Success Story Michel
Lussier Shares His 11-Year Expertise in the Industry of
Read Why He Made Astoria
Argenta a Part of His 4 Caffuccino
Starting with a coffee,
dessert and sandwich concept 11 years ago, Michel Lussier
enhanced it to a full café bistro restaurant experience,
adding an impressive selection of imported beers, wines
and dishes to the menu. Each Caffuccino blends
elegance with refinement, bringing people together over
and over again to its warm ambiance.
Perfectly happy with his
choice of espresso machine, he keeps expanding his
business and now employs 105 people. He opened his 4th
Caffuccino in January 2008.
the 4th Caffuccino
Michel, thank you for taking the time to share your
experience with us. Where did you open your first
Michel Lussier: I opened the first
one in Magog, Québec, February 5, 1997.
MBC: And what brought you to
Sherbrooke, Québec, afterwards?
ML: I felt like
opening a second one and adding a bar section specialized
in imported beers, because in Magog, the concept was a
coffee/dessert/sandwich one. I chose to establish the
larger concept in Sherbrooke.
MBC: It takes a certain
entrepreneurial mindset to accomplish that. Where did it
ML: I can’t say where I got it from,
but I wanted to create a space where I would feel good as
MBC: It’s a bit of a lounge
concept, isn’t it?
ML: It’s café bistro, but the concept has evolved since I
started, 11 years ago. The concept has grown, aged. In the
beginning, there was live jazz music. Now, it becomes lounge at
MBC: What brought you into the
world of espresso?
ML: I wished to have a business that would specialize in one
field. In our area, there aren’t any Starbucks or Second Cup. I
don’t know why, but I’m quite happy to be the local reference
for coffee, and that people know about the
MBC: I thought Caffuccino was a
franchise, but you own all four of them. Is franchising
something you have in mind?
ML: I created the concept, but I haven’t franchised it. It
could be done, though, because I manage each one of the
restaurants as if they were franchisees, but I’m a bit torn
about it: the Caffuccino bistros are well known and popular,
and I’m quite happy the way it is now. If I had to move to the
next level, I’m not sure I would enjoy it as
MBC: I noticed you use Astoria
Argenta espresso machines. What made you choose this
particular brand and
ML: It happened by accident! Actually, back in 1997, it was the
brand and model that was suggested to us for the Magog branch.
And when we opened the second branch, we insisted on having the
same look, just like when we opened the third and fourth ones.
I really like my Astoria Argentas because they never break. In
Magog, we’ve been open for 11 years and it’s the same machine
today as it was 11 years ago!
MBC: So we can say it’s
ML: Oh yes, I’m very satisfied with it. The normal maintenance
keeps it running smoothly. And since some employees work in
more than one Caffuccino, installing the same machine in all 4
cafés allows them to always work with the same
MBC: They only once have to
learn how it works, and no matter which Caffuccino they
work at, it’s always the same technique?
ML: Exactly! We try to be consistent. We chose the Astoria
Argenta for all 4 cafés for two reasons: looks and consistency.
When a client steps into the new Caffuccino, the place already
feels familiar because the experience is the same as in any
MBC: If I’m getting this right,
the espresso machine is part of the décor.
ML: Absolutely! I also bought the dome with the brass eagle
that goes on its top. This accessory sells separately, and it’s
a bit expensive, but in each Caffuccino, you’ll find that dome
representing old Italian espresso machines. I know of 4 or 5
companies that sell eagle mounted brass domes, though I don’t
really know about their origin.
MBC: You mentioned that the
Astoria was extremely reliable and that it had never
broken in 11 years. What would you say of the quality of
the espressos it makes and of its consistency from one
cup to the other?
ML: My first Argenta is semiautomatic and the others are
automatic. We program the latter for the amount of coffee we
want. This goes a long way for consistency and we’ve never had
any problem. That’s why I don’t want to switch to another
MBC: What about your employees
who operate the Argenta? What do they think of
ML: We train them directly on the machine and everything is
MBC: There are schools that
train people to operate espresso machines, and when the
students graduate, they acquire the title of
ML: Yes, however there aren’t any such schools close to this
area, and we train our baristas according to our own
requirements. Expectations differ quite a bit from one chain of
coffee shops to another.
