CAIRO: With the increasing number of coffeehouses dotting the capital, deciding where to drink your coffee is now a tough choice. In this competitive market, L’Aroma stands out as one of the oldest in the city.
A relatively small coffeehouse business in Cairo, L’Aroma has managed to retain its customers with the quality of the coffee and the cozy atmosphere.
It all started in 2002 when Ahmed Gaafar, Nader Montasser and Yehia El Ghamrawy, three young men with backgrounds in IT, fast-moving consumer goods and advertising respectively, got together and decided to open up a coffeehouse. At that time, they felt the coffee being served in Cairo was not good enough to drink.
“At the beginning, we thought of opening a franchise of an international brand, Ahmed Gaafar, one of the three partners told Daily News Egypt. “After all, the big name would definitely add a lot of value to the business. However, after approaching some chains, we decided to go for our own brand using our diverse backgrounds and expertise.
“Despite all the perks of buying a franchise, we felt it was too mundane because literally you buy the operational manual, you connect the blue wire to the red device and you have a business. I know it’s not as simple as that, but still it didn’t feel as exciting as creating our own brand, Gaafar explained.
The new team then hired a consultant from the United States with a portfolio of 19 success stories with big American coffeehouse chains. “For the next six months, we were being tutored by this guy about the whole process from what makes good coffee to customer service, Gaafar said, “Our friends were mocking us, and were wondering how much there was to learn about coffee anyway.
“We realized that there were a lot of factors that are too often overlooked when making coffee here, without which not even the greatest barista can make good coffee, Gaafar added, “such as the coffee bean itself and the efficiency and consistency of the process, which is particularly hard to maintain when your process is not automated.
For the next month, the three coffee enthusiasts started applying what they learned while scanning the market. “Whenever we heard of a party, a concert or a competition, the three of us would go and serve coffee, said Gaafar. “Back then, we were still thinking of other brand names such as ‘Latitude’ and ‘Plan B,’ but we were serving coffee without any labels.
“Besides all the fun we had while serving coffee, the experience was extremely valuable from a business perspective as we got first-hand feedback from the consumers, Gaafar added. “We used to ask people what they liked about the coffee, what they didn’t like and what was missing. We started to understand how the consumer thinks, and then we took all this feedback and opened our first branch in El Gezirah Club.
Today, L’Aroma has 10 outlets in Cairo and Sharm El Sheikh, five of which are located inside sports clubs and university campuses. Last summer, they introduced the first coffee drive-through at the Master rest stop along the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road. Now they are expanding to Hurghada and introducing coffee delivery services at their outlets.
“We always had in mind this cliché, which I believe is true to a big extent, that everything in Egypt starts with great quality and then after six months, the quality goes down the drain, Gaafar said, “and because we have in mind both quality and consistency as our first priorities, we train our people on how to become baristas, not simply extensions of the coffee machines. e coffee machines.