Russ Prefontaine of the Fratello Group talks about why quality, skill and hospitality are at the core of his family’s coffee business
Calgary’s Business: How and when did Fratello start?
Prefontaine: Our family’s history in coffee dates back to 1974, when our dad, Cam Prefontaine, first started a wholesale coffee company, which was operated out of our garage and basement. Our parents involved all three of us brothers (Russ, Chris and Jason) in the family business from the start, earning our allowance by helping dad service old coffee brewers.
In 1985, our dad started roasting his own coffee. He was passionate from the start, experimenting and learning how to source and roast better coffee, as well as helping his wholesale customers make better coffee.
He was one of the first coffee professionals in Calgary to focus on higher-quality beans, and became a pioneer in what we now know as the modern café culture in Calgary.
This planted the seeds that would eventually grow into a family of brands known for their focus on premium quality: Fratello Coffee Roasters, Corbeaux Bakery and Analog Coffee itself. These companies, and their predecessors, played a huge part in bringing café culture to life in Calgary and Western Canada.
All three of us brothers started selling commercial espresso machines in 1991, helping local entrepreneurs start their own shops. We supplied all the equipment and training, and our parents’ company supplied the coffee. We bought the roasting company from our parents in 1997 and changed the name to Fratello Coffee (fratello means brother in Italian).
Over the years, we’ve never stopped learning, expanding our knowledge of coffee, working to keep up with the rapidly-changing trends in the industry. We started travelling to the countries and farms where our coffee was grown in search of the best coffee, and to meet the farmers and families who produced the raw product.
We learned from Dad’s increasingly obsessive attention to detail, not just in the way he focused on roasting great coffee but in how he presented it. For Dad, hospitality and community became critically important. He was making the argument – with every new cup poured — that coffee could be something special. Everything had to be as good as possible. Or why bother doing it at all?
This mindset would play a key part in how we eventually built the Analog business. Over the years, we have led, pioneered and challenged a vast variety of innovative coffee and coffee-related businesses, which include the creation of Slayer Espresso machines with our brother Jason in 2007. We envisioned inventing and creating a specialized machine unlike anything else on the market. The ambitious decision to create a machine from scratch that would dramatically expand brewing possibilities was born because we knew there was specific demand from coffee professionals for a machine that could ‘flavour profile’ the unique varietals of coffee that were being produced.
Our family also owned a bottling facility for coffee chai/syrups/smoothies.
We hope you’ll quickly see how completely and totally obsessed we are with every decision that goes into our coffee and its products. It’s simple: ‘good enough’ is never good enough.
As these things often go, it was the original lessons from Dad – the ones about quality and hospitality – that would bring all the promise of our businesses, finally, into reality. We threw ourselves full-bore into expanding our knowledge of growing and roasting coffee. We travelled around the world where we found kindred spirits in farmers who cared as much about coffee as we did.
As business thrived, we started thinking more and more about how best to present the coffees we were working so hard to perfect. This was the moment we decided it was time to create a line of cafés, each reflecting everything we believed a coffeehouse could be if done right. We would take everything we had learned and become so obsessed over, and share it with our community.
CB: Can you give me a scope of your business today and what you do?
Prefontaine: We continue to focus on what we grew up doing. Sourcing and roasting exceptionally good coffee and using our expertise to help other like-minded companies achieve their goals. Our core business is wholesale roasting and now with Corbeaux Bakery, we are also offering a wholesale food solution.
This ambitious project has had a very steep learning curve. But we press on, continuing to put as much effort and intention into our food as we do our coffee. In fact, our team of chefs and master bakers make virtually everything from scratch.
Our natural sourdough bread is fermented 48 hours before baking, our pastries are made from scratch with all-natural premium ingredients, we laminate our croissant dough by hand using real butter, we slow roast our own meat, and even make our own all-natural yogurt, which is a 24-hour process. We don’t add preservatives, we only use natural ingredients.
Simply put, we don’t cut corners. This has started to get a lot of attention because it’s so unique.
Our newest customer, Calgary Co-op, recognized this passion and has begun offering our bread program in a few of their locations. They realize that this was a segment that wasn’t being offered or served in their stores, or most of their competitors’ stores. We’re excited to say that we will be expanding to most of their Calgary stores over the next few months.
