Ed Sladen talks quality, service and relationships – and how Sprout delivers what matters most to clients
We asked Sprout co-founder Ed Sladen about the work that led him to start Sprout Coffee, what he thinks matters…
Following on from our last post, Ed talks about Sprout’s clients, services and maintenance, as well as challenges and trends in the office coffee industry.
We supply offices in all kinds of industries including blue chip CBD-based companies, multi-site companies, educational institutions and larger industrial organisations further afield. There are quite a few well-known brands who love our Fairtrade products.
We love the variety of working with clients big and small and our service models are flexible enough to suit all their different requirements. We listen to clients’ needs and points of frustration to then recommend the level of service that suits them best. For larger offices we can provide a full suite of streamlined services including daily cleaning and restocking. They can be hands-off and we look after everything. For the smaller offices, we help ensure there are processes in place for them to clean and fill the machine themselves. A regular supply of fresh beans and other consumables are delivered and any extras can be ordered via our simple online ordering system. We provide maintenance and support to ensure the standards of cleaning are being met and all is running smoothly. And whether offices are large or small, we collect their used coffee grounds and take them for recycling into compost – that’s always part of our service.
Smooth consistent coffee is the key. The automatic machines we place are excellent, allowing staff to create their own coffee based on how they like to drink it. For example, they may like their lattes stronger or milkier… our machines let them play around with the variables to create coffees to suit their own taste.
We take time to select the machines we think are best suited for our clients. The automatic machines we use are really good and we get a lot of compliments on the coffee they produce. We keep the machines clean and run regular maintenance on them which is the key to ensuring they consistently produce the coffee quality we strive for and our clients deserve.
The feedback we get from clients suggests that yes, they really are that good. One of our clients believes that in a blind test he doesn’t think he could taste the difference between the coffee produced from the automatic machine in their office and the ones served at the café around the corner. Out of respect for the skill within Melbourne’s barista trade, I dare not comment. I do think there’s been a shift in the mindset of the general public about the level of quality you get from the automatic machines though. Our coffee machines are simple to use and we make sure we’re onsite on the first day the machine is installed to talk to staff and answer any questions they might have. We even provide the Tim Tams.
It’s entirely up to the client. We can clean daily but there is a cost involved. If clients choose to clean the machines themselves, we train them thoroughly initially and then keep tabs that it’s being maintained. If there’s a specific problem, for example the milk line is getting mucky, we can come in weekly to clean it or provide a milk frothing unit that sits separately to the machine. That way, clients don’t have to deal with that process. If there’s a cleaning or maintenance issue, we’ll quickly resolve it. Our clients never feel like they’re without support – or without coffee! We also make troubleshooting an absolute priority and because we’re nimble we can jump in and solve any issues straight away. Life happens and coffee machines do break down but we pride ourselves on our responsiveness and turning any negative experience into a positive one. If we can’t troubleshoot the problem over the phone, we’ll send out a technician to fix it or swap the machine over within 4 hours – although more often than not it’s within the hour.
Obviously, if you’re looking to refurb your office it’s better to spec in a machine at the start, but most machines are easy to fit into regular kitchens. The only challenges can sometimes be over hanging cupboards (height), and water for plumbing and external waste. But since these services are always in regular kitchens there are generally no problems popping them in. In terms of knowing which machine to choose, we can advise and know from experience which one will best suit the needs of a particular office.
Getting greater brand awareness out there. We have the skill set and knowledge in the industry but letting people know about our brand and competing against larger established businesses that have far bigger budgets has been hard. We have a unique offering and we’re certainly gaining cut-through on the sustainable front, so we need to be very strategic and focused on how we compete in the market. We really value good relationships so referrals work well for us and strategic partnerships and alliances are also helping us scale more significantly.
There’s a real focus on sustainability and ethically sourcing now. Previously capsules were all the rage but there’s certainly been a shift in the mindset of the purchasing manager to make a difference and source products that are Fairtrade and recyclable. There’s always room to improve, but we have a solution that’s leading the market in this area which is something we’re incredibly proud of.
There’s a growing awareness of climate change and clearly there’s a strong push for businesses to source ethically, with a focus on the supply chain and ensuring they’re making a difference with what and who they choose to work with. Without forgoing quality and still recognising price as a key factor, businesses are questioning how they source their products and what they are doing with their waste. I see this happening in the office coffee industry and think this movement will be the biggest shift over the next decade. At least, I hope so. To find how you could be enjoying the benefits of your own sustainable office coffee with industry leading service, phone 1300 870 151 or book a free Sprout Coffee trial online today.