cafes on instagram

Instagram (a social network bought by Facebook for around $1B, even though they had no revenue source at the time, and still have a fairly low level of revenue coming in) is still in its early stages as a social network. I’m fairly selective with who I follow on instagram, which means I’m still able to look at all the photos of the people I follow.

This is significant: I crossed the line a long time ago with twitter and with facebook, and just dip in occasionally and read whatever I can make time for. Instagram feels different, though: with its minimal (effectively nil) advertising, it still feels like a place that’s about the exchange of ideas rather than a commercial place where everyone is providing data for the service to sell.

Sure, Instagram is building up a database of places, connections, images, networks of sharing the same as the other players, and its (rarely seen) error messages are now hosted on facebook servers, not independent servers, but it still *feels* different.

And so Instagram is still a place where brands can interact with their followers in a more human way. I realised this when I started unfollowing brands/commercial accounts that they were managing to reach my subconcious in a more profound way than simply advertising. On Instagram, everything is just a photo, so commercial messages are, I think, less prone to banner blindness than on other platforms.

What does this mean for cafes in particular? I follow quite a few coffee-related accounts, many of whom for people I have met (though, with the exception of the occasional free coffee sample, none of whom I have a commercial interest in), and thought I’d share a few observations.

There are many types of coffee-related accounts: equipment vendors (eg thejuggler_ssm, lamarzocco, synesso_factory), roasters (eg griffithscoffee, tobysestatecoffee , camposcoffee), cafes (eg brewtownnewtown, circaespresso, fleetwoodmacchiato, kitchenbymike, thegroundsofalexandria, reformatorycoffeelab, smithteacoffee, vellanero, johnsmithcafe, substationcafe), cafe staff (eg charlescameron, tobyornot), hybrid accounts (eg atallandsundry, fleetwoodmacchiato, grindespresso), and – it could be argued – cafe bloggers or patrons like myself (eg bitterbliss, cafedave, beansproutcafe).

As with any social media approach, if you’re looking to be effective in your use of Instagram, you need to start by asking yourself why you’ve set up your account: what you’re hoping to get out of it. Ideally this will align with some higher-level business goals that you have.

The one outlier in the set of accounts above is the hybrid account. As a cafe owner, there are some big hours. It can be difficult to separate out your personal life from your cafe, but the experience of following the cafe when you don’t know the owner can be confusing.

The best of cafe accounts highlight those times of day when you would most like to visit a cafe: muffins fresh out of the oven, a new menu item becoming available, or the new beans you’ve brought in. Bringing in the personality of the staff from your cafe is a good way to remind your customers of why they visit the cafe.

While encouraging customers to take photos of your cafe might be a negative in terms of turning over tables, if you want to increase the level of engagement with instagram, there are a variety of steps you can take:


  • improve the quality of plating your food, or of your latte art
  • prominently add your instagram account name to your menus / at the cash register
  • repost the images of your followers
  • make sure your cafe location is on facebook places so people who visit your cafe can discover each others’ photos
  • increase the amount of lighting / natural light in the cafe
  • serve foods / place settings in a way that is easier to capture in a square frame
  • create a unique visual feature in your cafe that people who visit can include in their photos
  • create a uniquely named menu item (eg brewnut) to make sharing easier


Adding an instagram strategy to your cafe’s social media marketing mix can be a helpful way to gain more customers, and more repeat customers. Make sure you build in a way to see how many people are coming to the cafe from Instagram (some free stats are available at the time of writing from iconosquare – here’s the hashtag search for #brewtownnewtown – you’ll need to log in with an instagram account to see it).

Let me know in the comments below if you have a favourite cafe on instagram.

currently drinking: griffiths coffee

I’m giving the aeropress a brief rest from the conga line of different single origins I’ve been drinking this year, thanks to the generous offer of Marc from Griffiths Coffee.

To celebrate the world cup, they have made their “Mundial 14” – a blend of South American coffees (including Brazil) that comes ground in a vacuum-sealed can. If you don’t have access to a grinder, this is a convenient way to get your morning fix, and they clearly have some skills in putting a blend together.

Thanks for the chance to try something different!

artisanal toast

It’s a sign of how broken the link of “I’ve read something interesting online” and “I should blog this” in my head, that I read this a few days ago, and didn’t share it here.

The history of the artisanal toast trend in San Francisco is not just a story about ridiculous hipster spending and how much money they can generate for their owners, it’s a story of redemption through cafe ownership.

fifty two (52) breakfasts

What’s your favourite breakfast? I recently made up a list of 52 breakfasts for a friend. Here they are.

