Carroux Coffee. A Rich Aroma of Success.

The timing is critical. In the middle of his café in Hamburg, Germany, Ulrich Carroux stands at his drum roaster and waits for the signal from his iPhone alarm. The rich, dark aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans curl through the air, one step closer to becoming the top-quality espresso for which Carroux is nationally renowned.

Ulrich Carroux came to coffee roasting through his interest in fine-quality food production, which began when he was still at university. As an architecture student he earned extra money by baking and selling his own pizzas. Both these commitments were managed on a Mac, using Archicad for his studies and FileMaker for his pizza ordering system, and the efficiency and reliability of Apple technology proved invaluable to the young entrepreneur. “Since then”, states Carroux, “I've never had a reason to use a PC”.

Today, as a supplier to some of Germany’s top restaurants and caterers, he values personal contact as a means of maintaining good working relationships. In line with this philosophy, the premises of his small café in Hamburg also function as a meeting point, a laboratory, and an office rolled into one. He regularly meets with suppliers and customers who appreciate the value of organic, fair trade coffee, and who understand that the development of good espresso is as much about the quality of the beans as the right mixture. Carroux prides himself on verifying the origin of the raw materials for himself, rather than using an intermediary.

When he's not receiving visitors, Carroux will frequently hit the road to visit clients and see how things are going. To this end, his MacBook and iPhone are his constant companions, enabling him to immediately forward orders to the central shipping facility in Hanover via his online database. “The iPhone allows me to access all the relevant customer data. It is a good feeling to know that the goods are ready for shipment before I've even said goodbye to the customer”, he enthuses.

This online database is a crucial tool for conducting business but, says Carroux, “I didn’t even consider operating my own server, I wanted to use FileMaker hosting instead”. He chose an ISP called Huynh, in Regensburg, which has used the Mac OS as their server platform for many years. The monthly costs are easy to calculate and the provider carries out maintenance. For Carroux, this means saving time when implementing new projects and organising data.

It’s now common for coffee shops to provide Internet access for their customers, and Carroux Coffee is no different. Customers benefit from fast, wireless Internet access with their fresh coffee and croissants, which is also used by Carroux for research and development. “If I want to see where a delivery is at any time, or how my accounts look or how my turnover is doing”, says Carroux during a break in roasting, “I’ll open my MacBook and check their status”.

In addition, Carroux has also set up an online store for the restaurant trade so that his corporate customers can order their coffee through a simple interface. The Hamburg advertising agency Forst-Gehege bridged the gap between Carroux’s merchandising and the online store using the open source store software xt:Commerce.

Carroux decided on this technical solution because the functionality rivals that of commercial systems, even though no licence fees were required. “The use of technology should always be proportionate to cost and the size of the company”, says Carroux. “Even if I could optimise every working process, people must be able to cope with the system - and enjoy their work”.

Carroux has many other ideas to take his business forward, but to actually implement them he needs creative partners like Christiane Liedtke, a long-term Mac user responsible for the product and brand design of Carroux. This is no coincidence, either; whoever he works with Carroux encourages his partners to use the Mac too.

For example, Carroux coordinates his merchandising using FileMaker software with a marketing partner, a fellow coffee roaster called Machwitz, based 100 miles to the south in Hanover. At first, the personnel at Machwitz were sceptical when Carroux brought an iMac into their offices. Up to that point, they had only known the world of Windows. Although FileMaker is also available as a Windows Client, it was important for Carroux to offer Machwitz a solution that required as little maintenance as possible. “Our Mac-based ordering process had always worked perfectly up till then”, he says, “and we were keen to ensure an equally successful project for our partners”.

Olaf Lumma of Play Hamburg, Carroux's photographer, also uses the Mac. Their joint use of a MobileMe web gallery provides benefits for their working partnership. “We save time and energy in exchanging files, and new images are available immediately after the shoot”, he says.

For everything to work perfectly, Carroux manages his contact data using Apple’s Address Book software, and synchronisation with his MobileMe account ensures that all his employees have up-to-date customer information.

During delivery, quick orientation using his 3G iPhone is also invaluable. Tapping the customer's address with his finger opens the Map application and shows his position, accurate to within a few metres. It’s a simple interface, and Carroux likes things that work simply.

“Smart solutions have a magical attraction for me”, says Carroux. This means he can leave the company in the early afternoon with a clear conscience and travel home to spend more time with his family. “For me, Apple is a success story that has developed with me over the years”, he beams whilst making another delicious espresso.