Ever had a bad cup of coffee? Cafelier is fixing it

Imagine having lunch in a really good restaurant, possibly one with Michelin stars. After your meal you order an espresso, but the coffee doesn’t taste the best, even if you know they are serving one of the brands you usually enjoy having. According to Allen Robnik, CEO at Cafelier, the reason for this could be the 140-years-old standard routine of cleaning the coffee machine only once a day after the shift ends.

Cafelier is a Slovenian startup company producing and selling special cleaning handles for professional coffee machines and their mission is to enhance the taste of coffee. We asked their CEO about the specifics of the hospitality industry and their progress since sales launch in 2019.

When you bring a product to life “it’s all about the people you surround yourself with,” says Allen. You must build a team to fill in the gaps in your skills. If you’re not good at marketing, you need to find someone who does it better.

Back in 2016 Cafelier was incubated in the most successful Slovenian accelerator - ABC. They worked with three mentors who pushed them to do their homework. Grega Potokar, CBO at ABC Accelerator told us that Cafelier was sales oriented from the very beginning. Immediately after completing their first 3D printed prototype/product, they went to potential customers and asked them what they thought of it. “They were one of the few hardware startups that didn't fear the market.”

In the early stages Cafelier secured its existence with the famous triple F funding but according to Allen this only helped them to get feedback even faster. They recognised early on that there are individuals willing to support them. When it came to closing their fundraising round, they only had 15 minutes to convince investors to believe in their team.

The Cafelier team has advanced knowledge of coffee and experience in the hospitality industry. Coffee prices will rise in the future and as a result, coffee drinkers will no longer tolerate burnt or sour-tasting cups of coffee. Today coffee machines are becoming more and more automatic, less mechanical and increasingly electronic, integrated with mobile applications and desktop software. Cafelier is raiding on this wave of transformation but you could also say that it’s setting the trends. Allen says: “If we were three years faster on the market, we might never have made it because the market simply didn't understand it.”

And how are sales today?

Cafelier’s mission is first to sell to premium locations, where customers pay more for coffee and therefore demand great taste. The team of three salespeople sold 200 Cafelier cleaning tools in 4 months. They are active in direct sales, but also frequently launch digital marketing campaigns, that are aimed exclusively at people who deal with coffee. Next step are discussions with coffee machine producers, where their vision is to make Cafelier the must have addition to every machine.

“It’s difficult to get access to the decision-makers in a particular Caffe, restaurant or hotel,” as the barista can rarely influence investments outside the day-to-day stock. Communicating the value of Cafelier cleaning tool is the most important part of the sales process. For months after purchase the sales team stays in contact with the customers to receive feedback which can be implemented in future sales pitches. They found that baristas initially used Cafelier twice to four times a day but soon adopted the more frequent but much easier coffee machine cleaning process as a necessary condition for delicious coffee.

Isn’t that good news for all of us?