      1. Order products with plenty of time to actually arrive
      Avoid the nervous wait to see if you'll actually have chairs for customers to sit on.
      2.  Never trust the council when they say “it only takes 4-5 weeks”
      City of Sydney Council moves about as fast as an arctic glacier. We put in our development application for a sign and outdoor seating the day after we signed the lease. This now means our application has been in process for 8 weeks without an answer! I feel certain that if we had hounded them more things may have gone a little quicker. We left it 3 weeks before the first call to see how it was all progressing and they hadn't even started! Only after that first call did things get rolling, oooh so slowly.
      3.  In your first few days – go simple
      Prepared or not service will be slightly crazy in those first few days/weeks. The processes are still being worked out and fine tuned. Its best, therefore to just do the basics well. We spent days thinking of an awesome menu only to scrap half at the end of the week because certain things just didn't work. You need to think about what the capacity of your kitchen can handle - lots of different dishes means more ingredients to order, increased stock to store and generally slower service time. We've culled our menu down to the best dishes. These dishes can be concentrated on, perfected and the whole operation is altogether smoother and simpler.
      4.  Don’t have your opening party the night before you actually open
      Bad move on our behalf. Not quite sure what we were thinking when this decision got made. Worries about your first day only get multiplied by worries of also having a successful opening night party. Try chatting to friends and family whilst also working out in your head all that needs to get done before the next morning. Factor in clean up, next days food prep, baking and a little bit more baking and you end up going to bed at 2.30am in the morning and waking up 1.5 hours later at 4.30am to start your very first day of trade. Not to be re-lived.
      5. Prepare blog entries in advance of busy times
      Yes, as I'm sure you were only too aware of my lack of blog entries over the past 2 weeks. Working 14 hour days does not bode well for successful posts. Would have been good to have a few pre-written posts up my sleeve.
      6. Start looking for good quality staff, early!
      Mad rushes to hire anyone who walks in off the street don't usually lead to quality staff. We've found a few gems this way but we've also found plenty of duds too.
      7.  Get a sign
      This could depend of your location and frontage but we definitely need a sign. A sign was something seen as not essential in the build up to opening and in hindsight this was right, it wasn't. But now things are up and running and people are trying to find us or even just see the shop from across the road, the lack of signage is becoming a distinct disadvantage.
      8.   Get your website up prior to opening
      Oh to have free time again. I remember, not so long ago before Palomino opened lounging about the house thinking that I really should write the content for my website. Old lazy Liesel decided that it would be much easier once the cafe opened. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Bad lazy Liesel, you will have no time once your shop opens and the website will become the monkey on your back gnawing at your thoughts and generally making things feel unfinished.
      9.   Spend time on your budget – 20mins of guess work is not enough is it Liesel? No it is not.
      I got off pretty lucky on this one as we did finish the cafe under budget. However, I did see how it could so easily go very wrong. We did a rough budget and thought it was fantastic. Fast forward 2 months and we realise we'd forgotten to factor in costs like carpenter fees, general building costs, astronomical legal fees and shelving. We saved our butts by not spending as much in other areas. 
     10.  Accept that not everything will be perfect when you open
      No one will notice all those minor details stressing you out. Go with the flow, smile and you can sort out the little stuff on your next day off!
the cute puppy has nothing do to with the post, i just wanted to draw you in. mwah ha ha ha

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Thank you all!

Oh my goodness, I've sat down to write this blog entry at least 5 times. It's just really hard to know where to begin when so much has happened!

I’ll start with the opening night, attended by so many of our friends and family. What a wonderful/nerve racking experience it was to show off the place and the hard work to you all. Thanks for coming along and thank you especially for all the support provided in the run up to opening. The generosity of your time and help is something I will never forget. To those of you that turned up after work to help paint or tile. Even when most of the help was through motivational chatter. To my Mum and Charlie who stayed the night before opening till 2.30am only to get up at 4am for more baking… yep folks 1.5 hours sleep for my first day! Karl my brother, you were always there when needed, so much would have been impossible without your strength (as in muscles).  Heidi my sister, you have given up so much of your time, I would never have even opened that first day if it weren’t for you. That goes for you too Aaron (Morgan’s Coffee), your help has gone above and beyond the call of duty and your coffee knowledge is inspiring.

Lastly, a huge thank you to the wonderful customers who have ventured into Palomino Espresso over the last 2 weeks. No we don’t have a sign yet and yes we are smiling at you but you risked it anyway! Thanks, you have all been lovely and we really appreciate your support.

Gushy gushness. Alright well I’ve got it all out there now. And in the process I have also got back on the blogging bandwagon. Yeehar! Stay tuned, the routine is back….. tomorrow i’d like to talk about all the lessons learnt from opening week, a good one for any café owners to be! Ahhh, feels good to be back.

bottled cold drip!
lotsa goodies
old American milk caps

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Favourite Sydney Coffee and Foodie Blogs

Extra reading makes you look smart and sound clever. This is why I’d like to recommend some of the latest and bestest foodie/coffee blogs out there at the moment. All of the below are fun to read, pretty to look at and very informative. Not one of these writers will use the word ‘bestest’ but all of them are guaranteed to make you more knowledgeable and therefore desirable.... just sayin’.

