Caffe Dallucci is the innovative cafe brand from Compass Group and it has just opened its first public-facing site at Solent Business Park in Fareham. Extensive detail has gone into getting the flow of service exactly right and matching the back-of-house catering and beverage equipment to the offering. FEJ travelled down to Hampshire to meet head of business excellence at Compass Group UK & Ireland, Steve Lovegrove, one of the main architects behind the concept, for an inch-by-inch account of designing a contemporary cafe format.
Design and development
Design and development are typically done in isolation to what a food offer is going to be and often without consideration for the consumer, but from the outset Compass was adamant that client needs would shape every aspect of Caffe Dallucci at Solent Business Park. With many offices in the vicinity lacking catering facilities, it offers a selection of food-to-go options, comprising its new bespoke ‘Chop Chop’ range of sandwiches, salads, snack pots, sushi and hot pots, as well as focaccias, ciabattas, croissants and fruit pots made on site. A 56-cover inside seating area contains booths, communal tables and high stools.
“We have tried to create an environment that is flexible to suit different consumer needs,” explains Steve Lovegrove. “With things like the booths, there is power underneath, and there are USB and plug sockets for the high stools. It is about making the space work for the people that are going to use the facility.” He notes that the average lunch break is now about 34 minutes, making it imperative that customers have a range of solutions that allow them to grab and go or eat on site. “We use the phrase ‘one-handed eating’ because typically most people will either be on their laptop or they will be checking emails or on their phones, so it needs to be something that is really convenient and flexible.”
Display cabinet flexibility
All of Caffe Dallucci’s hot pots are displayed in a Nuttalls merchandising cabinet with multi-temperature capability for complete flexibility. “We have got the ability to adjust the temperature in each of the shelves, so dependent on the type of products we are displaying we can ensure we have got the right temperature to fit the product and display it at optimum quality,” says Lovegrove, whose background prior to Compass was with Starbucks, both across Europe and internationally.
Puqpress makes its debut
The Puqpress is a new addition to the kitchen and Lovegrove insists it is worth its weight in gold. The automated tamping device ensures that the pressure applied to the coffee is consistent. “If it is over-tamped or under-tamped you are either going to get under or over extraction on your coffee, so what we are doing is just trying to remove those variables to keep things as consistent as possible,” explains Lovegrove.
Going with the flow
Lovegrove spent considerable time with the designers getting the flow of the operation just right. When visitors walk through the doors, the first thing they encounter is the multideck display units, followed by an ‘impulse table’ and, finally, the main counter. This creates a natural, orderly flow that requires no signposting. “If we have to start signposting for the customer then it means we have actually got it wrong. Look at brands such as McDonald’s, who do it extremely well. When you walk into a McDonald’s restaurant, regardless of where you are you know intuitively where to go. Even where they have put the new big iPads to order, people know what to do. And that is very much what we have tried to do here, coupled with thinking very carefully about the product range, where it is displayed and how it is displayed.”
Back bar equipment placement
Getting flow of service right is critical, but it’s equally important that equipment on the back bar is correctly placed because there has to be a correlation between the two. “There is no point having a coffee machine that is metres away from the hand-off point, for example,” says Lovegrove. “The basic rule of the thumb that I work off is if it is outside of arm’s reach from a standing position then fundamentally we have got the kit in the wrong place. There needs to be a lot of thought and consideration to that process because if you get it wrong, productivity drops, speed of service drops, customer satisfaction is also then impacted, and your queue times will increase.”
Minimising food prep
There is not a huge amount of food preparation that goes on at Caffe Dallucci. At the Fareham site, all the protein pots and yoghurts are produced on site daily, along with some fresh salads and pot salads, as well as all of the deli sandwiches. “We find that a blend of both made-in-house and premium bought-in products actually works really well because it enables us to showcase the great products that we are producing in-house, but for those customers that come in at 4pm there is still a great choice of products to grab and go,” says Lovegrove.
Merrychef facilitates product growth
When launching Caffe Dallucci, the company wanted to increase the hot product range to include hot pies and sausage rolls, but these couldn’t be produced in the high speed grills it normally used. It therefore made the decision to specify the Merrychef e2S oven. “All of the products that we sell can be heated in under a minute and we use the latest technology from Merrychef in terms of that regeneration. The great thing about the model we are using is that it is 13amp so it is easy to install.” Hot food sales are around 2% to 5% higher at Fareham than elsewhere due to the expanded offering it is able to serve.
First site with a Convotherm
All of the pastries offered by Caffe Dallucci are baked on site in a Convotherm oven, along with muffins, which are produced using a pre-made batter mix. “This is the first site where we have actually put a Convotherm in. The aroma outside on a morning of freshly baked pastries is amazing,” says Lovegrove. One of the main reasons that the Convotherm was specified was for its ‘disappearing’ door, which sits parallel to the oven when opened to maximise space. It has meant the cafe has been able to site the appliance up against a wall of the kitchen without restricting access.
Coffee machine innovation
Caffe Dallucci opted for a Dalla Corte DC Pro machine with multi-temperature capability across the three group heads. “More importantly it has got hard wired technology to the DC-1 grinders and they will recalibrate after every fifth shot. We know that through use and through temperature changes in the cafe, you can get a variance of up to a gram per shot, per throw, on the normal paddle grinder, just by the grinding burrs moving through the course of service as they heat and as the humidity in the cafe changes. The technology from Dalla Corte controls that element for us.”
Water filter telemetry
One pioneering move that Caffe Dallucci has made is to trial telemetry on its water filters. It measures the carbon hardness of the water and monitors any variances in the water so that the company can track how much life is left on the filter and when it needs replacing. Given that up to 98% of a hot beverage can consist of water, Lovegrove thinks it is a vital move, but he also notes that it will assist with addressing scale. “Telemetry really enables us to ensure that the bypass levels, the carbonate hardness, and all those key critical points in terms of how we manage our water, are taken away from the unit manager. Typically the water filters are under the counter, they are forgotten about, and the first somebody knows of them is when the boiler packs up.”
Refrigerated milk on tap
The Milkmate is another innovation that is driving productivity behind the bar at Caffe Dallucci as it operates as both an automatic jug rinser and as a milk tap. Milk is kept refrigerated but out of sight in a fridge underneath the counter and is dispensed when the tap is pressed. “The model that we are using here allows us to do two different types of milk. From an aesthetics perspective we no longer need to have milk bottles on the back bar, and from a quality point of view our milk is constantly refrigerated because we don’t need to take it from the fridge.”
Revenues up year-on-year
Prior to it becoming Caffe Dallucci, the site operated as a traditional deli bar. Compass’ brief was to transform it from more of a retail offer to a cafe offer, building on its success with the format elsewhere. Lovegrove says it is delighted with the results so far. “Following the relaunch of this site, our hot beverage participation has increased by 7% and actually the revenue we generated from the site, on a year-on-year basis, is up 25%, from July to September. So in the first couple of periods trading, we have seen some really positive growth coming through.”
As Compass Group is a caterer that works on behalf of its clients, Lovegrove admits it is difficult to assess just how rapidly the Caffe Dallucci concept will roll out to more sites. Ultimately it will come down to clients. “When we started this financial year, this site wasn’t even on the radar so sometimes in a period of time you can go from there being nothing to five or six projects on the go at the same time. I think from our perspective we see this as an element of our toolkit that we can use based on the needs of specific clients.”