Providing great conference coffee

LCA logoLast month, we were invited to do coffees for LCA2015. LCA is one of the biggest open source conferences in the world, and this year it was held at Auckland University. There were 650 registered conference attendees, with the conference running for a week.

It was a massive challenge for us, with the majority of my work done in logistics leading up to the conference – since it was at the university, there was no equipment there, we’d have to bring everything in. My first task was to not only work out what we required, but also where we could hire it from, and then organise delivery to, and return from, the venue.

From our previous experience in doing coffee for the gather conference, we had a rough idea of what the event would entail. My goals for the conference were:

• Great coffee
• Speed of delivery/short queues
• Ease of payment

LCA provided each attendee with five coffee voucher which sped up service considerably as 88% of the coffees we did were paid for by prepay voucher.

Tuihana_Event-SJP-24

As part of our role at the conference, we were asked to bring two coffee machines. I knew right from the beginning that I wanted to have two baristas on each machine, and a dedicated server/order taker for each barista team – the server’s job was to welcome attendees, take their orders, and make sure the right coffees ended up with the right people. Their role was important as it ensured that the baristas could concentrate solely on making good coffees, quickly.

Tuihana_Event-SJP-74

To make the servers jobs easier, we used Vend as our point of sale (POS). By inputting every voucher we received into Vend, at the end we could quickly provide a tally of all the coffees, instead of having to count every voucher by hand. Paired with Vend, we had ASB’s mPOS (WiFi EFTPOS) machines, which integrated with the Vend tills, meaning payments were very quick (also helping was the terminals supporting tap-n-go wireless payments). Since the terminals and iPad tills required WiFi, I didn’t want to rely solely on the conference’s WiFi just in-case it went down, so we used a Vodafone 3G connection, which was rock solid.

Tuihana_Event-SJP-79

Another decision we made earlier on was to only offer one size (8oz) coffee and charge $4 for each coffee, regardless of what it was. We didn’t even charge for soy. While long black drinkers didn’t appreciate paying a little extra for their coffees, it paid huge dividends in terms of efficiency and speed of service.

Estimating how much we’d require in supplies was tricky, so we based our calculations on a ratio of 1.3 coffees for every attendee. On the Monday we took two days’ worth of supplies, which guaranteed we would not run out. In total we used 65kgs of coffee, approximately 220, 2L bottles of milk.

Tuihana_Event-SJP-42

There were a few hiccups when we setup on Sunday as we had the wrong three-phase power leads (30 amp instead of 20 amp plugs), and one of the coffee machines kept playing up (in the end, we replaced it with another machine). Once these gremlins were worked out, the rest of the week went off without a hitch.

My six staff did a stellar job, churning out an amazing 3,113 coffees over the week, doing 131 coffees in just 45 minutes on the Thursday afternoon. The feedback was very positive…

No surprises on the most popular coffee at the conference: 45% had flat whites. The least popular was the macchiato: less than 1%.

If you’re looking for a coffee supplier for a conference you’re organising, please get in touch – we’d love to help out.

Tuihana_Event-SJP-23