The Bean Stalker: Brisbane based coffee worshipping blog written by a professional roaster. Love the in-depth, passionate discussions about coffee brewing methods and all the interesting vidoes too. This guy knows what he's talking about. An inspiring and hugely informative read.

Fork It: Fork It food blog is a mix of detailed flowing reviews and mouth watering recipes all created by aspiring chef and writer Oni. Her posts are passionate and have a hint of Nigella Lawson about them “i get intimate with the produce”. Totally into the feel of this blog and always left inspired to cook. Big plus for vegetarians as reviews will usually comment on what veggie options were available at the time.

Corridor Kitchen: Really like this blog which reviews cafes, products, recipes, events in the inner Sydney area. The posts are honest and hearty with the writer always mentioning the coffee. I like how any criticism is constructive and always fair. I get the feeling she genuinely would like all the places on her radar to be good but is willing to give reasons as to why something may not have been working that day. The aesthetics and layout of this blog make it a pleasure to peruse around and I often find myself enticed into other articles from interesting photos and post titles.

Sydney Coffee Nerd: Sold purely by the scoring system on this blog. Max 10 point score in 4 categories of coffee style, coffee experience, cafe cool, cafe service. Looooove it, detailed and mildly neurotic, what a joy. The writer is super honest and quietly amusing. I find this blog is best appreciated smirking whilst stroking a white fluffy cat with ones hook. Definitely one of my favourites.

The Adventures Of Miss Piggy: I enjoy the way Miss Piggy writes, each blog post feels like a mate is talking to you. Complete with humour and Dad joke puns to match. Posts are always accompanied by large good quality photos, which is awesome for folks like me that get put off by too many words. My favourite thing however, about Miss Piggy’s blog are the pages ‘Sydney Eating Wishlist’ and ‘Global Eating Domination’. I generally like people who aspire to be dictators and Miss Piggy is no exception. She ticks off the list once each said establishment has been visited - rule that list!

Secret Foodies: This is a must read for food enthusiasts in the Sydney area. Plenty of beautifully crafted, flowing reviews to be had on this site. You can sit in the comfort of your own home and read about the fun other people have had at various lovely restaurants. Orrr are we feeling a bit crazy tonight? Well if so, sign yourself up for a food adventure into the unknown! Secret Foodies run surprise themed dinners. You buy a ticket and then couple of hours before the event you find out where you're off to! Go and meet up with other like minded culinary explorers!

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry: Cute little unassuming blog thats been going for an age in terms of blogging time (since 2007). I like how the writer is clearing just doing this for love of food. Simple but beautiful pictures and posts keep me coming back, keep it up!

The Coffee Guide: Fun and interactive Australian cafe review website. Download the app and rate cafes that you visit, even score your barista! Each week a new cafe/barista will be awarded top dog and get an interview on the front page of the website for the whole next week.

A Table For Two: Ex-masterchef contestant Billy Law has set up a pretty dandy website featuring the best eats in Sydney and around the world. The reviews are largely for Asian style restaurants and dishes with food photography that will leave you salivating.

This list is by no means an exhaustive one. Australia is especially passionate about food and coffee so there are lots of awesome foodie blogs out there. If you know of an especially good one that I've left off this list let me know in the comments and i'll be sure to check it out.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Making personal sacrifices to set up a business

I tumbled out of bed this morning to find my feet caught up in the piles of clothes currently layering my floor. Right now, you wouldn’t even know that my bedroom does in fact have beautiful wooden floorboards. I fumble around the drawers to find there’s not an awful lot about in terms of clothes. Clean knickers anybody? Oh the personal sacrifices made in the run-up to opening this cafe.

Many people don’t realise the full extent of how much time you have to give to setting up a new business. Or, if you’re like me you had an idea but when it comes down to it, that doesn’t make the workload any easier! I honestly cannot remember the last time I cooked and ate at home, maybe it was the previous Thursday when I had a pot noodle. Recently every meal has either been scoffed amongst the rubble of the shop or eased down with a scooner at the pub. Vegetables - a treat of the past, a dream of the future. I can only sigh and watch my waist-line expand. What’s that place the gym? Uh, I feel tired just thinking about it. Think i’ll have to have a lie down.

Other luxuries that quickly slip down the list of priorities:

Personal Hygiene: No one notices how greasy your hair is when you're covered in dust and paint 24/7. Brush teeth or go straight to bed, what a conundrum! ohhh bed your looking rather lovely this evening.

Friends: I’m not sure mine exist anymore. One day i’ll get to see them again.... at the end of that rainbow.

Relationships: Persuade other half that trip to Ikea is actually romantic date. Stop half way round at Ikea cafe and buy her $4.95 dinner, kerrr-ching!

Wearing nice clothes: I’m pretty sure board shorts and flannel-shirts are in right now.

Weekends: I was never a fan anyway.