Aside from working with our wholesale customers across Western Canada, we spend a tremendous amount of time with our Analog Coffee team fine-tuning our operations. Currently, our focus is on culture and our customer experience. We believe we’re all hosts, and want our Analog team members to feel the same way when greeting and serving our guests.
CB: What are your growth plans for the company in the near future?
Prefontaine: We definitely have some fun and exciting plans for growth in the next five years. Much of these plans are to expand our roasting capacity and distribution in order to make it easier for people to find and enjoy our products. This will primarily be based on where we have our brick and mortar Analog Coffee locations, which is also the perfect place to enjoy our Corbeaux Bakery food products.
One challenge for us is we don’t do anything without going all the way. This does make it challenging when looking to expand outside of Calgary, as there are so many details to systemize to ensure a successful launch. How do we bring this same attention to detail, quality and care to another city with certainty that those guests will experience everything we do in Calgary?
We have been asking this question for a few years now and we believe we are on the verge of something great.
CB: Why have you been able to be successful in a market that seems to be saturated with coffee players and big ones such as Starbucks?
Prefontaine: We’ve been successful in this competitive marketplace because I believe our customers can see we authentically love what we’re doing. Analog is the realization of everything our family has been building for over 40 years. Every detail of the guest experience is considered, calculated and very intentional, from the décor, vibe and food, to the coffee itself. It’s decades of passion made tangible.
We had thought about starting our own café since the 1990s. And in 2011, we couldn’t resist the temptation any longer and opened the first Analog Coffee in the Calgary Farmers’ Market. It exceeded our own expectations. In 2012, our dream location came available for our second shop on Calgary’s 17th Avenue, right in the heart of the city’s Beltline community. More stores followed.
Analog gives us a place where we can carefully craft our brilliant single-origin coffees for guests from across all walks of life.
Analog allows us to practise what we have been preaching with a direct voice to the community. At Analog, average is completely unacceptable. We’re always in search of the finest coffees for our customers and our community. We’re driven by the need to deliver epic, unmatched coffee experiences to our customers. Every day. In every way.
We want to share our coffee with everyone from the longtime aficionado to the newcomer who just wants something a little (or a lot) better to drink. It’s not about attitude or elitism. It’s about how everyone who orders our subscriptions deserves the best coffee we can find.
We know good coffee is everywhere. But great coffee is surprisingly rare – whether you’re drinking it as fuel for your busy day or an escape from it. So, we’re here for those who want a life less ordinary. If only for the time it takes to finish a cup of our Analog Coffee.
CB: Why has coffee taken off in recent years as a burgeoning consumer trend?
Prefontaine: We have been watching coffee grow in popularity since we first started roasting in 1985. I remember the day that Starbucks announced they were coming to Calgary. We were excited. We knew that they would bring an enormous awareness to the public on what specialty coffee is, and we knew that to compete against someone like them, that you would have to raise the bar on everything we did.
Today, truly exceptional coffee isn’t as hard to find as it used to be in most cities. It’s now expected that if you are opening a café, or serving coffee in a restaurant or hotel, that the coffee you’re serving has been given attention. Even Swoop Airlines is offering our coffee on board because they wanted to serve their guests something special.
All the fancy grinding and brewing equipment in the world won’t make a difference if we don’t first find perfectly produced coffee. That’s why our producers harvest by hand-picking. That way only perfectly ripe cherries are selected while overripe and green cherries are sorted out. Our growers spend day after day moving from tree to tree, harvesting only the best cherries. This ensures that the quality of our coffee is not hindered by any shortcuts.
Our growers utilize a variety of different processing techniques from honey processing to fully-washed and beyond – all depending on what they believe will coax the best flavour from the varietal. By the time the coffee leaves the farm on its journey to our roasterie in Calgary, hundreds of people will have contributed to its creation.
This philosophy is the same with many coffee roasters these days and this started the third wave of the coffee movement. When we roast our beans we want to create a profile that best expresses the varietal and the region where it was grown. That’s both an art and a science. We roast every offering with a custom approach, all with the goal of telling a story in every cup.
Our roasters are always on the leading edge of their trade. They’re highly skilled at managing the variables of a roast, producing beans with vibrant aromas and creating the best possible flavour for each coffee.
