Rob Dunne — DunneFrankowski
Rob Dunne transferred into the world of coffee in 2009 after a background in printing and graphic design, studying tea and four years of working as a Short Order Chef. With just three months practical experience as a Barista, he entered, and placed fourth in the Irish UKBC. Following this, he took a position as Head of Training for Matthew Algie, which brought Rob to London in 2010.
Through a mutual appreciation for pioneers of fine tea in London, Postcard Teas, Rob encountered Victor Frankowski and the pair joined up to operate the Climpson and Sons Coffee Roasters cart on Broadway market for the next year. Rob then decided to join Vic at Tapped and Packed (now TAP Coffee) where Vic had been instrumental in setting up London’s newest addition to the specialty coffee landscape.
While working together at Tapped and Packed, Rob and Vic were able to cultivate their shared vision for innovation, which took shape in the form of such initiatives as:
- London’s first genuinely ‘multi-roaster’ café
- The Sunday Club – a coffee centric weekly event which included deconstructing blends, creative signature drinks and only black coffee.
- Developing an immersive, multi-sensory tasting class.
By the end of 2011, the pair had made plans to open their own café. Protein by DunneFrankowski would serve as a conduit for expressing their unique perspective on coffee culture, while providing a platform for creative projects, including but not limited to hospitality in a broader sense. Among other achievements, the pair have:
- Hosted the 2012 London heats of the UKBC, including creating an informal guest journey through café culture.
- Judged UKBC 2012, 2013 and 2014
- Coached the 2012 and 2013 Spanish Barista Champion, Jordi Mestre
- Consulted on design and concept for cafes both in Europe and Asia
- Opened their second venture, Sharps Coffee Bar in Fitzrovia.
- Conceived and executed the inaugural Coffee Masters in conjunction with Allegra Events
Rob is currently devoting his time to Old Spike Roastery in Peckham. Old Spike is a social enterprise, committed entirely to creating a stepping stone into sustainable employment by training, housing and employing staff from local homeless communities.
In a nutshell, what do DunneFrankowski do?
We offer our services to advise, design, train and project manage setting up cafes and other coffee/hospitality related projects which require a different perspective.
Tell us a bit about the concept behind creating Protein by DunneFrankowski.
The concept was to create a unique guest experience, and one, which was driven, above all else, by removing barriers that inhibit interaction. We wanted human interaction with the person serving you to be encouraged in every way possible.
It really followed on from the extra curricular stuff we had been doing at Tapped and Packed. We felt like guests were increasingly hungry for information but not when it’s presented in a way where it is dictated to them. We wanted to make it playful, fun and treat every guest as though they were the most important guest.
The café was also equal parts an advertisement or an example of our approach to café culture and the external work that we were doing.
…and then at Sharps?
The original plan with Protein was to have a Barber’s chair so it was something we had wanted to do. I think there is a common ground between the role of the Barber and the role of the Barista. I mean, only professionals really know the difference between a good cut and a better cut, a good and a better coffee. All people though, appreciate interaction and relationships.
It’s about humanising service and that, whether Barber or Barista, people are coming back for the same thing.
What role does sourcing coffee play in creating these spaces?
I studied tea for two years with the UK Tea Council. I met Vic through Postcard Teas because I was looking for cafes, which mirrored the way they approach coffee in their tea service. I mean you can’t just say you care about coffee and then treat tea as if it’s shit. That’s inconsistent, but that’s beside the point. Tea is about clarity, subtlety and refinement. It’s not offensive, or in other words, it’s accessible.
If you’re asking about coffee, then I’m looking for the same thing. I’m trying to achieve the same sort of balance and harmony. I guess you can say that my motive is to source and brew coffee, which is inoffensive ha! Or you could say that I’m trying to source and brew coffee, which is accessible.
So where do you stand on boozy naturals?
I wouldn’t source offensive coffee. I mean it has to be malleable. In some cases naturals do make independent coffee accessible by providing a talking point for guests. For the most part it’s not my personal preference. Although it’s all changing now, I find that they’re traditionally not the clearest representation of origin. Like I say though, that is largely personal preference.
Again, it goes back to tea. I’m looking for something, which is approachable, sweet and has clarity.
One characteristic, which seems unique to projects you’ve worked on is an almost obsessive attention to detail and presentation. Where does this come from and what role does this play in creating value?
In tea, there is so much consideration for the ritual, the presentation and the experience in addition to the quality of the product. A lot of the service ware I source is inspired by tea.
People eat with their eyes. What benefit does it serve to have the same demitasse as the next place you’re trying to be different from? In terms of communicating a point of difference you put a lot of faith in consumers if the only point of difference is the drink.
High quality restaurants spend the time to source crockery. In some cases they even commission their own crockery all so that it can be unique to and consistent with the restaurant offering as a whole.
It’s the ‘packaging’ really. It’s tactility, It’s organoleptic. It’s preparation, which is for the guest, not the barista. This is all from tea.
A point of difference makes a huge difference.
What’s the difference between a valuable point of difference and one, which is not?
It can’t be a gimmick. It can’t be novel for novels sake. It always comes back to functionality.
Why make an iced latte with steamed milk so that the milk is creamy and then put a straw to the bottom of the glass? Why put a garnish on something if it doesn’t add anything to the drink?
What should we be focussing on in the independent industry in terms of making coffee more approachable or attracting consumers away from the chains?
In the independent industry we need to have more understanding of consumers' needs and values because you know the chains absolutely do. The chains consider the customer journey, they understand how much value consumers attach to convenience, speed and consistency. If we're going to attract more consumers away from the chains then we need better understanding of what it is that attracted them there in the first place.
We need empathy. That’s what hospitality is. It’s the capacity to understand or feel what another person experiences from within the other person’s frame of reference (the consumer). For me that’s hospitality. Coffee has got nothing to do with it.
Why do we say, ‘extraction,’ whereas in tea they say, ‘infusion.’ It’s like saying, ‘customer,’ as opposed to, ‘guest.’ I think there is something in the language we use and how that influences and is symbolic of an approach to service, which can be improved.
Coffee is a social leveller. It shouldn’t be intimidating.
A lot of work you do is indirectly related to coffee. How does that come about and where does coffee fit in?
It comes back to empathy again though, that’s what consulting really is. It’s understanding what the needs of the client are and applying your knowledge and experience specifically to that.
Taste is taste no matter what you’re tasting. Everything you learn about taste is transferrable.