Oh and in case you were wondering I bought myself new underwear today. Forget laundry, I just don’t have the time!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Supplier shout out - part 1

We’re getting to the stage where the place is actually starting to look like a cafe you might want to go to. So I'm thinking now is probably a good time to mention some of the excellent suppliers we have used along the way and why they could be good for your business too. Just to note these are all suppliers to help actually build/set your hospitality business up. We will go through food and produce suppliers in a later blog.
IronWood -  IronWood are timber specialists and have a large selection of beautiful  recycled wood. Myself and my partner felt pretty stupid the first time we walked in here. We were like “we want some wood” (yes, yes, let the jokes fly). Anyway the boys and girls at IronWood are always ready to lend a hand. They have a certain way of doing business which basically involves speed walking around the timber yard, pulling out various hunks of wood whilst you decide what you like. All the wood in our shop is from this place; the counter, the tables, the back wall panelling. If you need any of the wood stained or shaped they can do this too and then deliver right to your door step.
Mitchell Road Auction Centre - Theres lots of cool second hand furniture and knick knack stores out there but we've found a couple that come up trumps time and time again. The Mitchell Road Auction Centre in Alexandria is a two storey treasure chest of antique and design furniture, kitchen ware and bitsa. We also think that this place also seems slightly cheaper than everywhere else, so if you hunt there are bargains to be had. Our other favourite second hand store is Doug Up On Bourke. This shop is so fun to walk around, they have everything - even a giant camel! Looking for lights, cool signs, random eceletica you'll find it all here.
Cafe Ideas - They've been in the industry for donkeys years and are the place to go for your large kitchen equipment e.g. display fridge, oven, sandwich press. Shop around for a good price and these guys will usually match it. You can either buy these products out-right or through silver chef which is like leasing the equipment till you pay it off. Silverchef leasing is a really good idea for startup businesses. It means you get brand new equipment without the initial hefty cost. 
Ebay - Great for picking up little gems and second hand equipment. Be uber careful about buying previously owned kitchen goods. You might feel like you're getting a bargain but when your fridge breaks down in the middle of service, you'll wish you spent those extra bucks. You can also pick up some decent catering equipment at Omaras auction house in Rozelle.
Bunnings - I practically feel like I own shares in Bunnings having spent so much money and time in this place of late. However, I have to say that owning shares wouldn’t be a bad idea as this place sells everything and their staff are super helpful. I am totally clueless about anything D.I.Y related but Bunnings seem to have an expert in each section that’ll run through the whole process and show you what you need. We found the store in Alexandria to be particularly accommodating.

Lastly my big thanks to the tradies:
Fred, not Bob the Builder

Fred the Builder

Barry the Electrician

Michael the Plumber

If you are looking for a trades person that comes with a recommendation then email me and I would happily suggest and pass on any of the above guys contact details.

As I said previously, this is just the start of the list and I look forward to revealing all the foody suppliers soon.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Official unveiling of our logo

Evening Ladies and Gentlemen,

The other day we gave you a taster with the outline of coffee horse but tonight I would like to officially unveil our logo, by showing it off to you all. And so...... we proudly present:

I understand this may not be as exciting for you as it is for us but believe me this little logo has been a source of much frustration. Many a small discussion has blown out to full on war fare over minor details. In fact one of these squabbles involving the horse’s tail may, or may not have ended in tears. You see when you’re starting out that logo is so much more than a pretty picture. It represents everything that you are and want to be. So much passion and hope is symbolised in this little emblem of your fledgling business. 

I would advise others designing their logo to not rush the process. All in all i'd say we worked on ours for 2 months on and off and must’ve changed it fully at least 10 times. We showed our ideas to everyone and anyone to gauge opinions and tried to incorporate all the little pieces of advice. We were also very fortunate in obtaining a bit of professional help from some mates over at Pieces. If you are struggling this can provide the direction to get you on the right track but don't be afraid to adapt the designers ideas to fit those inside your head. 

Our eventual logo was an amalgamation of much time spent fiddling on Illustrator/Photoshop plus inspiration found from copious hours trawling web/books/magazines. We had an idea of what we wanted; clean, crisp, modern but rememberable. Then it was 2 months of searching, playing about with images and fonts and taking lots of advice from various corners. We showed our coffee suppliers, artist friends, designer friends, family. Although this meant the process was long, looking back I'm so pleased we did it this way as otherwise we would have stopped after a week 1with something not quite perfect. Anyways its set in stone now, so hope you guys like it? 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Have you seen my horse?

I was in the city on York Street last night having a drink with Gary (that's my horse). About 7pm I went to pay the bill and when I came back my horse was gone. Gary is approximately 7ft tall with chestnut fur and a white mane and tail. When I last saw him he was wearing Birkenstock sandals,  tartan cutoffs and a leather waist coat.  

If u see him anywhere let us know by liking our facebook page. 

Click here to 'like' our page.

Free coffee on opening day as a reward for all those with a like. Thank you

I'm sure Gary will come home when he feels loved enough.

