Cafeclub: New independent cafe with online ordering only

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With a streamlined barista setup, incredible technology and stealthy supercar-inspired design cues

Alex Ragoussis loves sports cars.

In fact, the Montreal chef and entrepreneur loves sports cars so much when the design consultant for his first project in Vancouver, a “digital” cafe called Cafeclub in the heart of downtown, showed Ragoussis and co-owner Filip Nikolic the company’s mood board, sleek and fast vehicles featured prominently.

Turns out Ragoussis didn’t realize he was talking so much about his love of cars; its other passion – in addition to good coffee and innovation in the hotel experience – bubbling lends itself well to Cafeclub.

The Cafeclub concept – a 100% online-only café with coffee, pastries and take-out – aims to meet the standard cafe waiting experience. Taking inspiration from the growing popularity of QR codes, online ordering and smartphone apps over the past two years, Cafeclub is also applying technology to the coffee bar in the form of state-of-the-art equipment, they are the first to Vancouver to use.

The result: less waiting, a consistent product, counter clerks who aren’t face down in a cash register, and a new, independent coffee business to rival the old familiar.

Nikolic and Ragoussis opened Cafeclub in mid-October, having taken over a former Starbucks location at 1018 W Georgia St. Doing a build where the cafe infrastructure existed was a boon for the duo and provided the perfect canvas for work in some truly remarkable functional and design elements.

How Cafeclub is using cafe technology to ‘speed things up’

The technology includes an alternative milk and milk dispenser called a FloSmart from Australia that senses pitcher size and dispenses milk accordingly and uses RFID-enabled pitchers that are programmed to communicate with the automated frother. The foamer, a perfect moose from Belgium, allows the barista to achieve the exact consistency and temperature needed for the drink – and frees them up to do other tasks online or chat with arriving customers, rather than the usual steam setup that finds the personnel head down and look at the thermometer.

In addition to Cafeclub’s high-end espresso machine (custom painted by a body shop in actual Porsche red) and grinder/tampers, the cafe also uses a Toronto-made cold brew machine that can brew the coffee fresh with nitro bubbles with the flip of a switch.

With all these gimmicks, however, Ragoussis is quick to point out that the goal isn’t to turn the entire coffee experience into an automated one; it’s more about efficiency for the barista and a consistent product for the customer. “There are no compromises on quality and no bottlenecks when we speed things up,” says Ragoussis during an in-person cafe tour.

Although neither Nikolic nor Ragoussis have a background in engineering or acting, the duo took a very hands-on approach to essentially choreographing the role of barista – taking into account up to five workers behind the bar at a time – and determining spacing, angles and moves and adjusts where all equipment and storage has been set up. Inspired by a page from the bartending world book, the Cafeclub counter is set up like a bar, with cup-rinse and ice cube stations.

How cars factor into cafe design

Back to those fast cars, though. Your eyes might jump to the framed picture of a Porsche hanging on the wall, but you might not immediately notice that the floor has been treated with an epoxy like a garage floor, the design of the drawers behind the bar is pulled from mechanical drawers, and there are pieces of galvanized metal in the workshop. Much like how sports car makers have pivoted to using galvanized metal so vehicles won’t rust, Cafeclub hopes its changes to the cafe experience will bring the familiar habit of so many Vancouverites to its improved next generation.

Ragoussis says “How can we be the best coffee possible?” is the mantra behind Cafeclub. To that end, when it comes to coffee, they work with local and regional roasters, like Nemesis, Moving Coffee, and Detour, to source beans, including single-origin coffees from trusted farms. Paragon Tea is supplying the tea powders (these will eventually be rolled out in what Cafeclub is calling “Super Lattes,” an upcoming addition to the menu that means drinks with adaptogen boosts and other add-ons).

For other beverages and foods, Cafeclub works with local and regional companies such as Culture for kombucha, Farm Karma for fruit sodas, and a range of candy and meal makers. The cafe sells pastries from ButterBoom, Dough, Noisette by Olivia, and To Live For, and light bites like wraps and salads from Juice Truck and Two Boys With a Knife.

The Cafeclub menu, which customers encounter online, displays every drink and many foods as animated GIFs, so you can see all the components as they’re put together, even the tea brew (if you’re not there to watch them behind the counter, you can still experience this visual component online).

And, yes: you can come in and place an order (just scan the QR code and type it online).

Although the technology and automation may seem clinical, Cafeclub’s space is lively and engaging, and will soon be enhanced with table space to sit or stand and enjoy your drink onsite. But if you need to get to a meeting or your office, you can be on your way in a snap.

You know, like a sports car.

Take a look at our visit to Cafeclub:

@forkingawesomevia Hi robot overloads. #vancouverbc #forkingawesome #coffee 🎙️: @lindsaywilliamross ♬ Lovely Day / Good as Hell Mashup – Pomplamoose

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