By Justin Chandler
A cafe business co-founded by a Ryerson graduate uses two coffee and tea makers worth as much as cars. The sleek black machines are called Bkon Craft Brewers and they cost Infuse Cafe about $25,000 each to be shipped over from the U.S.
“[The Bkon brewer] currently is the best technology there is for tea and coffee,” said co-founder and Ryerson alumnus William Lam.
Lam and his partners Glen De Mel and Ken Do opened Infuse Cafe on 354 Yonge St., across from Ryerson’s SLC, in August. Lam directs operations, De Mel is in charge of marketing and Do is the group’s strategist.
Lam, 32, graduated from Ryerson in 2010 with a bachelor’s in commerce. He said the idea for Infuse Cafe came when Do, a financial trader who “tends to be able to predict the future,” first learned about the Bkon Craft Brewer.
In an email, Do said it was easy to convince his partners they needed the machines. They bought the Bkon brewers before building the cafe.
“If you look at the machine from a logical perspective, the machine was the only option that would give us the edge we need in a market space that is filled with skilled baristas,” Do said.
Lam said the brewers determine the perfect temperature and amount of time in which to brew drinks. He said they use an infusion process that results in “unprecedented flavour extraction.”
“The machines may be expensive but that cost pales in comparison when it comes to the cost of training a barista from beginner to master,” Do said.
He said paying less to train workers means the store can pay its team members more than the industry standard.
Lam said a third Bkon brewer might be installed in the cafe if there is the demand for it.
“It’s important to determine what you need to do your business. Figure out your numbers. Figure out the demand. Figure out how you’re going to get your supply chain in line. Develop a good team,” he said.
De Mel said the members of the group’s company, Fusion Capital Group, have known each other for at least a decade and that their history allowed them to be successful.
Lam said it will be a few years before his team’s investment pays off, but that he plans to expand the business rapidly.
De Mel said the Fusion Capital Group plans to open at least 50 stores in the next eight years.
If things go as planned, a new Infuse Cafe will open in Gerrard Square by Christmas time, Lam said. They are also looking for a location near Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue.
Each new store should have at least one Bkon brewer, Lam said.
Being green is important to Infuse Cafe. The store uses all organic teas and its cups are biodegradable.
“We want to be here for a long time and we want people to enjoy our product, and be able to enjoy it without the guilt of knowing that every cup they’re drinking has to go to the landfill,” said Lam.
They also plan to display a different local artist’s work in-store every few months. Art by Annie Idris currently hangs inside. There is a form on the Infuse Cafe website for artists to apply to be featured.