Founder Focus: Roasting Plant® UK
Roasting Plant® UK is a state of the art, immersive roastery store complete with JAVABOT (a Willy Wonka-esque machine) tipped to transform cafe culture in London and serve up the ultimate bean to cup experience.
Not only does the JAVABOT roast in micro-batches, taking into account environmental conditions and temperature, but also selects the exact amount of beans required by the barista so that there is zero waste and custom original blends can be created at the touch of a button.
The passion of the US Founders is contagious and their dedication to ensuring that every aspect of the company is socially and eco-conscious is also commendable. We caught up with Mike Caswell, Industrial Engineer, former Starbucks Executive and Founder of Roasting Plant, to discuss his plans to disrupt the industry here in London.
WHAT WAS YOUR EUREKA MOMENT?
That’s easy. It was when I became aware that fresh-roasted beans make a better cup of coffee. Full flavour, wonderful aroma and without the bitter after taste that stale coffee has. The taste and the science are clear. Roasted beans go stale after about 7 to 10 days.
At Roasting Plant we roast in every cafe, rest our coffee for at least 12 hours and use it within 7 days while it still tastes great.
WHAT WAS YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH?
The end of the stale coffee experience! Every Roasting Plant is an immersive roastery serving just-roasted coffee and giving coffee-lovers a choice of single origin bean or a custom blend. Every cup is ground and brewed to order.
HOW DID YOU TEST ROASTING PLANT?
First things first, I assembled a highly skilled team of software and hardware developers and coffee experts. Together we designed and manufactured state of the art in-store roasting, bean management and brewing systems. These are the tools that our coffee experts use to roast in each of our Roasting Plants to make your coffee by the cup.
We tested our Javabot technology and our coffee at our first store in NYC’s Lower East Side. We received a lot of feedback and still depend on our very first customers to help vet our new offerings. Our goal has always been to listen carefully to feedback, improve and find a better way.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE THINKING OF STARTING THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
Plan carefully, consider the market opportunity and the competition. Make sure to have experienced mentors to help keep your idea on track, the funding you need and the courage to persevere in the face of doubts and stumbles along the way.
DID YOU HAVE A BUSINESS MENTOR YOURSELF?
I have a number of mentors from the coffee industry and a very smart and experienced Board of Directors who support our mission to become the world’s first choice in just-roasted coffee.
WHAT IS THE BOOK YOU RECOMMEND THAT EVERYONE READS?
The Alchemist by Paola Coelho. If you get bogged down by stuff and worry about holding onto it, you may miss the most important and rewarding journey of your life.
WHAT IS THE MOST WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT THAT YOU HAVE MADE?
Education, for sure. Both my formal education as an Industrial Engineer, all of the jobs that I’ve had and I also try to learn as much as I can from all of the amazing people I have the good fortune to meet. I try to learn, get better and do better every day.
WHAT ONE FAILURE ARE YOU GLAD YOU EXPERIENCED?
I don’t like to fail but I’m also not afraid to make mistakes. I had a “start-up learning experience” when, in-spite of some trepidation, I ultimately agreed to do business with someone who turned out to be very destructive and litigious. People in business don’t always agree but most things can be worked out by communicating. I now know that some people prefer to file lawsuits rather than talking through issues. I also learned that some people have a history of suing people, it’s just how they do business. Fast forward… after lots of time, money and effort… case dismissed and closed and we move on with a positive outlook …and better people.
So, don’t be afraid to make mistakes but also don’t be afraid to say no when someone or something just doesn’t feel right or check out.
WHAT’S YOUR PLAN B?
Plan A and B are Roasting Plant. It’s my life’s work. Everything I’ve done in college studying industrial engineering and being a barista and supervisor at Coffee Connection in Boston, to my high-tech and BPR positions at Digital Equipment and EDS, and finally as an executive at Starbucks, have led me to my life’s work at Roasting Plant.
WHAT PIECE OF INDUSTRY ADVICE DO YOU OFTEN HEAR BUT DISAGREE WITH?
Not industry advice per se but the ‘best by’ date on coffee is often incorrect.
So much of the coffee industry revolves around how best to preserve roasted coffee and yet preserving coffee is unnecessary, it’s simply never going to be as good as freshly roasted beans. Though the ‘best by’ date is typically six months or more from when it was first roasted if the coffee isn’t completely stale when you first open the vacuum sealed bag, it will be within a few days due to oxidation.
An open bottle of wine goes bad in a few days for the same reason but you can’t just add milk, sugar or flavour to mask the bad taste as most people do with stale coffee.
Fortunately, you can find small local roasters in almost every city now and buy freshly roasted beans for a week or two. You can also find just-roasted beans at every Roasting Plant roastery cafe like the one in London Bridge.
TALK US THROUGH YOUR MORNING ROUTINUE
I have a cup of coffee before all else… then I read the New York Times, and then I check on Roasting Plant customer feedback, operations and business results.
Visit Roasting Plant UK at 4 Borough High Street, London, SE1 9QQ, Mon-Sat.