Skilled baristas are the last important link in this movement. They should be well-trained experts in the art of brewing. They’re working with state-of-the-art machinery and a fine eye to detail. In fact, when one of our Analog baristas is standing behind the counter brewing your coffee, you should feel confident that they’re making sure this final step is done with all the care, attention and intention shown by each and every person who has cared for the coffee bean since it was planted.
That’s how you know that when you’re handed a cup of Analog Coffee, you’re tasting some of the best coffee in the world. Every time.
– Mario Toneguzzi
Respected business writer Mario Toneguzzi is a veteran Calgary-based journalist who worked for 35 years for the Calgary Herald in various capacities, including 12 years as a senior business writer.
CALGARY, Nov. 23, 2017 /CNW/ – Analog Coffee, a division of Calgary’s Fratello Group Inc.; continues its successful expansion with two new select upcoming locations.
Analog Coffee is well known in the Calgary 3rd wave coffee scene; particularly noted for its flagship location on 17thAvenue; which serves upwards of a thousand guests per day. Fratello Coffee Roasters has been an institution in the craft coffee roasting sector for over three decades and has been family owned for over 40 years. Analog made its debut in 2011 at the Calgary Farmers Market on Blackfoot and also sports locations at Southcenter Mall, Bow Valley Square and at the coffee Roastery itself.
Russ Prefontaine; the group’s President states that, “our choices for new locations are very specific and demographically intentional.” Prefontaine revealed that a new Analog will anchor both the upcoming locations at Westman Village in Mahogany, located in Calgary’s far Southeast and the new University District in the heart of Northwest.
Analog Coffee intends to take the acclaimed “vibe, culture and community” created at locations such as 17th Avenue and bring them to the emerging ultra-trendsetting new suburban experiences being developed in Calgary. “Developments such as Westman Village and the University District in Calgary’s, appeal and serve many of our loyal customers in our downtown settings. We want to bring the urban-vibe home for them. These two new locations are the quintessential examples of perfect matches for us and our customers,” says Prefontaine.
Westman Village – At Westman Village, in the Lake community of Mahogany states, “life happens when you open your door, look around and find so much more. We’ve built a resort-style community where convenience, relaxation and pleasure are found right outside your home. A place where hand-selected retail supports the community and extraordinary amenities keep it moving forward, always offering more. We believe people in a community should never be strangers – that’s why we built more places to be together.”
Analog Coffee will open fall of 2018.
University District – in the heart of North West states, “University District joins the ranks of campus communities around the world that combine culture and convenience with flourishing commerce and tremendous livability. An environmentally sound, socially responsible and intelligently designed 200-acre community that will change the way Calgarians live, work and play forever.”
Analog Coffee will open spring/summer of 2019.
“Analog is proud to be a part of the Calgary 3rd wave coffee scene and shares the space with great fellow roasters such as Phil & Sebastian, Rosso and Monogram. We have the utmost respect for our colleagues in the community and hope we all continue to grow and prosper while raising the (espresso) bar for Calgary’s coffee enthusiasts,” Prefontaine concludes.
September 8, 2016
This is a rare opportunity to join a dynamic team of coffee professionals and further your career in coffee and business. Please forward your resumes to info @ fratellocoffee.com.
The Quality Assurance Manager is responsible for the consistent excellence of every cup of coffee served at Analog Café’s. Our Quality Assurance Manager is the quintessential coffee connoisseur who is as passionate about coffee as they are the overall coffee experience. They are the key resource for coffee quality at Analog.
Areas of Responsibility
· Quality Assurance
o Key resource to Café Managers and team members, working alongside them to educate and encourage the highest quality of Analog products.
o Ensure Analog products meet expected quality standards and consistency by conducting quality reviews and testing at each Analog café. Provide Café team members feedback and encouragement to continuously improve their skills.
o Develop and document Analog product quality standards and procedures.
o Collaborate with the Quality Assurance Manager at Fratello to assist in the constant improvement of all roast profiles.
o Act as Analog “Ambassador” at regional coffee events such as Barista Competition, Coffee Association of Canada and Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) conventions, as necessary.
o Create and maintain Café equipment Preventative Maintenance standards and procedures.
o Maintain equipment and ensure equipment supplies are available at all Café’s as required for preventative maintenance needs. Schedule preventative maintenance and report status and discrepancies to Café Managers.
