Real business story

Extract Coffee Roasters forged strong customer relationships by sharing expertise

It’s an understatement to say coffee is big business in Bristol. Yet despite close competition from growing numbers of artisan coffee roasters, Extract Coffee Roasters remains a staple of city centre cafés and has built up a loyal following of enthusiasts. We took a tour of Extract’s roastery with co-founder Dave Faulkner to find out how the business has stayed on top for more than a decade.

Extract has maintained its popularity in Bristol despite stiff competition

Extract Coffee Roasters started in a garden shed, where the team would roast coffee and then sell it from a small coffee cart. They had two mantras: make coffee better and don’t fail.

The business set a high standard for its coffee from the start, paying attention to small things like steaming milk properly and creating latte art. The latte art was a mark of quality; a way to remind customers that they were being served something special.

“We spent a hell of a lot of time getting it right. It was a real push and struggle. Customers didn’t ask for it or expect it to be perfect, but it was part of our intent to make better coffee,” co-founder Dave Faulkner said.

A decade later, Extract's high standards have turned it into one of the most popular roasters in the South West of England and inspired other local businesses to up the game – something Dave is particularly proud of.

“You can see things progressing now. The fact we’ve helped to change the standard across one little city in the UK is a real pleasure for us.”

We've outlined the six key areas that have contributed to Extract's success so far:

  • Planning
  • Values
  • Coronavirus response
  • Culture
  • Partnerships
  • Efficiency

You can quickly navigate to the topic you're interested in by clicking the relevant link at the top of this page.

Our behind the scenes look at Extract Coffee Roasters is part of a number of other deep-dive profiles we have. Make sure you have a look the others:

Creating a plan from day one

The first few weeks of a business can be chaotic. Business owners often get sidetracked by fun and creative tasks and don’t realise the importance of setting targets or budgets.

Dave credits his co-founder Marc Richards with getting the team organised from the start. Marc made sure the team set goals, timelines, deadlines and budgets right away. This gave the business direction and intent, and set a precedent for careful management of money and time.

“He’s scarily organised. He wanted to know if things were on budget and the whens, whys and hows of what we were going to do. We had our first ever business meeting on day one and there are minutes. Before we had a name, we had minutes!” Dave said.

As Dave explained, developing a product can be very emotional – it’s all about style, flavour and character. You’re passionate about what you do and you’re working with passionate people. It’s easy for new business owners to get caught up in it all.

“It’s often a quick route to failure if you don’t have someone that’s highly skilled in the numbers and intent department. I truly believe the only reason I’m still in the business is because of the other founding members. We made a promise to each that we weren’t going to fail.”

A steep learning curve

Despite the team’s organisation, there were still plenty of challenges in the early days. The fact Extract was one of the first British roasters to sell high-quality specialty coffee was both a blessing and a curse.

“Everyone’s a coffee expert these days. You can go on the internet and you’ve got 2,000 experts. But when we started in 2007, we had to work out how to do it ourselves. There wasn’t anyone to teach us, there wasn’t any camaraderie and there wasn’t any London Coffee Festival. We had to suck it and find out,” Dave explained.

For other businesses testing a new product or service, Dave recommends partnering with people who will be honest with you – even if it’s not what you want to hear.

At Extract, that person was Dave’s sister and co-founder Samantha. When the business still operated from a coffee cart, she would sell the coffee while he roasted it. Dave believes her honesty and opinionated nature made her an invaluable critic.

“When we were trialling a lot of our coffee, she’d be like: ‘It’s not working’. She’s been instrumental in helping us create the coffee we wanted to present to our customers,” he said.

“I’m a male chef, so I was fiercely stubborn. I thought I was right from day one. I don’t believe I ever had egg on my face, but I definitely ate some humble pie.

“Coming from my background – I had very classical training in patisserie – it was hard to be in charge of the coffee and hear ‘Nah, that’s not right’. I had to seek out people that were far better than I was and try to learn from them.”

