You have a vision – a dream, a little foodie haven to call your own. So in the cut throat world of the Melbourne food scene, what is it like to open a small business in a new precinct? What are the greatest challenges, and what advice do these owners have to others wanting to chase their food dreams? This month, GRAM sat down with Charan Singh (Delhi Streets) Kerry and Jeff Chew (Hunter’s Roots) and Dan Chrystal (Stand Up Cafe) to discuss what life has been like since opening their own small businesses in one of Melbourne’s newest food precients; The Archway in Katherine Place.
CHARAN SINGH – DELHI STREET What have been the greatest challenges you’ve faced?
Our greatest challenge has been shifting the customers’ preconceived idea of what ‘Indian’ food is. Indian food is synonymous with curries and rice and our goal has been to showcase a more diverse selection of Indian style foods such as ‘Chaats’, Thalis and wraps – For us, this is what we know to be true Indian foods. With such a great response so far, we believe Melbournians are expanding their knowledge and palate on various types of tastes and flavours we have to offer.
And the highlights?
We’ve had a tremendous response on our food and décor by our customers. Receiving that kind of positive feedback has been very satisfying. We have been fortunate enough to be published in Broadsheet, The Age Cheap Eats, The Age Good Food Guide, Gourmet Traveller, Herald Sun, Urban List, and various food blogging websites. We have also been offered to be part of Melbourne Night Noodle Market in November 2015, which we have accepted.
What’s your speciality offering?
The Pani Puri is a hit amongst the foodies. They are puffed hollow pastry balls stuffed with potatoes, chickpeas, tamarind chutney, mint chutney and sweet yoghurt. It’s served alongside spiced water (Pani), which you pour in the hollow ball (Puri) and eat the Puri as whole and you can taste the diverse flavours in your mouth from sweet, spicy, tangy and salty all in one shot. The Aloo Tikki is our staff favourite though
Do you use technology to assist in running your business?
We use a software called Square which is a POS system that sits in our Apple mini iPads. Square is a great piece of software that allows my staff to take orders directly onto the iPads, which sends the tickets to the kitchen. All the analytical data is available to be to viewed anywhere from the Square Dashboard App, which I can access any-time anywhere when I’m away from the restaurant, all in real time. The technical support and service is fantastic from the Square team and I couldn’t be happier. Thanks Josh and Charlie from Square!
How do you promote Delhi Streets?
We are on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. We also have a great publicity team from Harvey Publicity who manage our marketing material as well.
The Melbourne food scene can be a tough one to break into; do you have any advice for those considering opening a hospitality business here?
The three key points to focus on is food quality, staff and restaurant atmosphere. Being a foodie capital, if you can master these categories, you have a good chance if fitting right in. Location should not be a factor as we have learnt in Melbourne; foodies are willing to travel to anywhere where great food is available.
KERRY AND JEFF – HUNTER’S ROOTS What have you found to be the toughest elements to opening a new business?
Getting everything ready to open our cafe on schedule! We originally envisioned to open by the beginning of summer 2014, but so many delays popped up along the way, pretty much whatever could go wrong did go wrong! Being first time business owners we probably did a lot of things the longer and harder way, but many people we know who had been in similar situations just told us to enjoy the moments before the shop opened, as things would be pretty crazy afterwards! Looking back it was also a good thing we had a bit of extra time to fine tune our recipes and source for unique handcrafted items for the cafe . It’s all worth it once those doors finally open however – we recently found out that our interior design has been shortlisted for “Best Cafe Design” at this year’s Eat Drink Design Awards. That was pretty awesome news to end our week with – it was announced on a Friday so celebrations were definitely in order!
Did you choose to open Hunter’s Roots in this area of Melbourne for a reason?
We loved the ideal of being located in a laneway. Our great neighbours and everyone’s unique offerings has made Katherine Place a must visit for any respectable foodie! There is a real sense of a community spirit – most of us are first time business owners and the amount of help and advice being shared around is so cool! We are all passionate about what we do and bring a real hands-on attitude to making our food and drinks offerings an absolute top notch food experience.
What do you do better than anyone else?
Hunters’ Roots began with a frustration that there weren’t really any places in Melbourne CBD that you could find simple, fresh, healthy foods and yet also sit down and escape from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. Having lived and worked in the city for many years, we wanted a cafe where we could eat wholesome foods that also tastes great. You’ll find our menu is an every changing selection of light breakfast and lunch options that are all made in-house, feature local organic produce and has a nod to our Asian heritage. An example of our salads would be our signature black rice with tofu, edamame, shiitake mushrooms, radish, snow pea shoots with a ginger tamari dressing.
Are you on social media?
Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are what we mainly use to promote our business. It is true that people eat with their eyes first, sharing images of our latest colourful salads and smoothies are a fantastic way to reach out to customers and like minded groups. We have also helped out with local businesses such as yoga studios and start up schools for any events and functions, which is always fun and a great way to spread our name out there.
.What advice do you have for others hoping to pursue their foodie ambitions?
The hospitality industry is not very glamorous behind the scenes, the hours are extremely long and besides a passion for food and cooking, we also have had to stay on top of other aspects such as marketing, book keeping and customer service management (not to mention see each other many hours a day!).
Having access to cloud based technology such as Xero and Square, to help manage our finances and point of sale has been a worthwhile investment. Most of all, always remember why you decided to start this journey and to surround yourself with a good network of mentors.
DAN CHRYSTAL – STAND UP CAFE What have been the greatest challenges?
Stand Up Cafe’s greatest challenge has been increasing exposure to new customers. Being so small and hidden we have capitalised on word-of-mouth advertising and have been effectively driving business through regular customers. However, through constantly serving high quality coffee we have been able to get our name out there in the local area quicker than I ever imagined. Another challenge is Stand Up Cafe’s limited storage, which is an ongoing predicament as the place is so small. However through building great relationships with other local businesses we’ve been able to utilise their bigger spaces to help our storage limitations.
Did you choose Katherine Place for a reason?
The recent Archway Development has rapidly been increasing foot traffic to the region. With new and exciting operators opening up we’ve been able to help each other create a hospitality focused community that benefits all locals and businesses in the area. The opportunity to do something slightly unique and different was the selling point for opening up Stand Up Cafe on Katherine Place.
How does technology play a role in your small business?
I believe that with all the challenges of running and owning your own small business, it is important to use technology in order to simplify your life. When I came across Square Register I immediately adopted the software in Stand Up Cafe. The size of the cafe means a traditional computer based POS was practically never going to work, so running a POS the size of an iPad was imperative. It’s still powerful enough to allow me to accurately keep track of all sales and inventory. They also make back office accounting easy through their integration with programs such as Xero.
How do you get the word out?
Word-of-mouth is our biggest marketing tool. Through constantly serving high quality coffees with good customer service we’ve been able to attract new customers daily while, and just as importantly, keeping all existing customers. On top of this keeping up to date Instagram and Facebook accounts is a valuable tool for increasing exposure.
Final advice to others thinking about starting their own small business?
If an opportunity presents itself, just go for it. I believe if you’re passionate and motivated you’re never too young to dive into the hospitality industry, even in Melbourne’s competitive environment. Operating a small business is difficult and takes a lot of hard but the pride and sense of accomplishment that you get from building a business up from nothing is definitely well worth the effort.