  1. Weetbix with sliced fruit and milk
  2. granola with fruit
  3. bircher muesli
  4. weetbix with grilled cheese
  5. boiled eggs with vegemite soldiers
  6. eggs benedict
  7. french toast
  8. fried eggs with bacon
  9. poached eggs with spinach
  10. omelette – ham and cheddar
  11. omelette – spinach and mushroom with feta
  12. omelette – tomato and feta
  13. omelette – leftover roast lamb and mint
  14. omelette – tomato and bocconcini with basil
  15. croque monsieur
  16. omelette – mixed mushrooms
  17. omelette – rosemary potatoes
  18. omelette – chorizo
  19. omelette – smoked salmon with dill
  20. giant mushrooms on toast
  21. fruit salad and yoghurt
  22. ramekin lined with salmon, fill with scrambled eggs
  23. english muffins with fresh jam
  24. baked beans on toast
  25. scrambled eggs with crispy prosciutto
  26. omelette – asparagus and feta
  27. pancakes with bacon and maple syrup
  28. breakfast wrap – scrambled eggs and mexican spices
  29. sliced bananas and berries on brioche.
  30. breakfast trifle – muesli / granola with yoghurt and berry coulis
  31. porridge with brown sugar
  32. crepes
  33. porridge with peanut butter and mixed berries
  34. omelette – cheddar and pea
  35. croissant with jam
  36. croissant with ham and cheese
  37. potato cakes (left over mashed potato brushed with egg, mixed with some flour and some bacon or similar, then fried in a pan)
  38. blueberry muffin
  39. freshly baked bread rolls with boiled eggs
  40. baked eggs with leftover veggies
  41. hash browns
  42. mango smoothie
  43. baked ricotta with poached fruit
  44. marinated mushrooms and poached eggs
  45. chocolate coated brioche
  46. corn fritters
  47. mushroom bruschetta
  48. mushroom stuffed with goat cheese and ricotta
  49. vegemite on toast
  50. breakfast smoothie (add rolled oats, fruit and milk, with yoghurt)
  51. baked eggs with bacon and tomato
  52. breakfast stack – toast, baked beans, poached egg, spinach

What am I missing?


First coffee of 2014 from cafedave on Vimeo.

One of my favourite Christmas presents was a surprise. I’d talked for a while with Kel about getting an aeropress, but thought we’d agreed that it was a needless expense, and a way of making coffee that requires a filter each time you use it.

In fact, a colleague had talked me through the whole process a number of years ago, before they were trendy, and I’d thought “that’s great for camping, but I’ll stay with espresso / plunger coffee when I have access to modern conveniences”.

I was wrong. This is a really easy way to make coffee, the setup is very fast, making the coffee is faster than plunger, and it’s easier to clean than plunger. I’m hooked. For home coffee making, unless you’re wanting to play around with espresso extraction and latte art, it’s hard to imagine something better.

I would highly recommend trying it out. (The cheapest I’ve found them is over in Marickville at West Juliett – review forthcoming someday – closed until January 13, but you can find them at Grind for $40.)

The pay by the minute, not the coffee, cafe

When I’m visiting a cafe to get some work done, I often feel bad that I’m taking up a table that could be going to someone else. This German cafe has a different approach: it charges by the time spent, not by the coffee consumed: it’s not yet clear if it will catch on.

Customers are charged €0.05 per minute, amounting to €3.00 an hour. When they come in the door, Volkova gives them a wristband with the time marked on it. When they leave they hand it back and their bill is calculated to the minute. The concept of time is turned on its head, with several clocks purposely showing different times. The intention is for people to forget about time and focus on those around them…


Will everything be a coffee shop?

A piece of speculation about the future of a range of businesses and sectors “In the Future Everything Will Be A Coffee Shop (via disassociated) makes some excellent points, and a few I disagree with.

In America in particular the cost of higher education and student loans is spiralling out of control – it can be a long time after they finish studying before graduates are paying off the cost of their training. But suggesting that the answer is to set up coffee shops where people can watch free lectures from large institutions doesn’t seem sustainable: it works for the first year or two, but then who is paying for the new research to be done, and the up-to-date lectures being created? You might be able to learn a language, or even how to run a business through a laptop, but if you need to do lab work of any sort, then a cafe will struggle to support the full spectrum of course content!

I’m mourning the loss of bookshops as a sound business model as much as anyone – there’s something comforting about the notion of having a bookshop in your own suburb. Having a bookshop that’s just a combination of a cafe and a distribution / pick-up point for Amazon, or an instant-publisher of ebooks is better than nothing. This model could be a positive contribution to local small business.

Ultimately, the main challenge with “everything is a coffee shop” will be finding a viable business model. Cafes struggle to compete among themselves: if every business in a shopping strip is a cafe, then supply will far exceed demand.

In terms of replacing office spaces, the business model of a coffee shop comes under stress when office workers settle in for the day. The expectation on the side of customers is that cafes should offer free wifi and free power. But at some point, this becomes a lose-lose for the cafe. To make money, the cafe needs to be able to keep turning over the tables to new patrons – there is  some period of time that someone who has bought a $3 (or $4) coffee can stay in the cafe before they’re costing too much money – but if a cafe asks someone to move along, they run the risk of alienating not just that customer, but the surrounding customers.

Should an office worker want to pay their way by purchasing some menu items and additional beverages, they’re going to be consuming a lot of calories in lieu of renting a traditional office space: – this isn’t going to be a great thing for worker health!

And that’s quite apart from the negative impact that remote workers have on the tone of a coffee shop – the coffee houses of centuries past would not have worked as idea hubs if everyone had their heads buried in their electronic devices! Some cafes are deliberately turning off the wifi for atmospheric or financial reasons.

I think there’s still a lot more thought to be done on workplaces of the future and it’s a little too reductive to think that a cafe (or even something on the scale of a cafe) will be the dominant form of workspace.

A dedicated co-working space seems more sustainable (e.g. vibe wirefishburnershomework) and then ducking out to a cafe for a change of scene, and a more reasonable timeframe.

Instead of relying on cafes to provide wifi and power for computer / tablet users, perhaps we’ll see wifi become a service that is provided by local council or state government as a general enhancement to the shared space of a community, rather than being isolated to specific private businesses.