At the Caffè Culture show this year, Kimbo displayed a real Neapolitan street-scene café… it was of course a clever optical illusion which worked very well. The point of it, the company said, was that many brands offer the market variations on the idea of ‘Italian coffee’, without actually being able to delve too deeply into what that is supposed to mean. Kimbo, by contrast, is very proud of telling the story of how three guys started off their own roastery in Naples in the 1950s, and became firmly linked with the city’s coffee style.
The brand is a very recent arrival to the UK, arriving by acquisition of a based London company and inheriting Angus McKenzie as its British managing director. He has now taken the brand into several pub chains, a chain of champagne bars, and into several artisan food-and-coffee chains, most notably the Real Eating Company on the south coast and the Euphorium Bakery of London, who will soon open an in-store branded Kimbo espresso bar in Threadneedle Street.
Who are you, and can you sum up the USP of your company in a sentence?
I am Angus McKenzie, MD of Kimbo UK. Our business is the UK arm of Italy’s much-loved Kimbo espresso, roasted in Naples for over 50 years and now the second largest roaster in Italy. Our coffees are very special as they reflect the real artisan southern Italian roast style, using the knowledge of generations to bring out a real depth of flavour, without bitterness, that wins over new fans of espresso.
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?
I started my coffee career in Glasgow for a well-known roaster, having finished a degree in Hotel and Catering Management at Strathclyde University – the lure of a company car and free coffee was too much to resist! During my studies I learned the ‘art’ of hospitality, and that has stuck with me… really trying to serve people well is a bit of a dying art, and I hope that my approach to people and service standards have driven my career development.
In what way did your previous trade experience prepare you for what you are doing now?
Having worked for different coffee roasters as well as representing some of the biggest hot beverage brands in the UK, I have developed a good operational understanding, so I can get into the commercial mindset of the operator. It is often a fine balance to deliver quality and yet produce the margins that operators expect, but in my experience where there’s a will there’s a way, and a collaborative approach always brings the best solutions.
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?
My ex-MD at Cafebar, James Aston, once told me when I lost an account – ‘Angus, let me tell you that sometimes you’ll win business and sometimes you’ll lose business, but keep believing in what you do, and if you’re lucky you’ll win more than you lose!’ I never forget this as we live in a commercial world and sometimes a greater perspective can keep you both sane and focused.
What has been your most memorable success in marketing?
I think the many months of hard work bringing our new website to launch was for me the biggest success to date, as the phone actually rings most days now with potential customers generated from it. Also being brave enough to try more direct marketing approaches has helped us this year.
And what was your most forgettable experience?
We lost a large client when our own Kimbo brand and structure wasn’t fully harmonised for the UK – I will always be sorry we couldn’t move faster to keep a customer happy.
What do you enjoy about working with the coffee-house and café-bar trades?
I love the passion that you find and the camaraderie that exists. I truly feel lucky to work with such good people. My involvement too with professional bodies such as the BSA and the SCAE has brought me great fulfillment and satisfaction as well as many new friends and challenges!
What should the café-bar trade really understand about your product to get the best from it?
People should really be thinking about drinks quality, and authenticity too. We see people with ‘Italian style coffees’, and that makes me wonder why they don’t come and seek the real deal. We are also utterly committed to training, and every operator needs to revisit training more often – it’s the simplest way to grow your sales. When you invest in a barista and take them to a certain level in developing their craft, your tills really start ringing.
Ideally, what will you do with your retirement?
It will be Cornwall I’m certain, between Penzance and Porthleven. I’ll have more Collie dogs and a battered old Landrover and a daily pint or two of Doombar. I’ll walk the beach with my lovely wife each day and think ‘bloomin heck, it was all worth it in the end!’
What’s the best business freebie or business gift you’ve ever had?
A plastic origami espresso cup flat-packed, I played with it, mastered it, and must have shown it to dozens of people. Simple ideas remain the best.