Turning honesty into an identity

Watch Extract co-founder Dave Faulkner explain how an attitude of total transparency has increased customer trust and become a much-loved part of the company's brand.

How Extract used a values exercise to codify its unique culture

After ten years in business, Extract set about capturing its story and codifying the company's values. The teame named the project Compass, since it would define where they had come from and how they wanted to behave moving forwards.

If you’ve been in your business for a long time, it’s easy to make the mistake of assuming every new employee just “gets” your values. But values can quickly change or become lost, particularly as your company grows.

A values exercise is a useful way to involve employees in your company’s story and define what makes your business unique. Extract’s marketing manager Gemma Screen outlined the process they went through.

Identify challenges around staff and values

Extract made the decision to run a values exercise in response to a number of growth challenges.

The first challenge was that Extract’s origin story was a collection of anecdotes that weren’t written down anywhere. As new people joined the business, the team wanted to be able to share the story, so that each employee felt engaged with the history and journey moving forward. However, the story was open to embellishment and difficult to keep consistent.

The second challenge was that growth inevitably brought cultural change. To preserve what made their culture special, they needed to define its important characteristics.

The third challenge was that an increase in headcount had made roles and responsibilities more defined. As Gemma remembered, Extract had moved from a small business of 15 staff members where everyone “did a bit of everything”, to a team of 25-plus where things were more structured. The team wanted to create a stronger, more organised induction process.

As a result, Extract came up with three objectives for the exercise:

  1. Capture the story
  2. Define our values
  3. Create an amazing induction experience

How to structure your values workshop

The first step was to split the business into random groups of around five to six people. Each group was asked to brainstorm ideas about what they loved about Extract, what they thought the company did well and what they thought needed improving.

Ideas were captured on Post-it Notes, which were saved from each group’s meeting.

The project team – Gemma, the office manager and two directors – came together to categorise the Post-it Notes. Eventually, they defined six categories and used them as starting points for Extract’s values.

“Doing it this way meant that the values are both realistic and aspirational. The examples that came from the workshop show who we are at our best, as defined by the team. They’re a reminder of what we’ve achieved so far and what we can achieve in future,” Gemma said.

It’s important to choose values that are succinct, so they’re easy to remember. However, this route can sometimes result in the values coming across as vague or generic. For example, single words like “efficiency” or “communication” can lose context when they’re shared with the wider business.

“We initially condensed each value category down to a single word. But, after sitting on it for a few weeks, we realised that the words we were left with no longer felt very ‘Extract’ or personal to us,” Gemma explained.

Don’t take emotion out of your values

The solution was to take a step back. The team went back to the Post-it Notes and looked for the most emotive phrases that people had used time and time again. They used these to create captions, which would accompany each value heading.

Suddenly, Gemma remembered, the values were reconnected with how people in the business really felt and what it meant to be part of their team.

“Stripping too much emotion out of your values is a mistake made by a lot of businesses in a bid to be more clear or professional. The majority of businesses, big and small, are made up of teams of people establishing connections with customers – who are also people,” she said.

“The right amount of emotion makes these connections stronger and communication more meaningful, more powerful and more effective.”

Extract’s final values were:

  • We are passionate: proud of who we are, proud of what we do
  • We are a community: better together
  • We are storytellers: stories are free and travel fast. Tell your story and tell it well
  • We are ethical: do what’s right, not what’s easy
  • We are innovative: built not bought
  • We are knowledge sharers: quality, driven by knowledge

Make everyone aware of your values

A values exercise is pointless if only a few people are aware of them. Extract leadership presented their values back to the rest of the employees and designed an induction process to communicate them to new starters.

To ensure the company’s origin story is preserved, the team held an Extract story workshop with the founders to capture the timeline of the first ten years.

