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Ryan Godinho | Founder and CEO | Stomping Grounds | Specialty Batch General Trading LLC, and Tyler’s Taverna

Ryan Godinho: Reshaping Dubai’s Cafe Culture and Inspiring Culinary Excellence

Brewing Success: The Unstoppable Rise of Ryan Godinho, Dubai’s Visionary Coffee Entrepreneur

Dubai is a city that never fails to capture the imagination with its incredible skyscrapers, luxurious lifestyle, and bustling streets. It’s a place where people from all over the world come to pursue their dreams and make them a reality. In this vibrant and dynamic environment, stories of passion, perseverance, and the pursuit of perfection are commonplace. One such story stands out among the rest, and it’s a tale that deserves to be told.

Meet Ryan Godinho, founder and owner of Stomping Grounds, Specialty Batch Coffee, and Tyler’s Tavern, a visionary entrepreneur who has become a driving force in Dubai’s flourishing coffee culture. Born with an innate love for the art of brewing, Ryan embarked on a journey that would redefine the city’s coffee scene. From humble beginnings, he carved his path, honing his skills and immersing himself in the world of specialty coffee. With every sip, he aspired to create moments of pure delight, and in doing so, he emerged as the maestro behind Specialty Batch Coffee and the revered Stomping Grounds. Ryan’s relentless dedication and unwavering commitment have reshaped the way Dubai savors the flavors of excellence, making him a true icon in the realm of coffee.

In 2009, Ryan embarked on a transformative journey as he took on an operational role for the Specialty Coffee Event, a groundbreaking annual event in Dubai. His passion and expertise led him to become the UAE National Coordinator for World Coffee Events, where he spearheaded the organization of nationwide events such as the UAE Barista Championship, UAE Latte Art Championship, UAE Brewers Cup, and UAE Cup Tasters Championship. Through these initiatives, Ryan not only showcased the artistry and craftsmanship of specialty coffee but also fostered a thriving coffee community in the region.

Ryan’s dedication to excellence and his commitment to advancing the specialty coffee industry earned him the distinction of becoming the region’s inaugural authorized coffee instructor on behalf of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). In 2011, he founded Specialty Batch, a pioneering coffee academy and cafe training platform that has empowered countless individuals with the skills and knowledge to deliver exceptional coffee experiences. Building on this success, Ryan established Specialty Batch Coffee Roastery in 2013, filling a market gap for premium-quality coffee. Today, the roastery is a trusted wholesale coffee and cafe equipment company, providing operational support and supplying superior coffee products to over 500 restaurants across the UAE.

Through Specialty Batch Coffee, Ryan has crafted a unique blend of artistry, knowledge, and exceptional quality. From training programs and barista certifications to supplying coffee beans and equipment, Specialty Batch Coffee has become the go-to destination for coffee enthusiasts and industry professionals looking to elevate their skills and offerings.

With a passion for excellence and a keen eye for innovation, Ryan has propelled the Specialty Batch Coffee brand to remarkable heights. His commitment to providing premium coffee experiences has earned him recognition as a trusted authority in the industry. As an official member of the Forbes Business Council, his insights and expertise have been sought after by coffee aficionados and aspiring entrepreneurs alike.

In this exclusive cover story, we delve into the extraordinary journey of Ryan Godinho—entrepreneur, coffee connoisseur, and visionary leader!

The Initiation

Ryan’s existence has been almost equally divided between Melbourne and Dubai, and he considers both metropolises his official home. For the past twelve years, he has been actively engaged in the coffee industry in the UAE. In 2012, he established a specialty coffee educational facility under the brand name “Specialty Batch Coffee,” followed by a micro-roastery and equipment supply business under the same brand in 2013. This enterprise then evolved into an all-in-one specialty coffee solutions company by 2015. Subsequently, in 2016, he launched a café and restaurant under the brand name “Stomping Grounds.”

Both corporations are currently highly operational and have strategic initiatives in place to augment their activities within the upcoming half-year period.

Awakening Coffee Memories

During the latter period of his high school education in the late 1990s, he was an ardent aficionado of lattes. Throughout his college years, he depended on Long Blacks for nourishment and can confidently affirm that caffeine played a crucial role in the successful completion of his studies.

In the year 2004, a new and innovative coffee shop sprouted in the vicinity of his abode, located in South Yarra, Melbourne, outfitted with cutting-edge coffee equipment and gadgets at their front counter. Subsequent to a string of enlightening conversations with the café’s proprietor and accomplished barista, this specific coffee establishment became his customary practice and revolutionized his criteria for what qualifies as “Praiseworthy coffee.”

