TL;DR – Even in the face of a pandemic, they tried their best to improve processes for their workers, do right by their employees and groom them instead of letting them go.
A chat with the founders of Kings Cart Coffee, Mr Ronald Tan and Ms Maggie Chen, gave me a glimpse into the lives of true coffee lovers. The enthusiasm they place on perfecting their craft and improving the ways they do everything at their café is exhilarating. “We are always looking into ways to improve efficiency, productivity, and develop our staff. All these for a great coffee experience here,” Ronald shared. Indeed, as technological disruptions change the way we live and work, there is every reason to equip workers with the essential skills to prepare for jobs of the future. I’d say, there is no better time to start. Later, I learnt that Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and Kings Cart Coffee have been working together to facilitate job placements, professional development and productivity solutions for a while now!
If you’re an avid coffee lover, Kings Cart Coffee Factory is one cafe you really shouldn’t miss – hand to heart, from one coffee lover to another. Located at 328 Joo Chiat Road, they serve really, really awesome coffee and pastries! Oh, and the yummiest espresso martinis. (Do people get judged for drinking on a Monday morning? Asking for a friend.)
“What accounts for my passion in this industry? I’d say, at the end of the day, we are coffee people ourselves,” Ronald laughed. Indeed, in the short 15-minute chat, his eyes lit up when he talked about his love for coffee, the different type of coffee beans, his travels overseas to learn from fellow coffee experts… Similarly, his partner, Maggie, shared a really interesting anecdote on how she actually climbed a mountain (for real!) in Yunnan for her Q Arabica Grader Course. “There are some things you can’t learn from books. From people who are in the coffee plantations all day, their knowledge of coffee is on another level! We really just want to learn from the best and share the knowledge we can bring back,” the vivacious and gorgeous lady chirped.
“What did you learn on your travels? Which of these courses can we bring in for our people?” such was the enthusiasm of Mr Gilbert Tan, e2i’s CEO, whom we met on the Learning Journey at Kings Cart Coffee Factory.
Moving from machine to machine with palpable curiosity and enthusiasm, endless questions for the staff and the owners, I can just imagine what keeps this gentleman who heads the team at e2i up at night!
An Automation Journey Brewing – Enters e2i in facilitating job placements, professional development and productivity solutions
Well, I had thought I “know” coffee, until I met Ronald and Maggie. The world of coffee appreciation is no doubt a beautiful yet complicated one.
“I love feeding my friends and café patrons here. Pleaseee try the Salted Caramel Latte… Oh, and our Tiramisu Soufflé (and the list goes on…),” the bubbly Maggie shared excitedly.
The passion of someone who really believes in the quality of her products and spares no efforts in perfecting what they do at the café. Not just the food and drinks – but the processes too.
Eavesdropping Listening in on their conversation, it seems that e2i had supported the transformation journey and helped Kings Cart Coffee Factory move towards automation since Covid-19 stuck. Now, the team has always been supportive in the hiring and training of the local employees since they started off as a coffee cart at wedding receptions and corporate events. Even during the challenging times in the face of a pandemic, they tried their best to hold on their team of locals and always look in different ways to groom their employees to fit the different roles instead of releasing them.
They also worked together with e2i on productivity initiatives via the Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP) and Workpro. The IGP is a $100-million scheme that aims to help 100,000 low-wage workers by improving productivity.
As part of the sharing, Ronald showed us the Electronic Coffee Roaster, with digitally controlled electronic ignition. This has replaced the traditional slow roasting that requires high monitoring of roasting time and temperature. Erm, word has it that Ronald used to process manually with a pencil and paper every 30 seconds!
With the new machine, the adjustable digital thermostat and burner flame height, the temperature can easily be set. Pre-setting can be done to reduce the need of the workers to stand by the roaster all the time. Roasting is also made safer. To the layperson, it may not mean much. But imagine the time saved and peace of mind gained to your day-to-day work as a worker!
With automation in place, grinding time has also been reduced significantly by 30% or more! The outcome? Their workers have been able to take regular breaks or move on to other tasks which, in turn, improves productivity and concentration levels!
WorkPro scheme jointly developed by MOM and the Workforce Singapore (WSG) in consultation with SNEF and NTUC
Under the WorkPro Job Redesign Initiative, they have also adopted the use of the three-group Automatic Expresso Machine. Two baristas can now work simultaneously to prepare up to 250 cups of coffee per hour, twice the number of cuppas as compared to their previous single group machine!
The WorkPro scheme aims to help companies create physically easier, safer and smarter jobs for older workers aged 50 years and above. Now, it’s amazing to know that the scheme has helped Kings Cart Coffee Factory reduce costs and function more efficiently.
Hardly surprising to hear that Ronald is one who takes great care of his staff. “We believe in an inclusive culture here – race, age etc, don’t matter to me. The one thing that matters? Your attitude. If you are willing to learn, I will be more than happy to train! Now, I don’t need our staff to be masters in every task but we all need to understand the different processes here,” Ronald said.
With the help of e2i, processes at the café have been streamlined and automated, thus benefitting their workers. Maggie also shared her plans to continue to support and develop their staff. “That’s our commitment to train and grow the industry’s workers,” she shared.
In addition, where possible, Ronald takes their personal circumstances into account when he does the scheduling. For example, he tries to put one of his staff who is a father, in the morning shift to allow him more quality time with his family.
“While there are other café owners who are privileged enough to start with their parents’ support, we don’t have that luxury. Yet, I think it’s an important process – the learning process. Learning cost control, inventory, organisational skills to leadership skills – how to be a friend, when to be a leader. All these are crucial,” Ronald shared.
You know that feeling when you just feel really motivated and inspired by the people you cross paths with on a chance encounter? Catch Ronald and Maggie for a chat at the cafe if you can. Their enthusiasm and love for coffee, and life will surely rub off you.
For a piece of dessert and coffee heaven, you know where to go!