The Inside Story

MORE THAN A CUP OF COFFEE… THE BROTHERS BEHIND THE BEANS

“It’s about saying, ‘how do we do things better? How do I get a better cultivation at roasts? How do we go about building a better company profile? And that’s about providing technology that matches up what we do with our roastery. I think that’s tougher for most people, but I think we’ve done a great job of embracing it.”

For most of us, we can’t start the day without our own signature coffee. A flat white, latte, oat mylk cappuccino, almond mylk piccolo or skim milk macchiato… when it comes to our morning wake up cup — we’re all pretty particular with how we like it served. But I bet most of you have never really thought about the step before the barista. The sourcing, growing and roasting of the beans can affect the taste just as much as the way it’s made. Luckily for us, our local cafes have thought about this. Choosing the right roaster is a huge decision for businesses in the hospitality industry. They want transparency and assurance that their suppliers know their beans, and communicating that knowledge is something Griffiths Bros. Coffee Roasters do with an honesty and integrity that seems intrinsic to their process.   

UNTIL DEATH DO US PART…

Peter’s uncle and father bought the coffee roasting venture from the founders when the boys were just kids. Having grown up watching his father roast beans, Peter was entranced by the process of “making things”. And after 10 years of corporate banking, the obsession with the tactile never dissipated. So, Peter left finance to take over the family business. When Chris and Peter became family by marriage, their differences made them the perfect partners. While Pete does all “that pie in the sky stuff”  – the innovative thinking, Chris comes in with practicality and know-how. So naturally, when Pete wanted to buy out the family business — Chris stressed the importance of a solid succession plan. His concern from the beginning was that a lot of families “get involved with operations of the family business without thinking of succession”. 

For these two brothers-in-law, their succession plan allowed Peter’s father and uncle to still be across the happenings within the business, without the responsibility of running it. Nowadays, they pop in from time to time but are essentially retired and can rest easy knowing that the business they helped build is in some extremely thoughtful and caring hands, driven by ultimate customer satisfaction and sustainability rather than profit. Peter reiterates that the intricacy of their succession plan wasn’t about “transferring wealth” but more about “taking control and responsibility for decision making.”

TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY — THE GRIFFITHS BROS. COFFEE ROASTERS PROMISE

Griffiths Bros. Coffee Roasters supplies an array of cafes in Australia’s coffee capital (Melbourne) with sustainably produced beans. And when you start to understand the unique way that Peter and Chris position their product and service, you begin to understand why they’re the roasters of choice for so many cafes. 

With a “farm to cup” feel, the pair have found innovative ways to integrate data capturing technology to help them source and develop the best product for their customers. Not only that, but they’re constantly thinking of new ways to be a transparent and accountable business. With an online “portal that customers can log into, in almost real time and look at the coffee being roasted, see the origin of the coffee, and trace it all the way back to the farms” via batch numbers, the boys “like to think they’re at the forefront of technology roasting and that customer relation”. For Peter and Chris, this portal is a way for customers to “give back input that effectively gives you that sort of aperture of transparency and keeps us accountable. So they can have assurance that going forward, they know that what they are paying for is what they’re actually getting.” 

It’s a kind of promise that emphasises their clarity of purpose. Which is essentially that these boys do what they do because they love it. They bring fun and happiness into people’s day — and that’s what they’re all about. They aren’t profit driven, they’re driven by their own customers fulfilment. 

FROM BEANS TO BEES 

Griffiths Bros. Coffee Roasters pride themselves on their sustainability. As a coffee producer, there are so many elements that may help to set you apart from the competition — of which there’s a lot. So it’s important to address every facet of the business where you could possibly “do things better”. Unlike many older and more established businesses, these guys are far from ‘set in their ways’. In fact, they’re constantly trying to evolve their processes and practices to be ahead of the curve. They’re not afraid of change and they’re not afraid to experiment with their product or service. 

Chris, being the practical side of the duo expresses their drive to instill a sense of “ethos about minimisation” being implemented “from the outset” rather than after the fact. Because if we’ve learnt one thing about these guys during our conversations, it’s that they don’t do things by halves. They’re passionately committed to taking their business to new heights. When asked about their inspiration to be so eco-conscious, Chris implies that they’re just (as always) keeping up with changing times, where “sustainability has moved from ‘that’s a nice thing to do’ to now saying the goal of this new product development is to have zero footprint”. A goal the team are well on their way to achieving. 

Since taking over the business more than a decade ago, Chris and Pete have implemented many environmentally conscious initiatives. They “put inverters on roasters, minimise mixage, run on city standards in terms of power usage” and more recently have started creating pellets from their husks. But, they don’t just implement, they go one step further. While for most companies, these changes in the way they work would be enough to tick the ‘ethical’ box, Griffiths Bros. Coffee Roasters actually then go on to see how these changes actualise. 