“All of this was brought together in our Compass book, which was given to every team member and is given to new starters when they join. We also created an internal company website, which includes the history of Extract, examples of our values in action and useful information for new starters when they join,” Gemma said.

Building the business around ethical values

Clockwise from top left: Extract’s 120kg Probat roaster (“Bertha”) has improved fuel efficiency, requiring just 40 per cent of the original fuel input to roast the same amount of coffee; coffee grounds are recycled and turned into renewable energy and biofertilisers; the roastery is powered using 100 per cent renewable energy; a Direct Impact report is published on the website each year to update customers on Extract’s latest sustainable improvements

A clear sense of purpose guided Extract through the challenges of coronavirus

When your business faces a crisis, having values and a sense of purpose is more important than ever. Extract's values have been instrumental in guiding the business through the challenges of coronavirus.

When the hospitality industry shut down at the end of March 2020, 96 per cent of Extract's business stopped overnight.

“We were left with coffee on the shelves, wholesale customers asking us for advice and support, and scores of people trying to navigate how they could drink speciality coffee at home during lockdown,” managing director Duncan Kendall recalls.

Extract immediately turned its focus to selling directly through its website. Its online store was already well established and the company ran a small subscription service for local coffee enthusiasts. However, the switch to an ecommerce-only model wasn’t straightforward.

Online orders for the first few weeks were erratic and unpredictably high. It made it hard to predict demand and schedule roasts accordingly. Overnight adjustments had to be made so staff could continue working in a safe, socially distanced way.

Despite the challenges, Duncan credits the team with taking it all in their stride.

“On a practical level, the passion and commitment shown by our roastery team in the initial few weeks was astonishing,” he said.

Maintaining core values

While it’s natural to be focused on survival, a strong set of values provides a crucial point of differentiation in a tough online market. During the crisis, Extract has worked hard to find new ways to reinforce its values, from advising customers online to supporting its wholesale network.

Quality is driven by knowledge

“We became increasingly aware of a new subset of customers drinking coffee at home for perhaps the first time and looking for advice on what to buy and how to make it taste good. We’ve been sharing at-home coffee knowledge in a series of brew guides and recipes across social media and in our email newsletter. It’s been really well received,” Duncan said.

Better together

Another of Extract’s core values focuses on community. The business has been built around long-term relationships with local cafés and frequently collaborates with charities and social enterprises. Duncan was determined to continue its community support wherever possible.

Three Extract employees have been volunteering at The Passage Food Hub in London, where they’re helping to prepare more than 300 meals for homeless people in emergency accommodation during lockdown.

Extract has also found ways to support emergency workers and, against all odds, its wholesale customers.

“Within the first couple of weeks, we started working with Boston Tea Party – a local café and long-term customer – to get coffee into intensive care units in hospitals. We installed filter machines and delivered coffee to the ward. So far we’ve put coffee into more than eight units and donated over 7,500 cups of coffee to key workers,” Duncan said.

“In the early weeks of lockdown we introduced a 20:10 scheme with our hospitality community too. Our wholesale customers could share a 20 per cent discount code with their customers for the Extract website. For every sale, we’ve been investing ten per cent into a restart pot to help customers manage costs upon reopening.”

Where the hospitality industry goes next

There's still plenty of uncertainty around coronavirus, but Duncan believes that the mental strength of people in hospitality will help them survive. He’s started a series of webcasts to explore ways the hospitality industry can bounce back.

“It’s going to be tough, but this is an industry that makes things happen. Now is the time to take stock, come up with new ideas, transform business models and use new technology. We’re moving from adapting to survive, to adapting to thrive. We believe in what we are doing and we’re not giving up.”

The value of authentic marketing

Customers want to know who is behind a brand more than ever. In this video, Extract Coffee Roasters’ marketing manager Gemma Screen shares her thoughts on the value of authenticity when it comes to marketing.

How Extract's one-week induction promotes a culture of respect

Your new employee’s induction period doesn’t have to be tied to presentations and paperwork. Extract Coffee Roasters uses the time to strengthen ties across its team.

