Magic tricks and banter may be a big part of Tim Bates' customer service approach, but when it comes to making the perfect cup of coffee there's no smoke and mirrors.
“It’s fun, it’s relaxed. I always tell people I talk smack and I make warm drinks,” Tim says laughing.
That friendly, fun and casual approach has won the team at Valori Espresso and Gallery plenty of fans and the golden fork in the inaugural Forkies Eat & Drink Awards.
The Scarborough venue took out the top prize as well as the Espresso Yourself — Go-to Caffeine Fix and Service With A Smile — Best Customer Service categories.
“We have the strongest group of regular customers I’ve ever seen in any hospitality institution so, I kind of expected to win one (award). Taking out the whole thing was a pleasant surprise,” Tim says.
“It’s always nice to know that people like you as much as you like you.”
The 25-year-old, who opened it nine years ago, owns the cafe with business partner Marish Valori.
Tim joined the team some four years ago and became a partner in 2017, after working in hospitality at cafes, bars and restaurants for 12 years.
While he says he doesn’t take himself or his role too seriously, he takes pride in producing a product that his customers love.
“I don’t have a job, I just hang out. I like that, I like being a good part of people’s day, helping them have five minutes away from the rest of the world, having a coffee and stuff like that,” Tim says.
“I find it really rewarding, being a little flash of happiness in people’s days. People come in and they’re always greeted with a laugh and a smile. I take a lot of pride in the product we put out, so that feels really good, putting something out that people flock to, that people like and keep coming back for.”
He and sidekick Harry Krohn are there seven days a week and know their customers by name, or coffee nickname, and strive to make each one feel welcome when they walk through the door.
“Magic tricks and banter, knowing everybody’s names, treating everybody like they’ve been coming here for 10 years … that’s the secret, familiarity,” Tim explains.
“The trick to making people feel special, is to not treat them special — just treat them like you’ve known them forever. We know their cars when they pull up and we try to have their coffees made before they walk in.”
In an industry where “polished white surfaces, exposed brick and hard stools” can seem impersonal, Valori strives for something much more.
“We’re old comfy couches, groups of people sitting down with their dogs having a laugh. I think the fact that we’re comfortable and we’re welcoming is a big one,” he says.
Serving consistently great coffee is also key to their success. So, what’s the secret?
“I’ve got a $25,000 coffee machine. That helps. It’s the love. I don’t know … there’s only myself and Harry and my business partner, so we have a lot of time — 40-50 hours a week just doing the same thing … from repetition comes quality,” Tim says.
“We really enjoy what we do, so it’s not hard for us to want to make the best product we can and take pride in the product we put out.”
When asked how he has his coffee, Tim’s quick to reply.
“A small flat white in a bathtub,” he says laughing. “No, I just drink flat whites, throw them down,” he says.
It’s a far cry from his first coffee experience, decaf instant coffee his mum used to buy in a big tin.
“Two scoops of coffee and a little bit of milk. Milk in first always. I still love it, not that I’d say that out loud,” he says.
Valori has been serving Neli coffee from Clontarf for nine years, and Tim says their passion for quality coffee is evident in their beans.
So, why is drinking coffee much more than a caffeine fix? “Because it’s five minutes of the day that doesn’t exist in the real world. You step through the doors and the world stays outside,” Tim explains.
“You get to have a laugh and have a coffee, sit down and take a deep breath and switch off. When it’s done, you step back out in to the chaos that’s outside. It’s a pause in time, almost.”
Valori Espresso and Gallery is at 71C Landsborough Ave, Scarborough.
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