August 17

Roasters Rock: Should I Add Roasting to My Own Store?

If you own a retail coffee shop or a restaurant that has a high volume of coffee sales, the thought has crossed your mind to look into roasting your own coffee. This is an intriguing question that begs many more questions. In this article you should discover a progressive line of questioning that you must get through if you are to make a good decision.

So let’s start at the top:

SHOULD I roast coffee? 

To answer this question requires an introspection on your coffee volume in your business. Often this question is driven by the financial desire to lower costs. It could also be seen as a way to increase coffee sales. Unfortunately for most single store-front owners, only one of these is a good reason to roast your own: Increase sales.

Reducing costs really takes a long time to cost-justify a machine, dedicated retail space, employee training including roaster training, and an investment in green bean inventory that will always be money tied up on a shelf. The basic numbers you should look at in terms of cost is to hope to break even on an instore roasting program. More than likely you will end up paying more for your coffee.

Increasing sales is a better reason to do this. Set a program in place that will celebrate YOUR coffee. Tell the story of why and how you can craft your coffee better than some outside vendor. You can charge more for drinks, but you will also find that you have a new revenue stream of selling pounds of coffee over the counter.

If you have asked the ‘should’ question and have decided it is a good idea, you can move on to the next part of your research.

CAN I roast coffee in my store?

One of the frustrating things about being a shop owner is that you can’t always do what you want. In the case of adding a roaster, you will need to get ‘permission’ from other parties.

Starting with your landlord, ask if this is an allowable activity. You will now be blowing smoke into the area where your shop is located. If you are next door to a bridal boutique they will likely not be too happy to have smoke rolling through the front door. If you are in a high-density location, you will need to consider if you will need to purchase smoke abatement technology. This tends to be pretty expensive but can make for kind and supportive neighbors. In addition, your landlord has to agree that you can puncture the wall or roof in order to get the venting to the outside.

Let’s assume your landlord says yes. You also have to have enough gas coming to your store to run the roaster and any abatement device you might use. If there is not enough gas, you are at the mercy of the gas company to see if they will even run an additional line. If they will, it could get pricey. After the gas company, then comes the air quality board, city zoning, county health departments… Bottom line is that you need to get permission and have the infrastructure BEFORE you buy the roaster. Most small roasters of 5 kilo or less fall under the radar of most regulatory agencies, but you need to understand the rules.

HOW will roasting affect my business?

Plan on hiring a new employee to manage the coffee roasting segment of the business. Unless you are a franchise with support from corporate, learning what you need to know and the skills you should have on staff is a bit daunting. Someone must learn how to order green coffee, roast that coffee, package that coffee, and educate the staff on how to sell it all. The comforting thing is that this has been done thousands of times and it is a predictable skill set that you can hire from the outside or promote from within.

WILL Roasting even fit in my store?

The comfort of your customers is extremely important. You will be adding a gas oven to a retail environment. This will produce heat and noise. The good news is that machines from 1kilo – 5 kilo in size are not going to add a lot of either. Once you get to the 12 kilo size you will likely need some additional thought and infrastructure like walling in the roaster, perhaps in a glass room, to keep the spectacle but control the environment.

There are space concerns with adding roasting. The three big considerations on space are Green Storage, Roasting Production, and roasted coffee Packaging and Storage.

Depending on what you are planning to roast, it is not uncommon to have 10-20 different green coffees in stock at any one time. Since most coffees are sold by about 60 kilo sacks, you could need 40 square feet depending on how you will need to store the green. This is where you consider a storage container nearby so you don’t eat your retail seats for green coffee storage.

Roasting production should take about 80-100 square feet in your retail area. It is there so people can see it, smell it and talk about it. It also allows you adequate access to clean the roaster and perform maintenance.

After the coffee is roasted you have to DO SOMETHING with it. Just NSF containers on a shelf are good for use in your own store. Then just scoop out what you need. If you are packaging for sale you will need some work area dedicated. You will need a scale, grinder, foil bags and a heat sealer. All of this could be done in an area as small as an 8’ table. You also have to have room to store your finished goods.

So if you are still reading, you have not likely been scared by the decisions above. That is good because it will take that kind of forethought and vision to launch the program and to have it be a profitable decision. Enjoy your roasting!

Rocky Rhodes is an 18 year coffee veteran, roaster, and Q-Grader Instructor, and his mission now is to transform the coffee supply chain and make sweeping differences in the lives of those that produce the green coffee. Rocky can be reached at [email protected]

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