Extract's 37-strong workforce includes a diverse mix of roles, from sales and marketing managers to engineers and coffee roasters. Yet as marketing manager Gemma Screen explained, there’s an incredible sense of team and family.

“It might stem from the fact two of our co-founders are family. The level of care is huge from person to person,” she said.

We spoke to co-founder Dave Faulkner about how cultivating respect helps to build a close-knit team.

Demonstrate the impact of each role

When a new employee starts at Extract, they go through a week-long induction protocol. Whether they’re an engineer, account manager or roastery assistant – the entry-level position for coffee roasting – they get to work across the business.

As Dave explains, this helps new starters to understand the impact made by each department.

“It’s a way for new employees to see how hard the sales guys work and how hard the roasting team works. They live a day in the shoes of each department. It breeds respect across members and teams, because every employee knows that it’s really hard to be a roaster and it’s super difficult to be in account management,” he said.

Extract’s decision to use its induction to create a greater understanding of different roles was partly inspired by Dave’s background as a chef. He remembers the difficulties a business would run into when chefs and waiters didn’t communicate properly.

“If people didn’t understand the value of each other’s roles from day one, you had chefs bleating and waiters crying. The service inevitably falls apart because there’s no understanding or respect between the two departments.”

Recognise the long-term benefits

Dave admitted that running the inductions aren’t easy. They’re costly, difficult to manage and time-consuming for team members. But he advised other business owners to keep the long-term benefits in mind.

“It shows intent from day one. It shows we’re invested in the person and that we don’t just care about them staying in one room for their career. It helps them meet people who started off in the same role and have gone on to become key parts of our team,” he said.

Promoting from within is important for Extract and many of their leadership team started in entry-level positions. Head of production Sean McGowan and head of coffee Ashlee Eastwood-Quinn both started out at Extract packing boxes five years ago.

“We actively try to promote and push people through, so they can go on and be something better. And it’s beneficial for us that we get to keep the people who have brains and balls.”

Respect doesn’t stop when staff leave the business

An investment in staff training gives businesses more freedom when it comes to hiring. Rather than being tied to hiring the person who’s most qualified on paper, you can hire based on passion and potential.

Even in a business like Extract that’s known for its high-quality, artisan produce, many employees start at the business knowing nothing about coffee. Several of these staff members have ultimately gone on to start their own coffee businesses.

Does the prospect of a protégé becoming competition concern the business? Apparently not. Dave insists that Extract’s culture of respect extends even after people leave.

“I’ve always believed our staff are our family members. If it’s time for someone to move on, they’ve given us their time and effort and energy, so we want to give them that back. We actively promote their businesses and celebrate what they’ve done.

“After being in business for 10 years, that’s a big part of the buzz. I see people doing great things in coffee and they were trained right here at Extract.”

Extract Coffee Roasters staff

New employees spend a day in the shoes of each department, which co-founder Dave Faulkner believes breeds respect across members and teams

The impact of sharing knowledge with your customers

A key element of Extract’s success has been its ability to build lasting relationships with ecustomers, despite increasing competition in the market.

Café chain Boston Tea Party has been a customer for eight years and describes the Extract partnership as “an amazing relationship built on trust and openness”.

With a shared belief in the value of training, the two businesses have put over 100 baristas – an entire workforce – through the Specialty Coffee Association’s (SCA) Foundation Level qualifications.

As Dave explained, Extract never intended to “kick some boxes of coffee through a door and leave”. This trust and openness is built into their values – if you really want to empower your customers, you have to be prepared to offer training and share insights.

This openness is at odds with many other coffee roasters, who tend to be secretive about how their coffee is produced.

“A lot of people in the coffee industry are so hung up about being hipster. They don’t understand that there are a lot of people that need help and don’t know coffee that well,” he said.

