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By Lucy Godwin
A love of working with people has driven Al Keating in his role at Coffee Supreme, a coffee-roasting company that’s spread from its New Zealand roots to Australia.
Al Keating’s first memory of drinking coffee was when he was eight.
“On Sunday mornings, Dad would make coffee in a saucepan and let us drink the leftovers. I thought, ‘Yeah, this is a pretty special drink, I could get into this’.”
Then, when he was 16 years old, he got a job in a café called Captain Delicious. It reinforced his passion for coffee and made him realise he wanted to make it his career.
“I think coffee is the great leveller. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Donald Trump or a homeless person – you love coffee and you have that in common.”
Now he’s the creative director of Coffee Supreme New Zealand, and describes hospitality as “generosity paying attention”.
Coffee is his business, but he says it’s people who drive him.
“I love people. I think more than anything I love working with people. People are the hardest thing and the most rewarding thing to work with.
“I love spotting somebody young [applying for a job] and saying, ‘Hey, I should give him a shot, or I should give her a shot’ . . . and seeing somebody become better at what they’re doing while working inside the organisation.”
Like many small businesses, when Coffee Supreme first set up its roastery in Auckland, it started in a pretty basic way – in its case, in a warehouse.
“We realised there was no greater way to influence people than through our own generosity and hospitality. For us, that meant having people sit at our own table.
“So, we built a café called Good One for just that – to sit people down at our place, to offer them a cup of coffee, and to demonstrate true hospitality.”
Closed now, it was a quirky spot, tucked away down a back street with a roller door for an entrance. But quirkiness often pays off. It soon lived up to its name, becoming “one of the city’s darlings – quite a pioneering joint”.
Keating is a passionate Kiwi. “New Zealand is an amazing country,” he says. “Besides Frodo and Lorde, I think it’s pretty rare to find a country where the beach is only a few minutes’ drive away, it’s OK to have bare feet in the supermarket, and you can eat fish and chips on the bonnet of your car.
“I think there’s something beautiful about New Zealand; it seems very simple.”
Keating likes to keep the business simple, too, and says he finds traditional accounting a challenge. He switched to the Xero cloud-based accounting solution for its ease of access.
“When I need the information, I know I have access to it. As far as looking at spreadsheets and pages and pages of numbers . . . I find that like chewing dry flannel – it’s pretty tough going.”
He uses Xero to integrate with Posboss, a point-of-sale software developed specifically for the hospitality industry.
“Posboss is great for hospitality businesses, because it was designed by a hospitality business owner. It works on iPad, is easy to use, provides us with valuable back-end information, breaks down the cost of sales, works with multiple printers . . . it’s got everything we need.”
– Lucy Godwin