Monday, 30 April 2012

The health benefits of coffee

So we all love coffee. If you don't then you better get drinking cos there are some serious health benefits to be had from your daily cuppa.
Gimme another espresso, I'm buzzing!
  • A 10 year Swedish study of 34,000 women found that those who drank at least one cup of coffee a day had a 25% lowered stroke risk!!!
  • Did you know that a cup of coffee has more antioxidants than a cup of blueberries? This means for a lot of Aussies, coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in their diet!
  • The evidence is building up in the case of coffee and Alzheimers. US researchers suggest that an increased caffeine intake may not only prevent Alzheimer's disease, but could even reverse its effects. In this study however, they were talking about drinking up to 5 cups a day. Researchers believe it isn't actually the caffeine but a component not yet identified, so decaf is fine people.
  • Coffee is proven to increase short term memory recall. Elderly participants were found to have the largest effect. Come on Grandma, scrabble battle now.
  • Are you having toilet troubles, bloating, cramps? Well forget those two women on tv rubbing each others bellies sympathetically, then spoon feeding bifidsillyalias probiotic into their clammy mouths. We all know that a cuppa joe does plenty for constipation, look no further.
  • Lastly, two separate studies have correlated drinking caffeinated coffee with a lower incidence of gallstones and gallbladder disease. 
Phew, I am feeling healthier already. Basic summary, if you don't start drinking coffee you will probably die. Come along to Palomino Espresso in a couple of weeks and we will save your life. 

Saturday, 28 April 2012

From The Grounds Up

On a bright and sunny Sydney morning, we sloth around fumbling to get dressed with bellys rumbling. It’s not an uncommon scene in my house and the topic of conversation is always where to go for breakfast. On this particular morrow Charlie plucks out the idea of going to the new café in Alexandria: The Grounds. "Splendid idea old boy", we saddle the horses and off we go…..

On first site The Grounds (or TG as I have cleverly renamed it) is an impressive vision. It has the feeling of walking into someone’s back yard, someone who actually has time to garden and sow a herb patch. Whilst giving an approving nod to each other a friendly waiter comes out to say hello and then take us to our seats. If we thought the exterior of TG was impressive then the inside is stunning. No expense has been spared in putting this industrial country cottage together, from the coffee cups complete with TG logo, the beautiful woodwork covering the ceiling, door handles made of coffee grips, cool lamps and hanging lights everywhere even sexily tiled toilets….. yep the toilets are totally bling. This may be the best looking café I have ever been in. Big call. It is much larger than I had initially realised, seating what must be over 150 people inside and out. We are seated opposite 2 huge beautiful roasters that TG uses to produce its own coffee and that is exactly where we start, “2 long blacks please”. If you like your coffee then you wont be disappointed, they use one of the new generation Synesso machines which along with their own brand blend produces a delicious cup of smooth rich flavours with a bizarre smokey aftertaste that we both strangely enjoyed.

Reading over the menu was heartbreaking, everything sounded so different, so good. I wanted to try it all; boiled eggs rolled in quinoa and garden herbs (fresh from TG's allottment) or ocean trout salad with asparagus and pearl barley. Every dish coming out of the kitchen looked divine and after much deliberation we both decided on the scrambled eggs with smoked cheddar and mushrooms - a nice, hearty option. It was blooming lovely, every last scrap on both our plates was hoovered up.

Sadly, all too soon it was time to leave this cafe haven. By the time we left it wasn't even 9am and the place was packed with a gaggle of people already queing outside... if you plan on coming, get in early because I'm pretty sure this place is just gonna get busier! Well done The Grounds, we likey a lot.

The Grounds of Alexandria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Highs and lows of shop fitting

Well, we are one week and 2 days in and I can now fully appreciate what people mean when they talk about the stress of owning a business. This past week may well have been one of the most stressful of my life! We have gone from cupcake hell to a shell of a shop and today we start rebuilding it back up to Palomino glory.

The place was originally a cupcake shop, stainless still with black and white decor was the theme and I'm telling ya it was all a bit depressing. See the the picture below, that was the mural painted across the largest wall in the shop. What a pleasure it was to paint straight across their sad sack faces. And what, the what is going on with the little boy seemingly held hostage behind the window. It was all a bit creepy.

There have been many ups and downs during the course of the past 9 days. Abosolute low of the week was setting off the fire alarm for the whole building. It was only dust that sparked the alarms into action but it sure is tough being carm with the robotic voice of devil man telling you to evacuate the building. Lesson #11 - (we reckon you must have at least 10 up your sleeve by now), always cover up your smoke detectors before starting dusty building work. Remember to take off the covers at the end of the day otherwise if there is a real fire and yours are covered up bye bye insurance claim.

Another nightmarish day was removing the conrete that held the old fridges and bench in place. Dad and Charlie worked for 7 hours with zero break, jack-hammering and hauling concrete out of there. They were broken people by the time I returned (I was working at my sister's place) but they did a damn good job and got it done. Lesson #12 - leasing a shop that is full of equipment may seem like a good deal at the time but unless it is top quality and positioned exactly where you want it, then forget it. We now wish we had rented an empty shell instead of wasting probably 6 whole days moving or removing the crap we dont want.

