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Sydney cafés seeking edge with extra bytes


Cafés and other physical retail businesses aren’t generally thought to be reliant on high-tech gadgets. But as Matthew da Silva discovers over one too many espressos, wherever hot milk signals profitability, a house laptop is never far away.

We mix fresh beats

During the week Chris Anastopoulos can be found behind the counter with his staff at Cafe Azzuri, in the basement of Sydney University’s Wentworth Building. In his personal time, he DJs and mixes songs.

Chris plays a range of music at work. “Housey, chilled out, good feeling. Anything that’s positive.”

It’s mainly students who visit the cafe, and they often compliment him on it.

“I think that a lot of people that come into the café come into the café for not just the coffee but the atmosphere, and I think the music is a big part of that,” he says.

He uses the Macbook Pro he got for his 21st birthday to make music. It stores “heaps”.

“I’ve got 47Gb, which is over 5000 songs and lots and lots of mixes.”

He justifies the volume by its utility; he no longer has to fix those annoying CDs that skip.

“Having a computer, you just leave it and it goes, which is very, very useful.”

Gives you whatever you want

Like Chris, who looks up recipes on the computer, Ben Sweeten at the Oven Cafe in the Sydney suburb of St Leonards does searches on the computer out the back.

“If we make an Italian pasta, I type down the ingredients and it gives me the Italian name.”

In a busy cafe, Ben says, you don’t want to have to think about too many things.

“You can keep a lot more songs, playlists, shuffle different playlists. It makes life a lot easier than just a little iPod. It’s easier to get to, it’s easier to see.

“Little things like that make your day go ten times easier.”

Oven Cafe also connected its Macbook Pro to the cash register and the EFTPOS machine, so Ben can manage transactions at the end of the day.

They even stream the occasional video feed of coffee making to YouTube. The owners plan to install TV screens so that patrons can see what’s going on in each shop in the chain.

Ben says it’s the best business decision they ever made.

“That’s no joke. Right now it’s running our wi-fi so that customers can use the Internet. It’s running our music and our till system. And it’s just a little laptop.”

Barista school bytes up

Not all people go to barista school to learn a trade, says Matthew Gee of Barista Basics Coffee Academy.

“A lot of them, their reason for coming is to learn a skill, to get a job. But there are an increasing number of people who come just because they’re interested in coffee. And it’s a good, fun thing to do.”

With classrooms in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, Matthew and his brother rely on computers for all aspects of the business.

They run a Mac at the front of each shop that has a large screen continuously running a PowerPoint presentation.

“It displays to the outside world exactly what it is we do.”

They have another Mac in each school that runs PowerPoint presentations for the course. And the point-of-sale computers are PCs due to the operating system requirement of the accounting software, MYOB.

With a background in film production, Matthew prefers Macs.

“Before we got into coffee we made children’s television programs and all of the editing equipment that we have and the cameras that we use to film on, was Mac-based. In the graphics world, Macs rule.”

The brothers still make instructional DVDs.

“It all integrates well on Macs. You know: the photos, the movies, the music.”

* 15 things worth knowing about coffee

Matthew da Silva writes feature stories to fulfil a dream after working in communications and technical writing roles for two decades. He grew up in Sydney, lived in Japan for nine years and now lives on the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland. He blogs daily at Happy Antipodean.

Photo: Demion