By @SimonCocking review of What I Know About Running Coffee Shops by Colin Harmon, available to buy here

Colin Harmon is a four-time Irish Barista Champion and owner of Dublin’s 3fe Coffee, one of the world’s most innovative and progressive specialty coffee shops. His work in coffee has extended to roasting, training and consultancy work, as well as developing coffee equipment for the speciality market and beyond. 

What I Know About Running Coffee Shops is drawn from Colin’s experience in building 3fe from a one man cart in a nightclub lobby to the internationally renowned business it is today. The lessons, stories and guidelines offer a unique and honest insight into the day to day realities of what many people see as their dream job.

Not being a coffee expert, nor having any desire to open a coffee shop, this is still an enjoyable and useful book to read. Right at the beginning, Harmon describes how he retitled the book from it’s previous title ‘How to run a coffee shop’. This is relevant as it is symptomatic of his desire to simply share his experiences, insights, and thoughts. The section describing the point where cappuccinos potentially blur into lattes was enjoyable for his refreshing honesty about all aspects of his journey, and experiences along the way.

So if you don’t like coffee or don’t have a dream to open a coffee shop why would you read this book? Because it is a great business book. He breaks down the operating profits per cup of coffee, the perils of giving friends freebies, and the optimal operating levels to actually be profitable. The fact that he also learned these lessons on the previously not very coffee friendly streets of Dublin show the value in developing a quality product in an area that had potentially not realised it wanted your product.

They obviously also spent time thinking about the layout and production qualities of the book too, and it has paid off as the book is an elegant object to hold and read too. The font is perhaps a little too small, but the illustrations and colour scheme more than make up for it and make it an enjoyable experience to read. Which is surely a smart idea for someone who is in the experience business. It’s a useful addition to the world of business books, check it out.

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