Have no fear there have been many highs amongst the shit. Getting that last tile chipped off the wall, after countless cuts on arms and legs and smacking our thumbs with the hammer for the fiftieth time. That's me and Charlie below working side by side completing the last few bits. Lesson #13 - don't wear shorty shorts in a building site, Charlie got some mean scar resulting cuts on those long legs of hers.

We also managed to sell lots of bits and bobs on ebay that we found in the shop and didn't want. This included off-loading some metal stools to a lovely lad called 'hijacker79' and 3 garden chairs to 'scum_of_the_earth'. Lovely, lovely ebay names people have these days. Lady luck was on our side finding a buyer for the chandeliers. A friend of a friend knew a person who knew a person type situation and hey presto they're coming to remove them for us and will pay good dollar too.

It has been a hard slog, there's no denying it. The learning curve is steep in amongst all these nail biting situations but I definitely feel / hope that the worst of it is behind me. Now comes the decorating and installing, isn't that the fun part? We'll let you know.

Passionate war cry
My victory salute

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Expect the unexpected - rental agreements

Skipping back a couple of days to when we signed the lease. I thought I would impart a few value lessons learnt from the stressful process. These are things I wish I knew before hand.

Firstly, when budgeting for legal fees, think of a number then triple it! Our legal fees were seriously 3 times higher than we had initially expected and not because of our lawyers but because of the landlords. This is something out of your control and purely depends on who your landlord uses. Unfortunately our landlord used some big boy law firm that charged for ever phone call, every email and $5 for every bit of paper they had to copy. We never even realised we would be paying theses costs. Just keep it in mind when your doing your budget and remember to air on the side of caution. Next time I'd even ask if they can estimate their costs. Might help with the shock after I get the bill.

Another one is don't wait until the lease gets to your lawyer to negotiate the terms (obviously there may be some things you have to wait for). If you negotiate with the estate agent until you are happy with the terms, it may save you a lot of money as lawyers will charge you for EVERYTHING. We tried to do this as much as possible but your lawyer will probably spot things that you missed or were well hidden amongst the jargon.

Specifically, some fine details to look out for:

  • Yearly rental increases - this may be set as a % or as market review. After speaking with a friend who works in real estate he told me you see rental increases set as little as 1.5% or he has even seen one as high as 10%. Whatever yours is think about what it means for your future, will you be able to pay the rising costs or will the business be sellable 4 years down the track??
  • What happens to the fixtures and fittings you install into the business. Some leases include a clause that after 1-2 years your fittings become the landlords and cannot be removed if you default on the lease.
  • Are outgoings included in the rental amount and if so what do 'outgoings' mean? Our landlord decided that we would be responsible for any extra costs from the carbon tax.

Anyway after you've ticked, checked and double checked everything, go have a drink to celebrate. This is the real start and is a very exciting time, now get ready for the hard work to begin!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Onwards and Upwards Coffee Horse!

little brother showing off his superhuman strength
Yeeeeew, the past couple of days have been tough! After signing the lease, I have had two full days, 8am to 9pm of what I can only call demolition work!! The entire family has been involved bashing and ripping, trying to make the place a shell so we can re-build in a new style and layout. There has been lots of shouting at innate objects that seem intent on making life difficult. "You bastard" screams Pappa Schmidt at the cupboard that has been mocking him for that last 3 hours by refusing to come off the wall. The cupboard later got its revenge by falling from the wall at a most inopportune time, taking a sink tap with it, that we would have liked to keep. Lesson to learn? Furniture has feelings too ya know.

Today will be day number 3 and I'm hoping the last in terms of clearing out the remnants of the previous place which was a cupcake shop in case I've never said before. Over the weekend I'd like to do most of the white primer painting and then starting next week the decorating will begin. Fingers crossed for that anyway. 

Piece of advice for anyone looking to do a shop fit out...... things never go how you expect. We thought we would sell most of the previous owners equipment like fridges and counters etc and make a bit of money that way. Turns out he had cemented them all into the floor and we now need a jack hammer to crack the things out and no one wants smashed up old fridges. There have been various little issues like this, that we never could have foreseen before getting into the shop. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, adjust your plans and keep moving forward. Onwards and upwards Coffee Horse!

Just quickly, I wanted to write this post to keep y'all updated on the progress of the shop fit out but do feel like tomorrow I should go back a step, to talk a bit more about the lease negotiation process. For anybody looking to move into any type of commercial lease be it retail, hospitality or 'massage' services I would like to tell you some of what I learnt and I learnt a lot!
Sparks fly when Pappa Schmidt goes to work
Mumma spends 2 hours smashing glass of the wall
only to realise the whole wooden panel just came off.

Charlie doing something
And of course the smallest Schmidt causing trouble...
 and keeping up team morale :)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Lease signing day!!!

Wow, the past two days have been a complete roller coaster of emotion. The will it, wont it stage... back and forth between landlord, current tenant and me. Finally on April 17th 2012 everything has been signed and I can now officially say that Palomino Espresso will be located at Shop 1/61 York Street, Sydney.

