The Drury Tea and Coffee Company in south London quite cheerfully accepts not being one of the ‘cool and hip’ coffee roasteries which currently dominate the interest of the London media – yet, the London coffee scene has a lot to thank Drury for – especially as it was one of the very first leaders of what was to become the coffee revolution.Way back in the 1940’s and 1950’s, Drury blended and roasted what was to be London’s first UK-produced espresso coffee for the new wave of coffee bars which created a whole new social movement.It has continued to produce well-regarded coffees from its own roastery, supplies a very respectable list of top restaurants, and is the distributor of the Rancilio brand of espresso machines.Recently they have come to prominence as one of the new wave of ‘artisan’ tea blenders and packers with their own ‘pyramid’ tea-bag packaging equipment which is extremely rare in UK.
Who are you, and can you sum up the USP of your company in a sentence?
I’m Marco Olmi, Sales Director of The Drury Tea & Coffee Company. I don’t know if we have a USP but I like to think we do a number of things very well.
What were your ambitions for your career, and did they come anywhere near what you are doing now? In what ways did your education prepare you for what you are doing now?
Initially I tried to escape the family business and considered a career in zoology, which couldn’t be further from tea and coffee, I suppose – although there are those that would say being able to handle wild animals is the perfect preparation for working in this industry! I decided quite quickly though that the path to academia was not for me and I was more of a commercial beast.
In what way did your previous trade experience prepare you for what you are doing now?
I was a barman in a very nice City wine bar and restaurant for two years before I joined Drury, and I think that allowed me to see things from the customer’s point of view. When you’ve worked a long shift and you’re completely knackered, the last thing you want is a supplier causing you problems, so I’ve tried to keep that in mind from the supply point of view. I’ve only ever had two jobs (2 years a barman, 24 years at Drury) so my experience is fairly limited.
What is the best bit of sales and marketing advice you have ever been given, and would be prepared to pass on? If you were able to give one piece of advice to your younger self, starting in business for the first time, what would you say? I learnt a lot from my father, who was managing director and in charge of sales for the company before retiring and I think the most important thing he taught me was knowing when to walk away. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you’re not the right fit for a customer and you have to recognise that and back out. It’s better for you and for them.
A piece of advice for my younger self?You have to make mistakes and learn from them and luckily I’ve not made any that have had drastic implications for the company.One piece of personal advice, though – don’t get that mohican haircut (circa 1985) because pretty soon you’re going to have the exact opposite of it!
What has been your most memorable success in marketing?
I think what I’m most proud of is Drury’s customer list. Apart from all the fantastic coffee bars we serve, we also supply some of the very finest restaurants in the UK. Our customers between them hold 24 Michelin stars at last count, out of a total of about 170 UK-wide, so we’re certainly punching above our weight, and it’s fantastic to know that these people trust us to help them get their coffee service right.
What was your most forgettable experience?
Ha! Far too many to mention. I have been known to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on many occasions!
What do you enjoy about working with the coffee-house and café-bar trades?
It’s a cliché, but I do enjoy meeting the wide variety of people who get involved in the trade. We deal with so many different nationalities and people with such diverse backgrounds – that can be really interesting.
What should the café-bar trade really understand about your product to get the best from it?
I think the most important thing is to understand that it’s not just about the product. Coffee and tea are at the heart of everything we do, and of course they are the most important piece in the puzzle, but what’s also very important is service, logistics and training – without these, our customers (and therefore their customers) aren’t going to get a great cup of coffee or tea.
Ideally, what will you do with your retirement?
Mostly I suspect I will annoy my wife. I think I will practice hard at becoming a better fisherman – at the moment I’m enthusiastic but rubbish. I’d also like to think that one day I’ll have grandchildren to spoil rotten, just like my dad does with my sons.
What’s the best business freebie or business gift you’ve ever had?
I am lucky enough to deal with some fantastic restaurants so I do get treated to some very nice meals from grateful chefs from time to time, and that’s always really appreciated. Also, a few years ago I managed to get a couple of days in Porto to oversee the production of some new packaging material – we managed to get everything sorted out on the first afternoon and our contact there also happened to be a member of the Taylor-Fladgate family (one of the biggest port wine houses), so the next day was spent visiting port warehouses… the flight home was a blur.