By Hylan Joseph
For part three of the “Coffee Wonders of Australia,” I was able to get George Alam from Specialist Espresso on the phone for a short chat. The Specialist Espresso Team come highly recommended by manufacturers in Australia.
Hylan Joseph: Speak to a short history of your company. How, why was it founded? What values do you feel define your organization?
George Alam: Our company was founded by my father Michel in the early 80’s through a necessity of needing to get his own machine in their roadhouse repaired. We had a 24 hour roadhouse and my father also was a drag racer at the time and would leave the business to race and mum would always forget to refill the boiler and blow the element, we always laugh that if mum had of filled the boiler our business would never have started.
With that, dad paid a few people to repair the machine but after one such time and a fair hefty bill he decided to do it himself and through word of mouth the business grew, and the name The Coffee Man came as people would ring and say, “I’m looking for the Coffee Man”.
Our values have always been the café owner, coming from the Café business background we understood the business owner’s urgency when a breakdown happened as well as the financial burden a breakdown causes, that’s why we push the PM part of our business and avoid certain machines.
HJ: How does regulation affect your industry when hiring and training techs?
GA: Regulations in Australia vary from state to state, but we find that we can train for skill if the person has a good understanding of machinery and coffee, the hardest part with staff is that it’s not just one discipline, it’s not just electrical or just water, the machine still needs to make a product that needs to be of a certain quality. We have an induction process now that includes working in a busy café, I’m very big on the techs understanding the café’s point of view when problems arise and how the barista feels when a technician is in the way.
HJ: Australia is well-known for having a great café experience. Why do you think that is?
GA: I think we are known for our café scene because we, as a culture, have embraced it, from the roaster to the barista to the consumer, we all have strived for a better quality product and the expectation now is a high level. People are happy to pay for a coffee that is consistently great, but a few bad coffees and the consumer is lost. As a whole the industry doesn’t stand still, we find that people are always looking for that little advantage, similar to athletes they strive for the extra 1%, servicing more regular, better blades, increased efficiency in processes, that is probably the main reason Australia stays ahead of the game.
HJ: What are your company’s best practices?
GA: I’d like to say that my company’s best practices are being able to provide exceptional service at a fair cost. I see the following as the most important elements:
Presentable and courteous technicians that understand the product and machine
A great knowledge of the products we service
Having stock to complete a service
Being on time
Being able to pass on knowledge and in turn always trying to learn more
HJ: Individually, what made you pursue a career in coffee? What aspect of the coffee business do you like?
GA: Being a family business I grew up with machines all around me and in the back of cafés, whether they were our cafés or customer’s, and I grew to love the customer side of the business, meeting people and listening to the stories of how/why they are in the business they are in. The coffee industry really is a big family and we all deal with each other and respect each other. That’s the reason I love this industry so much.
HJ: Any advice for a new tech or someone looking to enter.
GA: Be always willing to learn, some people enter the industry and forget that regardless of age some industry stalwarts have seen and done it all before, respecting and listening is the first step. And always be willing to ask questions, as the answer is usually know by someone.