From Australia to Atlanta, BRASH Coffee founder Chris Mcleod takes chances at every turn.
BRASH Coffee Roasters founder Chris Mcleod is a calculated risk taker. An Australian native and triathlete, he spent 13 years trading commodities and currencies in Singapore and Hong Kong before moving to Atlanta with his American wife in 2012. With zero experience in hospitality, Mcleod noticed a void in the market and seized on it, launching BRASH out of a shipping container in the Westside Provisions District in 2016. About a mile away, BRASH has its own roastery, where fresh beans are roasted multiple times a week.
“When I moved here, I had to travel 7 miles from my house in Buckhead to get a cup of coffee that was very average. It was a coffee desert,” he says. “In Australia, we don’t call it ‘specialty coffee’ because all the coffee is good, and there are cafes on every corner.”
He started BRASH as a way to get involved in the local community and bring Sydney’s cafe culture to Atlanta. Five years and one pandemic later, he’s grown the business to include brick-and-mortar locations in the Atlanta History Center, Midtown (with digital agency, Huge) and a retrofitted 1968 Citroen mobile shop dubbed BRASH Beast. Early next year, he’s branching out into the restaurant world with BRASH Kitchen, a farmfresh cafe in The Works development on the westside.
We spoke to him to learn more.
What makes BRASH unique?
I believe in genuine interaction between the barista and the customer. If the barista is the first person you see in the morning, you want it to be a positive interaction. We have direct relationships with the coffee farmers in Central and South America. I can call the farmer and say that I need 30 bags. That way, he is paid the full price per pound [as opposed to going through a middleman]. It’s all about quality; if anything is going to lessen the quality of a product, I won’t do it.
How do you forecast opportunities for the brand to expand?
Seeing the success of the brand during the pandemic gave me the confidence to invest rather than divert. We were viewed as an essential business and didn’t close for a day. We were able to use that time to innovate and think about what’s next for coffee: a mobile app and coffee with an amazing food program to go with it at BRASH Kitchen.
How do you decide when to take on risk?
I get some of my risk-taking skills from being a currency trader. I understand when to grow an opportunity and when to cut a loser. I’d like to grow BRASH to being Atlanta’s No. 1 specialty coffee player. I’d like to expand the small store format ITP and OTP—shipping containers are very scalable. Once you’ve tried specialty coffee, you’re not going back. I only see the market for it growing.
How does coffee play a role in your health- and fitness-focused lifestyle?
It’s built into my routine. I love swimming, running and cycling. Prior to doing an hour of endurance work, I only drink black coffee—no food. I’m at my peak when under physical duress. My ability to perform under stress allows me to be a good business owner, assessing risks and finding solutions. I don’t get flustered.
What kind of endurance events have you participated in?
In 2011, I cycled around the circumference of Australia with six others and raised $1.5 million for special needs kids. We cycled 150 miles a day for 80 days. I’m competing in a South African Ironman in November.
What else do you do for fun?
When I’m not working or training, I’m a dedicated dad. My daughters are 15 and 19. I travel all over the country with the 15-year-old’s soccer team. Owning a small business, I have the flexibility to spend five days in San Diego on a soccer pitch.
BRASH COFFEE AND BRASH KITCHEN
Foodie Tastemaker Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Contributing Editor at Atlanta Magazine. Restaurant Aficionado and Mother of Two.