MBC: Did you put yourself in
charge of employee training at Caffuccino?
ML: When it comes to espresso, I’m the most demanding trainer,
because espresso is at the root of my concept. I set the
standards and insist on each coffee beverage being exactly the
same in every Caffuccino.
MBC: Did you discover the right
dosage for each beverage by trial and error?
ML: I like my cappuccino with a bit of hot milk and lots of
froth, and my café latte with thicker milk froth and crema all
around. When a client chooses Caffuccino, he knows his latte
will measure up to that standard. Had he chosen another coffee
shop and ordered a latte, he wouldn’t have received the same
beverage. Had the client ordered a cappuccino in Italy, it
would have been very different from the ones we make: each
coffee shop develops its own product.
MBC: From one chain to the
other, from one machine to the other, the taste is
ML: Yes. I’ve hired employees who have worked in another
well-known chain. They have good basic knowledge, but in our
coffee shop, we’ve decided that mochachino comes with whipped
cream on top. Elsewhere, it is not served that way. We invent
our own recipes. The only beverage that might be similar from
one place to another is a single shot of
MBC: How did you learn your
recipes and techniques?
ML: By repeatedly doing them. I’ve worked as a family
restaurant cook for 10 years in the Magog area. I left school
during my first year of college to work full time in a kitchen.
10 years later, I started my own small coffee
MBC: Did you have a background
in accounting or management?
ML: No, I set out in this adventure with a great team. I have
an assistant who takes care of accounting and administration
for the 4 restaurants, and a head manager who drives to all 4
places and who is responsible for the 105 employees. So I
created the concept, but I have a team of people supporting
MBC: Your website indicates the
following important milestones in the history of
Caffuccino: first branch opened in 1997, second in 2000
in Sherbrooke, 2002 in Rock Forest, and the very last one
opened downtown Sherbrooke in January 2008, and you’ve
done some renovating through it all.
ML: We’ve expanded twice in Magog and renovated twice in
Sherbrooke: we’ve completely redone them.
MBC: You said earlier that the
Astoria Argenta machines are low maintenance. What do you
think of their quality-price ratio?
ML: A beautiful machine like that costs pretty much the same
from one company to the other. Some are more expensive because
of their looks. I wanted a brass and stainless steel look with
2 groups. I know they make the Argenta in 3 and 4 groups, but
buying a 4 group would purely be a question of appearances: we
never need both 2-group machines at the same time, and we
prepare many coffee beverages in one day!
MBC: Tell us about after-sales
service. Do you deal directly with the Astoria company or
with a representative?
ML: I deal with independent companies and I think I have a
one-year warranty on my machines, I’m not sure. But they never
break anyway! I only had to find people who know these machines
well and who are able to maintain them.
MBC: What do you like most
about the Astoria Argenta?
ML: I’ve been working with these machines since I’m in the
business. I haven’t tested other commercial espresso machines
so I can’t compare, but I have a nice semiprofessional one at
home, it’s an ECM Giotto semiautomatic and it also makes great
MBC: What do you like less in
commercial espresso machines in general?
ML: I don’t like machines made out of plastic. They often cost
as much, but they lack prestige. I like machines with a sturdy
MBC: All in all, would you
recommend your commercial espresso machine to other
coffee shop owners?
ML: Absolutely: I just opened my 4th restaurant three weeks
ago, and I bought the exact same one.
MBC: What are your best
ML: I think that in order to launch a business, you need to be
passionate. My passion is my Caffuccino bistros. It’s my bread
and butter and my hobby too. When someone asks me what I do
when I’m not working, I tell them I think of my Caffuccino!
MBC: You ponder what new move
you could be doing?
ML: Yes, that’s it, I always want to do more: I love
MBC: What does your clientele
ML: I have a nice clientele of 18 to 65 year-olds, depending on
the time of day. On Thursdays in Sherbrooke we have a happy
hour and it stays full until 2am. We get the crème of each
generation. Lots of professionals, businessmen and beautiful
MBC: Well, thank you very much
for taking the time for this interview! It was very
interesting and I know people will benefit from your
ML: Great! My pleasure!
Or, see other professional