Refinery: The Process of Perfection

Refinery, located by the Spree canal in Berlin, was founded two years ago by Tansel and her husband. Before starting her own business, she worked at the Federal Employment Agency for five years as career consultant for commercial jobs. However, she was educated in business management and always aimed to become self-employed—with a desire to work with coffee specifically.

“When it comes to coffee, I believe it’s like a journey full of discoveries via smell, taste, and stories from crop to cup. Coffee drinking is a ritual that inspires people to learn and explore more, just like travelling. I got very inspired while travelling in USA and UK recently.”

Tansel named the café “Refinery” because it refers to the process of perfecting something, like making a diamond from its raw state. The café itself looks polished, with marble countertops, brass plant potters, glossy black brick detailing, and large industrial lights—the work of an interior decorating team based out of Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Running a business is not without its obstacles and, according to Tansel, finding the right staff can be especially difficult. This is because working with high-end coffee requires a rare combination of personality traits and skills: one needs to be a good barista, with a motivation to work in gastronomy, punctual (for the morning rush), quick, friendly, and helpful towards the customers. Though it took effort to find the right employees, she now has a team with these winning qualities.

"Coffee is people business and that’s why it's important to surround yourself with employees who have the qualities to fulfil the needs of the customers. I am thrilled to say—we made it!”

Finding the right coffee beans posed another challenge. Luckily, Bonanza Coffee Roasters (a local roastery and café) served as a valuable ally, providing Tansel and her husband with advice as well as samples for testing, which enabled them to personally choose which notes they preferred between fruity, classic, nutty, etc. Refinery also prides itself on its excellent sandwiches and cakes.

“Our truly inspirational coffee journey started in 2015 with a broad range of high-quality cakes—the best cheesecake and carrot cake as well as American-style cakes. Right now, we experiment and introduce creative approaches to gastro—the customers love it.”

What appeals to Tansel the most about being her own boss is the freedom, especially in terms of being creative. While she of course takes her customers into account, Refinery is indeed a reflection of her own tastes—from the food and drinks served to the décor.

“I do what I love and I feel free. One of the most important qualities is trust, you have to believe in people to run a business. I have my team that can work on their own and I don’t have to monitor them all the time. Giving someone freedom in their work and watching them develop is success for me.”

For Tansel, it’s important for entrepreneurs to have passion for what they want to do: “It’s not enough to be convinced yourself, but you also need to convince others.” Additionally, you need to be good at developing products as well as the business and sales side of the company.

When Tansel bought SumUp to use at the café, she was pleasantly surprised:

“It’s compact and fast. The handling is also very easy. We only have positive feedback—we’re happy we chose SumUp.”

Tansel said her customers are happy they can even pay for smaller orders, like a €3 coffee, using their cards.

“Sometimes, customers immediately ask where they can find the next ATM, and I reply that they can pay by card. They’re amazed. It’s a good first experience, and when customers know that they can pay by card, they’re more relaxed. It’s helpful for making sales.”

Blog author

Christine Lariviere