Achievements in the Realm of Thriving Enterprises

Between the years of 2009 and 2011, Ryan undertook an executive position for a novel yearly event that showcased specialty coffee in Dubai. During this tenure, he was designated as the National Coordinator for the United Arab Emirates by the Specialty Coffee Association and their World Coffee Events chapter.

In 2011, Ryan took the lead in organizing all authorized National Coffee Championships during the yearly specialty coffee event sphere. This collection encompassed seven specialized coffee contests, commencing with the UAE National Barista Championship, the UAE Latte Art Championship, the UAE Brewers Cup, and the UAE Cup Tasters Championship.

In the year 2012, Ryan assumed the position of the initial lead instructor for the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) in the United Arab Emirates, thus becoming the first to do so from the GCC region. Ryan was given the mandate to oversee all authorized educational programs that pertained to the grading of green coffee, the roasting of coffee, and the coffee business. The SCAA educational program offered a comprehensive professional development package that included sensory, brewing, and barista skills training.

From 2011 to 2013, Ryan ideated and endeavored to establish Specialty Batch Coffee, mostly as a platform for training and education in the Middle East, encompassing every facet of the coffee value chain, ranging from the cultivation process to the final product served in cups.

Specialty Batch Coffee Roastery was founded in 2013 with the intention of bridging the enduring chasm in the market for a superior caliber of coffee. Ryan’s objective was to source and roast specialty-grade coffee beans and collaborate with select cafes that catered to more artisanal coffee connoisseurs.

In the year 2014, Ryan and his associates achieved formal exclusive distribution contracts with renowned global power brands such as Synesso Inc., Anfim Grinders, and Alpha Dominche. This resulted in the opening of a fresh channel of geographic sales and the provision of uninterrupted services for their equipment lines in the Middle East.

Towards the end of 2014, Specialty Batch Coffee successfully acquired a residential villa located in Jumeirah 1. The objective behind this move was to establish a commercial space that would serve as both an espresso and brew bar, as well as a live demo showroom, showcasing the unique qualities and processes associated with Specialty Batch Coffee. Such an ambitious goal was achieved through their unwavering dedication and commitment to providing exceptional coffee experiences to their customers.

By the culmination of 2015, as an outcome of a substantial amount of customer demand, the establishment underwent a metamorphosis and was christened as Stomping Grounds Cafe. Ryan and his diligent team revamped the area and furnished it with a comprehensive commercial kitchen to cater to the needs of its extensive clientele with an intricately curated, all-inclusive dining menu.

From 2017 to 2019, Specialty Batch Coffee augmented its coffee roasting output to a respectable 500 kilograms per week to satisfy the demand for its remarkably refined coffee. Moreover, thanks to its outstanding reputation in customer service and excellence, and as trailblazers in regional coffee, Ryan and his team were solicited by a few nascent coffee machinery producers to forge additional unique distribution and regional assistance accords.

Specialty Batch Coffee relocated to a spacious 7000 sq. ft. harbor-side facility in Mina Rashid between 2021 and 2022. The new facility boasts a picturesque coffee bar and separate areas for the company’s diverse departments. The technical division has significantly expanded its capacity, offering technical services on a contractual basis and emergency services on call to over 500 restaurants, cafes, and bars throughout the UAE.

Towards the end of 2022, in the vicinity of the same locale, Ryan and his group inaugurated Tyler’s Tavern, a modern gastropub that offers a blend of pub cuisine, artisanal beers, wines, exclusive spirits, and innovative coffee cocktails.

Revolutionizing the Specialty Coffee and Cafe Industry

The present condition and overarching triumph of the specialty coffee and cafe sector in this nation have a noteworthy genesis. The narrative of this expansion on a global scale and the UAE’s worldwide recognition in the coffee industry is told by his odyssey. As a specialist category businessperson with extensive practical expertise across numerous domains and success in both B2B and B2C business models, his ventures not only endure the test of time but also continue to prosper year after year. His brand is renowned for its reputation for excellence.

From Caffeine Connoisseur to Business Mogul

Through astute observation of the hospitality industry’s requirements in the UAE, particularly in Dubai, Godinho discerned a chance to create initiatives that catered to the surging demand for exceptional coffee. Inaugurated in 2015, Stomping Grounds imbued Dubai with the quintessence of contemporary and traditional Australian influences. What was initially a trial and a live exhibition coffee bar for Specialty Batch Coffee blossomed into a renowned specialty café that prioritizes the unwavering preservation of excellence and uniformity with each passing year.