· Coffee Knowledge Training
o Design and develop training materials, workshops and communications that support and improve overall coffee knowledge of Café team members.
o Coordinate with Café Managers to facilitate regular training sessions and follow up with them to ensure all training materials are up to date.
o Coordinate Train-the-Trainer sessions and regular meetings with Café trainers to ensure the consistent execution of Analog product quality standards and procedures.
o Proactively recommend and implement improvements to product quality standards and procedures. Maintain and update training materials to reflect continuous improvements.
o Design, write and distribute regular communications, i.e. newsletters, to Café team members, highlighting best practices and changes, recipes, new coffees and other information as required.
o Present quality assurance updates and information at regular Café Manager meetings. Maintain a close working relationship with the management team.
o Coordinate with Café Mangers and District Managers to ensure weekly and monthly scheduling of training and quality meetings meet the needs of the Café’s.
Experience and Qualifications
You’re a great fit if you have:
· 3+ years of experience in retail or hospitality or equivalent experience.
· 1+ year of specialized quality assurance responsibilities.
· Experienced trainer, assisting individuals and/or teams to learn new skills or processes.
· Passion for exceptional quality of products and/or services.
· Strong verbal and written communication skills.
· Excellent collaborator and team player.
· Demonstrates effective time management.
· Available to work a flexible schedule to meet the needs of the business; may require weekends and evenings
· Proficiency in using Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook and POS systems.
· Minimum High School education.
At Fratello Coffee group, our mission is to bring people together around a remarkable coffee experience and nourishing food. We created Analog cafés and Corbeaux bakery to achieve this goal.
Analog Coffee joins Instagram’s Worldwide Instameet #wwim13 #wwim13yyc April 24th 2-4PM.
Analog Coffee is excited to join in the community gathering initiated by Instagram HQ from San Francisco. Twice a year, Instagram encourages communities to gather locally to take the relationships they have online and meet in person. This will be the 13th time Instagram will host this meet and they have chosen a theme that encourages others to take action as it is related to our earth (#myearthaction). Calgary is excited to participate with communities around the globe during this weekend.
Analog will host their Instameet at their urban location located on 740-17th Ave SW on Sunday April 24th from 2-4PM. This is open to all members of the public to come gather around, connect in person, capture moments to share online and of course, drink coffee! Analog Coffee will donate 50% of all sales from 2-4PM, which includes coffee, food and bags of coffee to the building of the Community Garden Project at The Mustard Seeds Shelter. In anticipation for crowds, we are encouraging people to also gather at Tompkins Park across the street once coffee and food are in hand where we will have music.
The Mustard Seed is a Christian registered charity. Since 1984, the organizations has been serving men and women experiencing poverty and homelessness by providing them with basic necessities such as food, shelter and clothing, and also by helping them improve their health and wellbeing, as well as find jobs and homes of their own. Visit TheSeed.ca for more info.
The generous donations from Analog Coffee sales will go toward creating a community garden at The Mustard Seed Shelter. A variety of herbs (basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives, and pea shoots) will be grown and then used to enhance the flavour of meals for the homeless. Volunteers are excited to start building the garden and tending to it over the summer and Shelter chefs are looking forward to cooking with the fresh herbs.
The event is also sponsored by Socality, a global online community that encourages others to use their social influence collectively for community development. This event is sure to see the local social media influencers all join to share the event live on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook.
Owner, Russ Prefontaine says, “Analog exists to bring great coffee to our city and we have designed our space to be a central destination in our local community for people to gather. We are proud to host Instagram’s Worldwide Instameet and offer 50% of sales during the event to support The Mustard Seed’s Community Garden at our location. We hope the community will come out and have a great time connecting.
Meet Fratello Sales Consultants, John Mitchell and Joel May. They have been part of the Fratello team for years and are here to support clients with everything they need to run a successful cafe. If you are seeking to open a cafe or are you wanting support in your current business, John and Joel are here to help. You can read below to find out more about their role and how they may serve you!
What are your roles within Fratello and what do you do?