Sensory Lab: a Standout Brand in Melbourne's Competitive Coffee Market

Sensory Lab

Serving the perfect cup of coffee is big business in Australia, and there is plenty of competition to prove it. Between the local neighbourhood cafes, converted warehouse-style brewers, the corporate coffee giants and the growing number of drive-through options, Melbourne has one of the most saturated coffee markets on the globe.

So, how do you make your business stand out in a place where coffee is everywhere?

Joshua Kite, store manager for Melbourne-based coffee specialists Sensory Lab, says the key is to innovate and improve, constantly. From staffing to business technology and product sourcing, setting yourself apart from your competitors requires taking risks and trying new things. We caught up with Joshua to hear more about growing one of the most influential coffee brands in Australia.

Melbourne is a city obsessed with coffee, and people aren’t short on options. What helps Sensory Lab stand out?

Sensory Lab has been an active part of the Melbourne specialty coffee scene since 2009, and throughout the years it has grown both domestically and internationally. What makes us unique is our approach to technology and innovation with our products, juxtaposed with an appreciation for old-school hospitality and great customer service.

What makes the customer experience unique at Sensory Lab?

We service a variety of customers across our venues, and take an inclusive approach to hospitality. We make it a focus to understand that each customer’s needs are unique and important. I believe we create a positive atmosphere of calm and offer an escape from the bustle of the CBD, which our customers value.

Sensory Lab

Why did you start using Square in your Melbourne venues?

When opening our first standalone Melbourne venue, we needed a practical and effective system for our point of sale. It was also important to incorporate the venue’s unique style and concept, which Square does well. We love its uncomplicated and intuitive interface. Square Stand fits seamlessly with the store’s distinct design language, and it offers a practical way to pay without creating a barrier between employees and customers.

As a rapidly expanding business, it was invaluable to have access to a system that would accommodate and grow with us. The ability to manage pricing, menu information and sales through one connected system has been hugely beneficial.

Sensory Lab

Sensory Lab is a big operation now across wholesale, retail, events and pop-ups. How do you manage it all?

Having a business that is expanding quickly across multiple locations, with growing staff needs, means that we need business systems that are easy to navigate and scalable.

Square’s platform has been a great all-in-one tool for us. Not only can we easily train staff on the platform, it allows us to establish and monitor employee accounts across each of our stores. The powerful reporting tools are also useful so that we pull sales reports by time, location or employee. This specific information makes handling our operating hours and inventory a lot easier.

What tips would you give other entrepreneurs looking to start their own venture in Melbourne’s competitive coffee industry?

With new venues opening up every week, customers have come to expect more from Melbourne specialty coffee. We know we have an excellent product and service offering but that’s because we are always striving to learn more and improve — whether it’s the coffee beans we source, the development of our staff or the systems and hardware we use in our venues.

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