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Pablo & Rusty’s: A different take on the coffee business

Pablo & Rusty’s is an example of a local business bringing a new approach to traditional hospitality.


Saxon Wright, CEO of Pablo & Rusty's, spoke at the City Thought Leaders seminar ‘How innovation is changing the face of business’ in August 2017. Watch the video of the event.

Sydney coffee roaster shows you how to innovate

Running a café that accepts cryptocurrency but not cash isn’t a feeble decision. And for sustainable coffee roaster Pablo & Rusty’s, this is just one of many innovations.

Today, Pablo & Rusty’s is a sustainability-driven coffee roaster and re-usable cup designer. But the business got its start as a coffee shop.

“Our first café was in Gordon in Sydney’s north, but we were also roasting and sourcing coffees at the same time,” said Pablo & Rusty’s CEO Saxon Wright. “The café was our sandpit. Over time, we ended up expanding to over 10 stores and continued to explore new ideas in design, technique and technology.”

Pablo & Rusty's
Pablo & Rusty's

Experimenting with technology

“We set up our Brisbane store as completely cashless from the start, an Australian first, and now we accept Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. What we learn from doing this we can pass on to our wholesale customers,” he said.

Aside from expanding into non-traditional forms of payment, Pablo & Rusty’s innovations are many. They include brewing concentrates that make preparing coffee-based drinks easier, nitrogen infused coffee on tap, new software for business analytics and being at the front of new technology including auto-tampers and auto milk steaming technology.

And yet, CEO Saxon Wright decided to close 8 out of 10 cafés along the way. “While we loved growing our retail presence, we realised we couldn’t do everything well. So, we decided to make roasting and supplying wholesale coffee our primary focus,” he said.

Birth of a unique re-usable cup

Pablo & Rusty’s latest product is a simple cup with big ambitions. The HuskeeCup came out of a collaborative project aimed at reducing waste in the coffee supply chain. It also provides a reusable alternative to disposable cups.

“We identified mountains of dry, fibrous husk that were left over from the milling of the beans, the stage after the raw beans have been dried. We also weren’t happy with the ceramic cups available on the market. One of our guys suggested making cups from the husk, and the idea was born,” said Wright.

A team was formed specifically to get the HuskeeCups to market. The product won Best in Class at the 2018 Australian Design Awards, as well as the Specialty Coffee Association Best Vessel award and is a Grand Design Green Hero.

Solving real problems

Wright said that the common thread among all of Pablo & Rusty’s inventions is their basis in real customer or business problems. Encouraging all employees to bring new ideas to the table is just as important.

“All markets change. Evaluating your business model to best serve the market is essential and sometimes this means letting go of what you have done in the past. We don’t just want to wait for the future, we want to be part of shaping it.”

Pablo & Rusty’s is an example of a local business bringing a new approach to traditional hospitality. This story is part of our series of articles about savvy business minds around Sydney.

Published 26 November 2018, updated 29 February 2024