Firstly, I’d like to know a bit about your background. Where did you study and what got you interested to be a part of the coffee industry?
I had a vision that one day I would be in the F&B industry but my background is not in F&B; no background and no professional experience – totally zero. I had more experience in the telecommunications industry!
In the beginning I did not choose the coffee industry or coffee shops to start with.
Along the way, I had discussions with some of the potential partners and also learned about the industry and tried to understand more the about the F&B business in Indonesia, especially in Jakarta and how to survive in this very competitive market. After some consideration and discussions, we decided to have one concept that would be sustainable and would also be easier to duplicate in the future. Based on that analysis, we came up with an idea to have very unique coffee shops, focusing on Indonesian coffee beans.
Do you think that studying at Canberra University in Australia instilled a love for the coffee culture?
Surprisingly, I was only a casual coffee drinker while I was in Australia and I wasn’t very picky about coffee. I learned about coffee in Indonesia and also the culture behind it. To be honest with you, I learned more about the wine and beer culture while I was in Australia!
Tell us a bit about Liberica Coffee. How was this brand born? How many outlets do you have today and where are they located?
We have eight outlets now; five in Jakarta, one in Solo, one in Medan and one coming soon in Palembang. In Indonesia we are planning to open several outlets in Bali, Solo and several cities in Indonesia, so we are not focusing only on Jakarta. We also have one trial outlet in Melbourne to understand the market, the challenges and also the culture when entering the overseas market.
We set several criteria for our brand in the beginning: 1. Be easy to remember, 2. Have a strong relationship with coffee, and 3. The name must be unique /outstanding from the rest of our competitors.
What are Liberica Coffee’s core values?
Our core values are:
• Be unique; we don’t want to mimic or duplicate what’s already available in the Indonesian market.
• Passion for the coffee industry and growth of the business /industry.
• Focus on Indonesian coffee beans.
• Continuous improvements in terms of product development, customer satisfaction (service) and new ideas for outlets.
• Passion for customers.
Tell us about your blends. Do you have a secret recipe?
We do have special Liberica blends. Our house blend contains Arabica beans from several different regions in Indonesia and we differentiate the coffee blend for hot drinks and the coffee blend for iced drinks. We also provide several single origins from several regions for our retail package.
Your Americano coffee knocks the socks off me every time! Is Indonesian coffee generally stronger than others? Is there a reason for this?
Not always, it’s how we roast the beans. Some people like dark roast, some people they like medium roast and some people like the in between. We do in between medium and dark and it is all about the customer’s preference. You can ask our barista to brew the blend that matches your criteria.
In your three years with Liberica Coffee, have you seen a shift in the way that Indonesians are enjoying coffee? What is the trend nowadays?
Yes, the market is growing faster than we expected and also the industry and the competition. The customer is becoming more educated about coffee and they’ve started to become very picky and critical. At the same time, we have to follow the trends and keep up with customer’s expectations. It’s totally different compared to three or four years ago.
Could you share with us the demographics of your customers? What percentage are expatriates?
Currently, probably still 95% of our customers are Indonesian and 5% are expatriates. But for our Kemang branch, the expatriate percentage is more like 10% – 15%. In general our customers are mainly young executives aged between 25 – 40 years old.
How have you been developing your business over the past three years? What does this job entail?
In early discussions with all our partners, we agreed that Liberica has to have more than 20 outlets in the future and, based on that, we tried to create simple and very easy to duplicate outlets, from products to design. We started our first outlet in August 2011 and we studied for almost one year to understand the business, the coffee culture, and customer profiles, giving us time to create and adjust standard operations from baristas, service mechanisms and all that relates to day-to-day operations.
It’s a very long learning process and every time we open a new outlet we find new challenges because different regions have very unique characteristics and we have to understand the culture and customer’s habits. We never stop learning and it’s like every region or city shows us different challenges or obstacles that we have to solve. It’s very exciting.
What makes Liberica stand out from the crowd?
The products, manpower and the idea behind Liberica. We have more complete products, which are also quite different compared to other coffee shops in Jakarta, as well as our idea behind the design and how we build the ambience. We tried to create our own character as a coffee shop that must be different and unique. Our manpower also must be very professional and very engaging with the customer.
Liberica not only sells coffee, it also serves Stark beer and imported beer. What are the reasons for this and how have your customers responded? Do you also serve other alcoholic beverages? What time do you open until?
That’s one thing that makes us different, right? Actually we are not the first coffee shop to sell wine and beer. We also have signature coffee cocktails and we only have a few cocktails that have a distinctive character. In some locations we close at around 12 – 2am because of mall regulations or customer requests. We provide these products as an alternative option for non-coffee drinkers, especially at night time. The contribution of these two products are small compared to coffee-based drinks.
And finally, Pak Rully, what do you believe is the key to success? Any advice for other aspiring baristas/coffee shop owners out there?
The coffee business is a very interesting industry and we believe all coffee shop owners in Indonesia have to grow the business/industry further. We have to be proud of our local brands, of which I believe some are more innovative and creative than some international brands, in term of products, design and ambience. For all baristas, keep improving because you are playing a very important part in this industry and how we move forward in the future.