“We always understood that if we were going to get this right, we had to share stories. We want to make great coffee, but we can’t hold what we’ve learnt close to our chest and not tell people what the secrets are. You have to trust people, trust staff and trust your supply chain.”

Dave doesn’t worry about Extract’s transparency. They’re confident in the quality of their product and keen to make sure customers are selling the best version of it.

Would he recommend other service businesses take a similar open approach? “Remember that the more your customers sell, the more you sell.”

Building overseas partnerships

When it comes to sourcing and selecting coffee, Extract Coffee Roasters’ long-term relationships with importers help to make sure they get a high-quality product – and a good deal.

Behind the Extract team's drive for greater efficiency

Once you create a product or service that works, it’s common to fall into the trap of sticking with the same processes or production methods. Extract Coffee Roasters constantly look for ways to do more with less.

Improving your efficiency is something that will rarely happen overnight. Whether you’re upgrading equipment or changing how dozens of people work, it requires careful planning.

Extract co-founder Dave Faulkner shared the planning process behind one of his biggest projects.

Focus on what you already have

Extract is still a relatively small business, so investing in brand new, state-of-the-art coffee equipment has never been an option.

As a result, restoration has become a core part of Extract’s identity. Rather than investing in new tools, Dave looks logically at what the company already has. Which equipment could be improved? How could we tweak it to save time or make it more sustainable?

“We do the best we can with the stuff we’ve got. It’s about taking a logical step to make something better. Most of the time it doesn’t cost that much more, it just takes more attention to detail,” Dave said.

Set a goal

One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is to try and make their business more efficient for the sake of it. It’s crucial to have a specific goal in mind because the project could ultimately span six months, a year or more.

Extract’s goal was to rebuild a machine that would run more efficiently and sustainably than when it was new. The work would allow the business to run bigger roasts, which used less fuel, without any sacrifice on quality.

The machine Dave had in mind was a decommissioned 120kg Probat roaster – double the size of anything he’d worked on before. It was a huge project, but it had the potential to be a game-changer for the business.

Find your motivation

The project ultimately took four years to complete, but now requires just 40 per cent of the original fuel input to roast the same quantity of coffee. Dave also retro-fitted it with a custom-built afterburner to reduce pollution.

It’s a testament to what can happen if companies choose an ambitious goal and stick with it. While it took years to restore the roaster, Extract now has a machine that’s efficient, sustainable and gives them the capacity to grow.

To keep yourself motivated to achieve a long-term goal, Dave recommends finding a personal driver. Why do you care about the project?

“With the restoration project, there was some pride and stubbornness there, particularly when people said we couldn’t do it. That’s a serious driver for me: when people look at us and think we’re wacky for trying something,” he said.

What we learned from Extract Coffee Roasters

Extract Coffee Roasters is a business that's unafraid to lead rather than follow, from raising the bar on how coffee should look and taste to breaking with industry tradition and openly sharing its processes.

Much of Extract’s success stems from its dedication to creating long-term relationships, whether it’s with employees, local partners or overseas importers. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the lessons we learned from Dave and the Extract team:

  • Be honest about your weaknesses; try to seek out and learn from people who are better than you
  • Codifying values helps to engage new staff with your company’s history and journey
  • Keep looking for new ways to reinforce your values, particularly during difficult times
  • Customers are increasingly looking for authenticity in marketing
  • Share knowledge with customers. The more they sell, the more you sell
  • There are always ways to improve efficiency, so don’t get complacent about your processes
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Questions to ask yourself:

It’s easy for values to change or become lost as your company grows. Running a values workshop with staff has put them at the heart of Extract's business again.

New starters at Extract spend a week working across the business. As co-founder Dave Faulkner explained, this cultivates understanding and respect between departments.

There are always ways to improve your efficiency: what could you tweak to save time or become more sustainable? Once you've identified something to improve, set a specific goal – and don't expect it to be fixed overnight.