Its been a hectic few months sorting everything out, researching suppliers, tradies, banks etc and I realise that this has probably been the easy part!! Now its time to get down to some serious hard work. Bye bye snooze button and Sunrise (the tv show not the actual), hello 5am starts.

The next stage is about jumping in there and setting the place up. I can envision how I would like the cafe to look in my head but now I actually have to create it. Hopefully it wont take any longer than 4 weeks to get up and running, then we can start serving you some delicious food and coffee!

And of course our amazing new cafe needs some amazing new staff. So Palomino Espresso is now officially hiring. We're looking for a passionate crew; whether you're an experienced barista looking for an exciting new venture or chef/kitchen hand looking for a new challenge, I'd love to talk to you. You don't need loads of experience (we all had to start somewhere) just a willingness to work hard and a passion for what you do. If you're interested please email a copy of your resume and a bit about yourself to:

I'd also like to say a special thank you to my beautiful wife, without her help and trust I wouldn't have been able to do this.
Wifey on one of our "research" outings

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Pros and Cons of owning your own cafe/restaurant

The self-employment subject emerged whilst chatting with a chef friend this morning. This friend has been in the industry for over 20 years and is very accomplished. Yet he debated fiercely about the negatives of being self-employed and shared with me why he had no desire to own a restaurant of his own. Later in the day I asked Mumma and Pappa Schmidt the same question, who proceeded to inundate me with the many positives of working for yourself. Their responses were passionate and compelling but then again so were Cheffy's.

    i named this one Pokabuzz - everyone laughed at the time
  • The number 1 persuasive point to working for yourself is exactly that. You are working for yourself. No Mr Boss man breathing down your neck, telling you how to dress, tapping their watch as you walk in the door 2 minutes late. "Stop bringing stray dogs into the office and dressing them up like Pokemon characters". Uuuuurgh - fist shake to the sky, do I have any freedom!! Yes, you can, bee self-employed. Then you only have to answer to yourself and of course to the needs of your customers.
  • Owning your own cafe means you get to express all your creativeness and indulge those culinary desires you could previously only dream about. Mmmm lychee, raspberry brownies. This starts with the decor of your cafe, the logo, the name, the menu to decide upon. Basically everything, as I am finding out now it is so exciting creating a place from the ground up, Palomino Espresso can be everything I've ever wanted in a cafe.
  • The opportunity to meet lots of lovely, interesting people in the community. This is a real plus from the cafe trade. When a customer turns into a regular and you remember their orders, know where they like to sit and in the long run get to know them. I've met quite a few friends this way over the years.
  • If your coffee shop is successful, the financial incentives should be worth it. You have direct influence over your monetary success or failure.
  • Despite the point above, one of Pappa Schmidts first comments was that you get to work from your heart and not just for the money. It's a happy life when you are doing something you enjoy with passion.
  • An added bonus of having your own restaurant/cafe is that you never really pay for food. Yes you buy lots of stock for the business but then you end up eating breakfast and lunch there and you'll probably take some left overs home for dinner. Dollars saved.

  • Owning a cafe isn't just another job. It's a totally different lifestyle. Prepare yourself for long hours, working on weekends and getting called in on the rare occasion you do get a day off. Bye bye social life. Ensure your partner realises the situation too!
  • The financial risk. Generally, there's a lot of your money that could go down the drain. I have known people to lose their life savings in a failed cafe. Only ever borrow from the bank or invest an amount that you are prepared to lose. I decided on a number that if lost I know I can still come back from. 
  • Unsteady income. In the first few weeks to months there won't be much money to put in your pocket at the end of the day. Re-investment, wages and cost of sales all have to be covered before you get your share. 
  • The food industry is also very price sensitive, which means demand for your food and coffee will go up and down significantly as a result of price changes. This leaves owners with a very fine line to walk, with cost of goods and labor and making a profit. I hope to make the quality of the food, coffee and service stand out at Palomino Espresso therefore negating some of the price sensitivity.
  • You never get to walk away from your own business. When things are get tough, you have to stick it out and try to turn the situation around. No clocking off at 5pm, that business is yours 24/7.
  • Banks are often not too keen on the self-employed. It can be hard to secure loans in the beginning and don't even think about a new mortgage. In due course, however, these fickle creatures will soon turn around once you have an established successful business. But initially you will probably already need to own your own home or have some other assets to go guarantor on any loans.
  • The last point I can think of isn't really a negative to owning a cafe but its something that makes life harder. Many would be cafe entrepreneurs don't realise the number of skills you have to have up your sleeve. At any one time you should be ready and able to perform as barista, chef or waitress. If you can't perform all of these jobs in your cafe it could make life very hard for you. What if someone calls in sick? What if you suddenly get slammed for take away coffees and have to help on the machine? Experience in all these positions is necessary as well as being a good manager.
this little guy was such a pro - Pikachomp
Look, its obvious there are going to be good and bad sides to any job in life. I must think the advantages outweigh the risks or I wouldn't be following through with my initial dreams. I believe if you really want/need to make it work and are willing to give the business everything you've got then you'll get your rewards. Most of the negatives mentioned above are issues that will surface at the beginning of the business. Give it time, establish processes and cafe life will soon become straightforward and pleasant. I can't wait to open up my little place  and I'm prepared for whatever it takes to ensure Palomino Espresso is a joy to visit and work in. 

