“I have my first memory of drinking coffee when I was eight. On Sunday mornings Dad would make coffee in a saucepan and let us drink the leftovers. I thought, yeah this is a pretty special drink, I could get into this.”
“My kids do love coffee. They love coffee like any kids do, because it’s an adult drink that they’re probably not allowed to drink. I think they definitely know there’s something special about coffee. They don’t know it puts food on the table, but they love making coffee with me… they probably know more about making coffee than most of the people I work with.”
– Al Keating, CEO, Coffee Supreme, New Zealand
Al’s career in coffee started when he was 16 years old and got a job in a café called Captain Delicious. He quickly discovered a passion for coffee and realized it was something he wanted to have a career in. Today he describes hospitality as “generosity paying attention” – a fitting motto for the CEO of Coffee Supreme in New Zealand.
“I think coffee is the great leveller. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Donald Trump or a homeless person. You love coffee and you have that in common.”
“I love people. I think more than anything I love working with people. People are the hardest thing and the most rewarding thing to work with. I love spotting somebody young and saying hey, I should give him a shot, or I should give her a shot… and seeing somebody become better at what they’re doing while working inside the organization.”
Like many small businesses, when Coffee Supreme first set up shop in Auckland, they started pretty basic – in their case, in a warehouse. Al remembers saying to the owner, “man, we really need to build somewhere we can sit people down and show them some hospitality – and I think this is the site we should do it.”
It was a quirky spot, tucked away down a backstreet with a roller door for an entrance. But quirkiness is often what pays off. So they called it Good One and it turned out to be just that.
It went on to become “one of the city’s darlings – quite a pioneering joint.”
“New Zealand is an amazing country. Besides Frodo and Lorde. I think it’s pretty rare to find a country where the beach is only a few minutes drive away, it’s okay to have bare feet in the supermarket, you can eat fish and chips on the bonnet (hood) of your car. I think there’s something beautiful about New Zealand, it seems very simple.”
Al’s eye for beauty was what led him to Xero. Beautiful and easy to use, it was a stark contrast to accounting systems he’d used in the past.
“As a chief executive, when I need the information I know I have access to it. As far as looking at spreadsheets and pages and pages of numbers… I find that like chewing dry flannel… it’s pretty tough going.”
Another plus with Xero is the wide range of Add-on software it integrates with. One of Al’s favourites is Posboss, point-of-sale software developed specifically for the hospitality industry.
“Posboss is great for hospitality businesses because is was designed by a hospitality business owner. It works on iPad, is easy to use, provides us with valuable back-end information, breaks down cost of sales, works with multiple printers… it’s got everything we need.”
Check out the full video we shot of Al earlier this month:
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