Coffee time

Coffee time Photo: Quentin Jones

It used to be the ciggie break, but now it's the cafe dash that has workers abandoning their desks en masse for a fix.

An increasing number of businesses are equipping lunchrooms with coffee machines and quality beans to save hours in productivity.

Accredited Tutor - which as the name suggests supplies experienced tutors - managing director Martin Bowen installed an espresso machine in the staffroom last year to curb the time spent by workers in cafes.

David Janovic

David Janovic; provides workplaces with organic coffee beans.

“Ciggie breaks haven't been an issue for some time, but there was a propensity for staff to head out in search of quality coffee," says Bowen from his Melbourne office. "Sometimes there were half-hour queues at the cafe. If you have staff getting a couple of cups a day, that really adds up.”

The new lunchroom toy was well received by staff, says Bowen, especially when it was accompanied by premium-grade organic coffee beans.

“In addition to efficiency, it's a way to look after staff and boost morale," Bowen says. "They can still have a chat as the coffee brews, but it cuts down on the significant amount of time spent loitering around cafes.”

The lunchroom is the cafe of choice for employees at advertising agency DDB Melbourne, says managing director, and coffee lover, Lorenzo Bresciani.

“It's a very important social hub in the agency - all of the birthday celebrations and milestones are conducted around it," he says. "It's loud in the mornings from 8am to 11am, and revs up again around 4pm.”

“It's the heart of the agency where people meet and greet and discuss their weekend and swap stories. You can always tell when there's a new person at work by the squealing of the milk frother.”

Located in the coffee mecca of Cremorne, the agency has paid special attention to the quality of coffee to encourage its employees to stay inside.

The beans are regularly swapped and trialled (against the old favourite) to keep things fresh. At present, there is a Colombian Supremo blend, which is sourced from a plantation in Colombia at 1700 metres above sea level.

DDB has a barista, Elio, who regularly comes in to train staff in how to make the best coffee.

The company is set to hold its first coffee championship. Each department will nominate the best coffee maker to represent them in three categories, including best coffee, best service and coffee artistry, to be judged by the barista. The winner will receive a gold coffee mug as a symbol of their skill.

Entrepreneurs David Janovic and Adam Rogers bravely entered the coffee-soaked Melbourne market with their Bahati coffee brand nine months ago and quickly discovered their niche, providing workplaces with specialty organic coffee beans at an affordable price.

“Initially we weren't targeting the office market, but found that our fastest growing online sales were premium-blend coffee and espresso machines for businesses,” says Janovic, who came to coffee after a career as a financial analyst.

“In our previous careers, both of us were always out on the street buying coffee. Like many of our colleagues we were coffee snobs – we wanted high-quality, well-made coffee, and that wasn't provided by our employers.”

The duo saw the opportunity and changed their marketing strategy to focus on the budding lunchroom baristas.

“In business you need to be agile and dynamic and responsive to where customer demand lies. Until you get your hands dirty you don't necessarily know where that's going to be,” Janovic says.

Bahati's chief clients are medium-sized to large companies of 100 to 300 staff who, Janovic says, are increasingly looking for tailor-made solutions to encourage in-house coffee breaks.

“I don't think corporate Australia has a true sense of the cost of coffee breaks," says Janovic. "It's hard to monitor and control, and by keeping it in-house there's a big productivity and cost saving to be made.”

“It's important for employees to freshen up, but it needs to be at a cost that the business can afford. Perhaps there has been a culture of taking advantage of that privilege and this can be eradicated by setting up the right infrastructure."

According to the feedback he receives from the latte set, Janovic says it's a win-win for both sides.

“Workers love getting together around the coffee machine and brewing together, having a laugh about a failed attempt at making a skinny mocha. It creates a buzz,” he says.

“It also saves employees forking out $4 twice a day, which also adds up.”