Friday, 13 April 2012

a muffin or a tart dear?

"I say Margo, your muffins look just delicious"

"Thank you Genevieve, you're too kind. I just took them out of the oven..... see, still warm."

"Oh yes, how delightful. Well, I just saw Barnaby Lovegood in the alley and he says you have some more of those wonderful tarts in store. Are they're any left?"

"Of course, I always save a tart for you Margo, I know how you love them so."

Blackberry, white chocolate and banana muffins

Photo above taken from - review of  The Book Kitchen in Surry Hills.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

A day at Morgans Handcrafted coffee roasters

Earlier this week, I had the lovely opportunity to spend the day out at Morgans handcrafted coffee roasters. I was fortunate enough to have a play about on different brewing equipment, tasted a whole variety of coffee and even got to watch the roasting process itself. Heres the storey of my day.....

Morgans Handcrafted Coffee is a family operation at heart. Established in 2004 by owner Dean Morgan it has become a name associated with award winning coffee blends and dedication to the highest quality raw product, being the beans themselves.

With so many excellent roasting operators in and around the Sydney area, deciding on which one was best for my coffee shop was a tough one. I ultimately chose Morgans as I felt the passion for what they do is still very much alive. I see this in their staff and in the excited way they showed me the different coffees and how to get the best from them. I also really appreciate the small roasteries, the smaller places have to differentiate themselves on taste, service and most important quality where as the big boys are large enough to be competitive through price. Cheaper is not always better in this instance.

Morgans sources single origin coffee beans from sustainable plantations and cooperatives from over 40 different countires. Roasting each batch to identify unique flavour profiles from the region they are from.

'It is all about superior quality from the ground up' - Dean Morgan.

The beans on the right have come all the way from Ethiopia. This is what they look like pre-roast.

On the left is the beautiful portuguese beast of a machine that does the brunt of the roasting work at Morgan's. In the photo is Josh checking on how the beans are progressing. The whole roasting process itself is much more delicate than I had first imagined. Josh always kept a high level of concentration, continually looking for visual, aromatic and audio changes in the beans. By this I mean looking for how dark they were becoming, ensuring there was no burning and listening for the tell tell pops which are an indication that the beans have cracked and are seriously hot!

Morgans are not about pumping out the kilos, careful time and consideration is taken with each batch. Each blend and single origin is roasted differently to bring out the unique flavours on offer. You'll usually find that single origin coffees are roasted slightly lighter than blends to bring out a more fruity, round bodied flavour. Whereas the blends are pushed slightly darker to give you that rich caramal flavour.

After the hot roasted beans come out of the oven, they go straight into this cooling tray which is kinda like a giant tumble dryer but with no heat and no clothes but it does spin. After they are cooled they are packed immediately for ultimate freshness and flavour.

After discovering the intrigues of roasting it was off to spend some time with Aaron, Morgans very own award winning barista. Aaron took me through some barista training to further perfect my skills. There's always more to learn, be it new brewing techniques or a bit of coffee science.

Today we went through the inner workings of the coffee machine itself. We also had a look at various grinders and the differences they will make to your grind and ultimately your coffee. It was a great opportunity to taste the different varierties of coffee on offer, and it looks like the award winnning, 100% organic 'Pony' Blend will be a staple offering at Palomino Espresso. Pony - Palomino, I guess it was fate. We're also working hard to make sure we can deliver you a couple of different single origins to try each week.

Last on the days agenda was the extremely exciting unveiling of the antique espresso machine Astoria Regina or Queen of Coffee or just Queenie. It is a 1950s lever espresso machine saved by Morgan's owner, Dean from an antique store and has been completely restored to its former glory. You'll be able to taste a black coffee made by Queenie when Palomino Espresso opens next month. We are so excited about this machine it deserves its own post so more to come at a later date.

Hope you enjoyed these snapshots of my trip to Morgans. If you would like to enjoy a coffee from the roasters themselves then the cafe and warehouse is based at Emu Plains. Take a look at the website for more details, link up the top.

A big thanks to everyone out at Morgans for all your support!

Monday, 9 April 2012

To roast or not to roast, that is the question

Commercial roasting, in my eyes is nothing less than an art form. Not only does it takes years of experience and palette refinement to master this tricky trade but the job itself is full time. Aside from the actual roasting process which is lengthy and painstaking, being an excellent coffee roaster involves sourcing the finest quality beans you can find, often involving lots of travel to far flung areas of the globe. It's not something to take on lightly. Substantial time, money and personal investment is necessary to get it right.

Time, money and personal investment are resources I have dedicated to the set-up and management of Palomino Espresso. I cannot possibly hope to be the best coffee roaster out there. Sydney has some serious quality in the roasting market. Businesses that live and breathe the whole coffee roasting process and concentrate on nothing other than sourcing, roasting and delivering first class beans, and I want my coffee shop to use those first class beans.

