The success of Café Buongiorno, or Café B as it is known locally serves as a blue print on how to build a fabulous business based around quality food and service at a fair price. Hoteliers take note! Diners vote with their feet.
Cafes’ with no other attractions other than food and coffee are most exposed to the whims of an increasingly fussy customer base.
Adelaide’s Café B voted Australia’s Best Café in 2013 is owned by the Raslan brothers. Food lovers themselves, the three brothers play different roles within the business. Sam is the Manager of Café B, Brian runs the South Australian coffee Academy and the Robert runs an accounting firm. But together all have their pulse on the operation of the business.
Head Chef is Jason Olivier. Jason has vast experience in Adelaide’s hugely competitive dining scene. Having worked for ALH and the RD Jones Hotel Group in key roles, Jason is acutely aware of the market gaps and opportunities for smart food operators.
With a kitchen staff of a dozen and doing up to one thousand covers a day it’s a big job. Bistro caught up with Jason to find out more.
Bistro: Can you give us an idea of the size of the Café?
Jason: We can seat 200 inside and can seat another 100 in our alfresco area. On weekdays we typically do around five hundred covers a day on weekdays and double that on Saturdays and Sundays. In total we do about three to four thousand covers in a week.
B: In terms of produce, can you give us an idea of consumption?
J: Per week: 400-500 slider buns; 30 kg of mince meat; 30 kg of scotch fillet; 250 kg of chips, 200kg poultry and 100kg of coffee beans.
B: There is a lot of buying involved. How do you choose suppliers?
J: I try to have three suppliers for as many products as we need. As most food supplier’s products are much the same in quality the only thing to bargain for is price. It keeps everyone on his or her toes and returns us very sharp pricing. The only significant omission to this strategy of course is coffee, where consistency is essential.
B: In large cafés where food plays such a pivotal role, how important does the coffee become?
J: Coffee is most likely the first thing that arrives on the table. It’s a first impression so it’s got to be great coffee. We run a café and even though many people come here for a meal its still a café nonetheless. To run a successful café you need to provide fantastic coffee. Many of our customers still see great coffee as the driving force when they decide where they want to go for breakfast or lunch. If a customer receives a bad coffee then the whole experience with us is going to be difficult to rebuild. Sure you’re only as good as your last meal but the same can be said for the coffee.
B: You have worked in large hotels in the past. Can you explain the difference between working in place like Café B to a hotel?
J: I really enjoy working in a café. In the case of Café B it’s all about the food. There is nowhere to hide so I’m happy with this arrangement. The owners love food and understand that the only thing that can separate us from other cafes is the quality and consistency of what we serve.
I have worked in hotels and while I enjoyed the time they are very commercialized. In Many hotels the food is not the focal point of the business. Gaming and alcohol with far greater GPs are attractive profit centers for many hotels and its unfortunate that many pubs have a fairly jaundiced view of their food offering. A ‘necessary evil’ is how a lot of pub owners view their bistro and that’s the wrong attitude to take. In the case of some pubs I see it as ‘opportunity lost’. Having said that there are pub owners that take a very positive approach to their food offering.
B: Most chefs have an opinion of the effect that reality-cooking shows have had on hospitality. What’s your view?
J: Reality TV cooking shows has given us a great opportunity. We often put the item that was cooked in an episode of say MKR or MasterChef on the next day’s menu as a special. I’ll add my own twist to the dish and it works well for us. The TV exposure of that dish really helps sell it for us. Of course the shows have made a lot of people instant experts on food and that can be a frustration at times, but if its heightened consumers interest in cooking and eating it has to be a good thing.
B: Where to from here for you?
J: Maybe my own place some day. For now my goal is to continue the values of Café B and strive for greatness with more awards and reputation. A good reputation is the most important thing to a Chef and a Business owner
B: Can you tell us a little about your food philosophy?
J: Seventy percent of what you see on the menu is made in house. We make all our own Stocks and sauces, Deserts, pizzas all other items not made in house are sourced from local suppliers to keep the South Australian food community strong. My philosophy on food is consistency and quality. These two key attributes are what will drive a successful business.
If you are known for these two attributes your food is not a commodity and you are more likely to be able to charge accordingly instead of offering cheap specials and promotions. If you don’t offer consistency and quality you are doomed to end up in the $10 schnitzels and $10 steaks business!