The founder of the Golden Bean coffee shop chain talks about standing out in the café crowd.
Entrepreneur Felipe Carrillo is something of an oddity in his business. An engineer with a PhD in economics from Cambridge University, he says he prefers smoothies to coffee.
Nevertheless, he has managed to grow a success story from the humble bean, through the Golden Bean chain. “We’re opening the third branch in the ING building at the gare [central train station] at the end of March,” he says.
Carrillo began the venture in 2013 when he and his barrista brother, Federico, opened their first café in rue de Chimay. “It’s not easy for a coffee shop to survive in Luxembourg,” he says, describing the high rents and staffing costs compared to the low “invoices” for beverages. “But, still, we’re doing fine. Our name is established among coffee lovers and people who want to chill out in a cool place.”
The partners always planned to open a series of coffee shops, which Carrillo says makes things like administration and HR a bit easier. “Going from second to third shop isn’t as difficult as going from first to second, because it’s about putting systems in place.”
The one major change since Golden Bean became established is the emergence of international café chains Starbucks and Coffee Fellows in Luxembourg. Carrillo is confident of Golden Bean’s appeal to discerning coffee drinkers.
On the one hand, they handroast the coffee beans themselves, on a scale of around two kilos in 18 minutes. “Bigger, industrial roasters will roast two tonnes in one-and-a-half minutes. You cannot extract the same coffee flavours from coffee roasted that way,” he says.
The entrepreneur works closely with the South American suppliers, who are selected with care. Among the growers is his mother, who runs a small organic plantation in his home country of Colombia. “We try to buy the coffee so that there is a story behind it, meaning that we are helping towards the development of rural communities,” he explains.
Then there is the atmosphere of Golden Bean’s customised cafés. Whether it is the cosy nook in rue de Chimay or the light and airy Belval café. All in all, it’s a combination which works and on which Carrillo will continue to build.
He recently signed a lease at the Infinity project, opening opposite the Philharmonie in 2019 and he hints more will happen before then.