Presently, the illustrious cafe presents patrons with the opportunity to relish in the taste of seasonal, distinct coffees while indulging in an impressive menu offering breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Without a doubt, the café represents a flagship extension of Specialty Batch Coffee and has subsequently served as a veritable model of inspiration for numerous cafes that have emerged in the UAE. Having established a firm foundation and unwavering principles, Godinho recognized the need to concentrate on cultivating his operations at a sustainable pace.

In 2017, he shifted his focus to Specialty Batch Coffee and established a fresh coffee roastery site. Four years later, he centralized operations by relocating to a new roastery and coffee hub at Mina Rashid, situated near the harbor. This move was aimed at supporting his expanding customer base, which now includes more than 400 restaurants and cafes nationwide.

Godinho’s fervor for crafting heartfelt hospitality venues appears to be unceasing. In the year 2022, he initiated yet another project in Mina Rashid. For more than a decade, Godinho has been pivotal to the niche coffee culture in the UAE. Be it imparting coffee education to novices or experts, bolstering the café landscape by offering premium-grade commodities and amenities, or curating venues for residents and tourists to savor extraordinary coffee indulgences, he has left an indelible mark.

This is a captivating tale that demonstrates how dedication, when cultivated, can result in remarkable achievements, not solely on an individual basis but also on a grander scale, influencing a whole area.

Conquering the Most Formidable Obstacles

When questioned about the obstacles he encountered, he responded, “Introducing a novel concept, a fresh brand, and innovative technology to a market is an arduous undertaking that necessitates unwavering perseverance and devotion. The path of least resistance and greater convenience would be to ride the wave of a trend and leverage the entrepreneurial efforts that have gone into nurturing the market.”

These are obstacles that he has encountered with each endeavor he has undertaken. From establishing Specialty Batch Coffee, the educational institution, wholesale coffee distributor, and restaurant equipment provider, to creating the initial community specialty coffeehouse, Stomping Grounds, he has faced a constant stream of daily hurdles. He invested his time and limited resources in a mission propelled solely by passion, knowing that there were no quick solutions and that persistence was necessary if he were to truly make an impact.

Insightful Nuggets of Knowledge

During the initial stages of his learning, he grasped the significance of three fundamental concepts:

  • There is no substitute for quality; in everything you do and offer, personally and professionally, if you are subpar in any way, it can be obvious and will be limiting.
  • Consistency is a virtue; this is a very underrated mindset for most. But know that trust is built on consistency. In other words, consistency breeds familiarity, familiarity breeds confidence, and confidence breeds sales.
  • Surround yourself with skilled people who share your passion; Finding the right team in your early days is paramount to your entrepreneurial success. All of your staff need to be rowing in the same direction and have a list of expertise that enhances and complements your business.
  • On a personal level, if you look around at your circle of friends and don’t get inspired and motivated, then you don’t have a circle; you have a cage.

Contemporary Coffee Culture

Regarding coffee production, a plethora of innovative techniques have emerged this year, particularly at the farm level. There is a noticeable increase in processing advancements utilizing fermentation methods, which involve manipulating variables such as time, temperature, air, and additives. By utilizing these techniques, farmers are able to enhance the flavor profiles of ‘Average’ coffee beans to surpass the typical norms. Essentially, this means that the original flavor characteristics of a fruity Ethiopian coffee could partially be incorporated into a distinct nutty Brazilian coffee. Alternatively, cinnamon could be added during the fermentation process to create an entirely new dimension of coffee flavor.

Consistency is King

The clientele of their cafe and restaurant are known to be sticklers for consistency, and rightfully so. The act of “Getting a coffee” depends on a certain level of familiarity for the customer. Their most popular coffee beans are typically the specialty blends that they are able to procure in larger quantities year after year while still upholding their high standards of quality. Their coffee varieties from Brazil, Colombia, Panama, El Salvador, Ethiopia, and Kenya have held a prominent place in the UAE market for a number of years and have seen a steady increase in demand from new customers month after month. As coffee purists themselves, they are pleased to report that the most frequently requested drinks by their customers include espresso, long blacks, piccolo lattes, and flat whites.

Uphill Battle of Introducing Novel Notions

Ryan acknowledges that introducing a novel notion, brand, and technology to a market can be exceedingly arduous and necessitates a significant amount of tenacity. It would be far simpler to merely follow a trend or capitalize on the preceding endeavors of other businesspersons in creating a market. These are the predicaments that Ryan has confronted with every undertaking he has pursued. From establishing Specialty Batch Coffee as an educational facility, wholesale coffee supplier, and cafe equipment company to launching the inaugural local specialty cafe, Stomping Grounds, Ryan has had to steer through a plethora of everyday challenges.

Devoting his time and finite resources to these endeavors was motivated entirely by his ardor, and there were no quick fixes. Ryan comprehended that he must persevere if he aimed to genuinely influence the shift in consumer conduct.

