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90/1049 Beverage dispensing machine, 'Cafe-Bar Compact', metal / plastic / wood, designed by Nielsen Design Associates, 1970-1972, made and distributed by Cafe-Bar International, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1977-1980. Click to enlarge.

‘Cafe Bar Compact’ hot drink dispensing machine by Cafe Bar International

Cafe-Bars replaced a lot of tea ladies in the 1960s and 1970s ('tea gentlemen' were quite rare). In 1963 the company patented a butterfly valve that delivered the exact amount of instant coffee, powdered tea, milk, soup, chocolate or sugar, keeping ingredient costs low and reducing mess.

The first blue-painted metal models were designed for the factory floor. But by the 1970s, Cafe-Bar wanted to expand its market into offices and waiting rooms. The plastic Compact model was the first to be designed by a professional industrial designer, David Wood of Sydney. It was released in 1974, featured futuristic styling and came in avocado green, beige, blue and burnt orange, colours that suited the groovy fashion of the times.

Increased sales of the Compact took the company into new markets from the Netherlands to New Zealand. But by 1989 the patent on the butterfly valve had lapsed and the Compact was looking old. The Quintet, this time designed by Adam Laws, was styled for the office of the 1990s. It blends in with the colours and textures of today's computers and fax machines, and its familiar car-style dials make it easy to use.

Cafe-Bar also created a new demand for tea, coffee and biscuits, the supply of which eventually generated more profits than the machines themselves.


Object No.


Object Statement

Beverage dispensing machine, 'Cafe-Bar Compact', metal / plastic / wood, designed by Nielsen Design Associates, 1970-1972, made and distributed by Cafe-Bar International, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1977-1980

Physical Description

Hot drink dispensing machine constructed from orange moulded plastic. Formed with a box shaped dispenser suspended on a pedestal above a wide tray. The box shaped dispenser has a row of knobs across the front. The top of this module hinges open to reveal dispensing mechanism inside. A column of white plastic cups protrude from a hole in the back underside of the box.


Sticker on rear '50745 Compact / Manufactured and distributed by Cafe-Bar International / A division of Burns Philip & Co. Ltd. / Sydney, Australia / 65037'



610 mm


470 mm


290 mm



Designed from 1970-1972 by Nielsen Design Associates, Sydney, Australia. Made 1977-1980 by Cafe Bar International, A division of Burns Philip & Co. Ltd, Sydney, Australia.

This redesign of the Cafe-Bar 'Mini' drink dispenser, was the first to be deliberately styled to meet growing consumer demands for a machine that fitted contemporary office 'aesthetic' : round corners, large simple knobs, orange plastic housing.



Launched in Australia in October 1974, in January 1975 the Cafe-Bar Compact was being distributed throughout Australia, Holland, England, Lebanon, USA, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Indonesia.

In November 1974 Cafe-Bar International was awarded a Good Design label for this product by the Industrial Design Council of Australia. It also received the Prince Philip Award for Australian Design and the Australian Classic Design Award

The Australian Design Council, Gold Design Award was presented to Cafe-Bar in April 1987. The inscription of the plaque read, 'The Cafe-Bar Compact drink dispenser has been independently judged for technical, human and commercial factors and recognised for outstanding design. This product forms a benchmark of Australian design.'

Cafe-Bar became part of Burns Philip and Co Ltd in January 1977. Sales of the Compact were strong but in 1979 sales of equipment had began to slow and some customers were looking to update or replace their equipment. The next model of the Cafe-Bar, Series 6, also designed by Nielsen Design Associates, were launched into the market in early 1981.

In 1989 Cafe Bar International was acquired by Unilever Australia and operated as part of the Food Service Divison of Unifoods Australia. In 1998, Cafe-Bar was bought by FreshFood Services Pty Ltd.

'Cafe-bar Compact: case history of a design', Design Australia, May 1975, p 19-21.
'Cafe-Bar:a history', Café-Bar International, Brunswick, Vic. 1990


Credit Line

Gift of Cafe Bar International, 1990

Acquisition Date

19 November 1990

Cite this Object


'Cafe Bar Compact' hot drink dispensing machine by Cafe Bar International 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 25 September 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title='Cafe Bar Compact' hot drink dispensing machine by Cafe Bar International |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=25 September 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.