What made you want to open a café?

Juno and I were students at the University of St Andrews, where we met and became close friends. We both shared a passion for minimal design, environmental consciousness and sharing our Korean heritage with others. Naturally, these overlaps led to us wanting to start something together to solve the problem of a lack of great lunch options in our college town. In 2017, we decided to launch CombiniCo, a fast-casual food brand which focusses on healthy and convenient Korean-inspired dishes for university on-the-go life. After the initial success of our first location, we wanted to extend our range to Japanese and Korean specialty tea and coffee served in a sleek, minimal setting with great customer service.

Co-Founders Alex Longson (left) and Juno Lee (right)

How would you describe the brand of your café?

We designed CombiniCafé around our three key values of minimalism, environmentalism and superior quality. It starts from the menu. We only offer 3 drink options — shot, filter and latte (more of a flat white). By reducing our customers’ choices, we’re able to give them the best and most consistent experience possible. We also treat our tea just like coffee, so you can order a roasted green tea latte or matcha shot, for example. This concept is unique in Europe since we are able to source our powdered tea directly the tea farm in Japan who grind the leaves specially for CombiniCafé.

CombiniCafé is 100% plant-based. We only serve our coffee with oat milk and all our pastries are dairy-free. We also have invested in 100% compostable packaging for all our takeaway items, which is unique for a Scottish start-up.

Describe your customer flow. How did you equipment influence the flow, or vice versa?

CombiniCafé is located in a 600 year old Grade-B listed building. We discovered original sandstone architecture behind the plasterboard when we moved in and decided to panel it in glass to showcase the history of the site. The bar is the first thing you see when you enter the cafe and the beautiful matte black Modbar system draws customers in where our sales team can then take the order. Our glass display sits on the right of the bar, holding our 100% plant-based breakfast pots and matcha-infused croissants.

All videography by Alex Longson