Ryan’s Entrepreneurial Success

Ryan favors establishing his objectives within a feasible period of 6-12 months, harmonizing his long-term aspirations with short-term targets. He has discovered that this technique is both practical and controllable. Ryan is also highly systematic in managing his time, and he asserts that this entrepreneurial attribute has been a cornerstone of his flourishing career.

In his quest for the advancement of his brands, Ryan has steadfastly upheld strong ethical values. Despite being presented with prospects for accelerated expansion, he has remained resolute in his pursuit of a more holistic approach that does not entail making concessions on quality. Ryan’s enterprises have developed an infrastructure that caters to the evolving demands of his clientele while maintaining an unblemished reputation and consistently delivering unparalleled quality.

Visualizing the Future

Ryan favors establishing both a long-term perspective and short-term objectives, with a preference for setting targets within the six to twelve-month range. This method of operating not only conforms to their present mindset but also proves to be more feasible and easier to handle.

Ryan’s ambitions for advancing its brands have consistently been rooted in ethical principles and guided by feasible systems. Despite several opportunities that could have resulted in significant growth for their brands, they were unwilling to make any compromises. Rather, they have developed their businesses in a natural and sustainable manner, establishing an infrastructure that caters to the needs of their clients while upholding an unblemished reputation and maintaining a level of excellence in quality that remains unwavering.

Next Wave of Specialty Coffee

He believes that the prospects for specialty coffee in the UAE are uncertain. The potential for specialty coffee is intertwined with a range of international concerns, including the origin and environmental sustainability of coffee, the evolution of coffee species, advancements in processing at the farm level, fair compensation for labor, and quality control throughout the supply chain. These factors serve as the foundation for global trends in the specialty coffee industry.

In due course, novel and captivating coffee blends and cutting-edge equipment advancements will unfailingly emerge and make their way to the nearby coffee shops. The strategic location and substantial purchasing capability of the UAE enable this phenomenon more extensively than numerous other nations.

He holds a firm belief that sustainability can be achieved through education, fostering individuality, and maintaining consistency. While showcasing the best coffee technology and offering a constantly evolving menu of micro-lots, nano-lots, and 90+ coffees is commendable, the future success of the cafes largely depends on the consistent delivery of high-quality products and customer service. Investments should not be limited to interior design and replicating other cafes’ menus. Cafe owners and operators should prioritize structured forms of both active and passive education for their staff and customers.

Considering the considerable density of coffee shops per capita, I opine that the present café scene necessitates a phase of purification. This is an inevitable process where the mimics and non-innovators progressively vanish, leaving behind the stronger “Individuals.” Finally, let’s talk about the barista. Undoubtedly, the average salary for baristas in the UAE has been steadily increasing since 2012. However, there has been a certain level of stagnation in recent years, even preceding the pandemic. To accomplish authentic growth in local specialty coffee, the barista (the ultimate coffee and brand ambassador) should be collectively considered a “Front-of-house chef” and should be recruited and compensated accordingly.

Awards (Stomping Grounds):

  • UAE’s Best Independent Specialty Café 2019 at the Europe and Middle East Coffee Awards, hosted by Allegra, United Kingdom.
  • UAE’s Best Independent Specialty Café 2020 at the UAE Business Awards 2020, hosted by MEA Markets.
  • Dubai’s BEST BREAKFAST 2020 at TIME OUT DUBAI Restaurant Awards.
  • HIGHLY COMMENDED CAFÉ 2020 at TIME OUT DUBAI Restaurant Awards.
  • BEST UPMARKET CAFE & RESTAURANT 2023 – DUBAI, at the Restaurant and Bar Awards 2023 hosted by LUXlife magazine

Awards (Specialty Batch Coffee)

  • Best Specialty Coffee & Supplies Brand United Arab Emirates 2020, Food & Drinks Awards, hosted by Lux Life Magazine
  • Best Specialty Coffee Equipment Service 2021, UAE Business Awards, hosted by MEA Markets.
  • Best Specialty Coffee Supplier (Middle East) 2022, UAE Business Awards, hosted by MEA Markets.
  • Best Specialty Coffee Supplier (UAE) 2022, The Global 100
  • Most Comprehensive Coffee Supplier – Middle East 2022, at the MEA Business Awards 2022, hosted by MEA Markets.
  • Ryan has been distinguished by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the preeminent business figures to keep an eye on in the Middle East by 2023. This acknowledgment underscores Ryan’s influence and guidance in the business realm, as well as his potential for sustained achievement and expansion in the area. The accolade also honors Ryan’s foresight, originality, and input toward the advancement of the Middle Eastern business terrain.