I felt my business would be over-burdened, with roasting to add to the list of things to perfect. As i've said before Palomino Espresso is about the whole experience. Therefore my 'list' already includes yummy homemade food, friendly welcoming service, exceptional coffee made by skilled barista's and all in comfortable, aesthetic setting.

Palomino Espresso will be a collaborative cafe whereby I source the best people, suppliers and ingredients in any given area. I want the best bakers to provide my bread, I want the freshest fruit and veg from the markets to use in my menu and I want only the finest most passionate roasters to supply Palomino Espresso with its beans.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the guys that do roast their beans in house. The likes of Mecca and Double Roasters consistently produce amazing coffee and I rate them both highly (see top 5 Sydney cafes). But for my coffee shop as a single owner and wanting an emphasis on food and service as well as coffee, sourcing the best of the already top quality roasters out there is the optimum approach to bring you a chief cuppa.

Thanks for reading my little speech on this subject. Next up is a full account of my day at Morgans Handcrafted Coffee and why they are my chosen roasters!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Bun Review

Happy Easter Everyone!!

In the spirit of all things Easter I have been munching on my fair share of hot cross buns. Therefore I can think of nothing better to do today than a 'Bun Review'.

First up is Bourke Street Bakery. I strolled down here last week chasing my morning caffeine hit but after seeing the many baked delights up on offer I couldn't resist buying this beautiful hot cross bun loaf! I then proceeded to eat nothing else but this hunk of hot cross bun throughout the remainder of the day. So so good toasted with heaps of melting butter. I feel like a complete fatty right now but totally worth it. If you are currently salivating over the photos of this sexy bun, then take yourself off to Bourke Street Bakery and you can pick up one of these babies for yourself for just 6 bucks. Unfortunately my photo doesn't really do the loaf justice. You'll just to trust me, it was gooood!

Next tastlings were fresh out of the oven, individual hot cross buns from the team at Cafe Berlin. Nothing really beats bready goodness when its fresh and spongey. These beauties had more spice but less sugar than the average bun which made them dangerously moorish. I also liked the white bit which on some hot cross buns can be hard so you end up picking it off. Altogether a very yum experience.

Lastly, I noticed these buns the other day and thought they were worth a mention. Good presentation but not as tasty as you'd expect.
Join me tomorrow as I delve into a subject that I feel very strongly about and that is crucial to my business and the values behind Palomino Espresso. Its the issue of roasting and why I have decided to use an already established coffee roasters instead of roasting my own blends.

My family history in the world of hospitality

Public holidays are an especially busy time in the hospitality industry, either myself or members of my family will be working over the entire Easter weekend. Yesterday was the calm before the storm so we made sure everyone had Good Friday off. The day was spent together having a barbie and chowing down chocolate. Food is very important to my family, we enjoy cooking it, eating it and of course it is our livelihood. So I thought today, I would write a little about the slightly eccentric but very loveable group I call my family.

The photo on the left is that of my dad, i'll call him Sir Schmidt for now. Sir Schmidt aka Helge was born in Berlin, Germany to very humble beginnings. He left Berlin for London at age 17 to escape poverty and motivated by dreams of becoming a restauranteur. His first job was as a room service waiter at the Connaught hotel, he worked hard and climbed his way up the ranks to butler which is when this photo was taken. After 6 years of slaving it out in various hotels and saving his money Helge was lucky enough to get the opportunity to strike out on his own. With the help of his twin brother, Helge opened a German themed restaurant in
Kensington and called it the
Twin Brothers. The place was a huge success and Helge continued to live in London as owner and manager for the following 12 years.

It was at the Twin Brothers that Helge met his Australian wife, my mum - Jan. You can see my mum and dad both serving at the restaurant in this photo. Jan is one of the finest self taught cooks around and has been the backbone in all of our family businesses. Including running her own place Jan's cafe in Woolloomooloo and starting up The Settler's wedding reception in Mulgoa (see pic below). She is one of those women who can rustle up a meal from
anything. Leave her in a room with a tin of tomatoes and a banana and you'll return to find a delicious 3 course meal. Maybe the tomato/banana example is a little far fetched but you get what I mean.

On the right is my older sister Heidi, who opened her first cafe at the tender age of 16!! Im sure she received lots of support from our parents but unbelievable all the same. Heidi's first cafe was named Cafe Heidi - real high brow thinking there.
This photo with me was taken in her opening week. She now runs and owns the Balmain institution, Cafe Berlin.

I can't leave my little brother, Karl off the list. A now not so little 21 year old Karl's main involvement in the hospitality industry is pretty much the same as his involvement with me in this photo. Eating. Yes Karl is the number one food taster in the family.

And lastly, this is me..... I think in this picture I am sampling one of mum's famous desserts. Slightly older and hopefully wiser, I am the next Schmidt in line to start out on my own in the crazy cafe world. The encouragement and support from every single one of my family members has given me the courage to start this new and exciting chapter in my life... hopefully I'll be able to make them all proud.