Currently they’re testing coffee husks with the growing of cherry tomatoes to see which strains benefit most from this reusable waste. They’ll take timelapse videos over the coming six weeks to see which husks garner the best results. Not only that but they’ve digitised every possible element of their administration process, to minimise on paper waste. If all this hasn’t got you thinking about what more YOU can do to minimise your footprint, well just wait, there’s more… After years of working with African and South American farms to source beans, Peter and Chris became super conscious of the effects farming cultures have on our planet. And they actually looked into what they could do to help. The answer? Bees. Bees play a vital role in the pollination of over half the fruits and vegetables we consume, including coffee! So, with a long family history of backyard beekeeping, the boys built their own suburban bee hives and placed them next to the roastery. So along with beans, the company has diversified their product range to include honey, to counteract the footprint farming their beans may have on the planet by diversifying the biosphere with their own beehives. 

Now if that doesn’t prove their passion for their product, we’re not sure what does. They care so deeply about creating something that not only gives their customers exactly what they want, but can also allow them to rest easy knowing they’re not damaging the environment by purchasing masses of beans. With everything they do, in every part of their business, Chris and Peter truly care. And that’s what sets them apart from their competitors. 

COFFEE THAT CARES

Just when we felt these business partners couldn’t be more thoughtful in the way they operate, they casually mention their extensive charity work. Much like their approach to sustainability, the work they do with youth homelessness extends beyond what many would deem sufficient. They don’t just give donations, they give opportunity for a better life. By running tour groups for these sectors of society that “have had enormous handicaps in life” Griffiths Bros. Coffee Roasters give them the drive “to pursue, maybe a couple of things like a life in manufacturing, roastery or cafes and hospitality” by actually showing them the door in. Then, they go a step further still. Providing training rooms for baristas, as an extension of their customer base — allowing accessible opportunity for these youths to try and overcome the barriers life has put up for them in terms of forging a career path. So they’re taking care of the environment, people less fortunate than themselves and making high-end coffee. But there’s STILL more. 

Peter and Chris are also passionate about employees pursuing their personal goals. Whether these are within the business, or nothing to do with it, they give them the tools and time to explore them. This initiative sees the company gift employees $500 “go and do something, learn something outside of work”. It doesn’t have to be in relation to work and according to the coffee roasting pair, helps establish an “emotional connection” with their staff. This gives a bit of insight into the kind of people Peter and Chris are. They’re truly compassionate and caring individuals, with a drive to be the best in every element of what they do. 

A MODEST FUTURE

When questioned about the future of Griffiths Bros. Coffee Roasters, Peter and Chris respond typically with a holistic response. Years of working in the commerce world preceding their venture together, trained them to be finance driven. With that industry being all about maximising profit. However, the boys somehow came out the other side of that working experience with a totally different sense of what they value in terms of business. In the acquiring of the company, the money-hungry financier “was lost somewhere along the way” and profits became more of (in their words) “a benefit or side component to the main ethos, which was to be better roasters, provide high quality coffee and provide people with an acumen of change”. 

So their current plans don’t span beyond Australia at this point. They aren’t preparing for a hostile world take over, they’re just planning to expand nationally. After assessing the effort versus reward for international market exploration, the team have decided to focus on what they do best, right here on their home turf. The men behind the beans feel that “the market here in Australia is probably big enough to expand into areas we haven’t touched yet. So that’s what we’re sort of looking at over the next two to three years”. And then, within the business — being the caring folk that they are — Peter and Chris hope to have a continued nourishing relationship between employee and staff. It is their mission to “become an employer of choice”. It’s a smart team that recognises they’re only as valuable as the people that surround them, and with this sentiment driving them forward, we don’t doubt that they will indeed always be a business people dream to work with.   

Make sure to visit the new look Bean Store on your next trip to Melbourne.

CHRIS AND PETER’S ADVICE ON BUILDING A BRAND

Though we try to think of the bigger picture, we’re still driven by doing things accurately and consistently. And in some regard, that’s become a dirty word ‘consistency’. And it’s not. It’s actually what the target should be. Oh, and love what you do. When you love what you do, there’s no resentment around working outside of designated hours and you’re happy to step beyond the scope of your job title to support the team where needed.

CHRIS AND PETER’S LIST TO INSPIRE

CHRIS
“I’m inspired by organisations such as the Richmond Football Club. Renowned for their team-based play, humility and mindfulness to live in the moment they set ambitious targets. With meticulous planning and sticking to their own game plan they navigate adversity – managing to achieve set objectives and continually kick goals.
 
I also follow entrepreneurs who generally don’t follow normal convention, those who like to be outliers in their fields such as Gary VaynerchukJack Dorsey and Richard Branson

PETER
“I am a real fan of long form journalism, I enjoy the departure from what is today a five second attention span.  Two magazines I follow religiously, Wired and The New Yorker. Wired continues to push the relationship between technology and people providing insight to the creation of new technology, but more importantly the ability to apply the tech for a positive human outcome. Loads of podcasts and blogs come from this which can be easily explored. The current Wired Editor (Nicholas Thompson) was the senior editor at The New Yorker, and I continue to enjoy the investigative nature of writing towards truth and accuracy. By the way, I’m pretty old schooled and still have magazines delivered”

Words: Phoebe Carden
Photography: Lauren Bamford

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