I have 4 cafés within walking distance of my home office. Lucky me, you might think. But I don’t go to any of them. Instead, I get into my car and drive 5 minutes to my favourite cafe, A Café Etc at Jetty Road, Brighton. Referred to as ‘The Marilyn Café’ by locals, it’s in the thick of the café strip that’s sprung up in the past decade, which has made Jetty Road, Brighton a very viable alternative to Jetty Road, Glenelg.
So why do I go past 4 cafés?
Before I go into my little rant — and at the very real risk of losing a fair proportion of my readers — I should let you know that I am gluten free. For those nay-sayers, yes, it’s a real thing…
Like most people who go to a café, I like to have a nice little something to have with my cup of green tea. Just a little biscuit. No big deal. You would think. But even though GF (gluten free) has been around for quite a few years now, it’s still overlooked by some establishments.
Ok, so here we go. A dissection of those 4 cafés…
Café Number 1 is more like a kiosk. No matter how many times I used to go there with my friend who insisted we go there, and asked ‘do you have anything gluten free?’ they said no. They also take ABsolutely AGes to make your cuppa, while you have to stand there, trying to stop yourself from falling asleep.
Café Number 2 do bring your cuppa to you, (woohoo!) however they don’t have anything much GF. However, they do have 4 or 5 things in their display cabinet that list all of the ingredients in them. Which you’d think would be really helpful, except that after spending what seems like 5 minutes reading the small print, you discover that after all that, none of them are GF. Their young staff look like they would die if they cracked a smile and make it seem like a big favour they are doing you, even looking at you and grudgingly saying ‘yes?’ Gee, sorry to inconvenience you by coming in and contributing to your salary.
Café Number 3 has tons of rich cakes, none of them marked GF. When I ask, they need to go consult with the chef, and finally do come back with something from their dessert menu (but not in their cabinet) that is too big, too rich and costs nearly 10 bucks. I’d have to wait 10 minutes to get it and yada, yada, yada, it’s just all too hard.
Café Number 4 has a few GF options but they are not marked, so I have to ask. Every time. The owner is really, really grumpy so I hate to ask. Intead, I just don’t go there.
How to improve business without spending a cent
I’m doing myself out of business here, because I help people with their advertising, but I need to be honest. Here goes. I think there are way too many cafés around. They can’t all be making good money. They won’t all last. So, if you own a café or know someone who does, let them know there are quite a few things they can do to improve their business without spending a cent.
Note 1 to café owners — let me sit down
I am happy to pay extra for the privilege of sitting down and you bringing me the cuppa. Thankyou very much. And I am sure that I am not alone with this preference.
Note 2 to café owners — have something gluten free
GF has been around for quite a few years now, but some café owners have seemingly never heard of it. I’m not asking for much. You don’t have to whip up a gluten free kitchen at the back of the premises. Go down to the local Foodland, buy a packet of GF biscuits for 4 bucks, then charge us $1 per biscuit. I would be quite happy with that, and you would make a profit. Not rocket science.
Note 3 to café owners — please label it
If you do have anything GF, please label it. Don’t make us ask all the time and then confuse us with saying ‘this one, this one, not that one, this shelf etc’ Don’t you get sick of us asking all the time? Make it easy. For us and for you. Thankyou.
Note 4 to café owners — smile
A smile goes a long, long, long way. I would take a smile over experience, efficiency or cost. If you and your staff cannot smile, maybe you’re in the wrong business. Do yourself a favour and find something to do that you love. You’ll live longer, too. Don’t get me wrong, I know how hard it is to work in the service industry — I used to do it. The operative words there are ‘used to’.
Note 5 to café owners — don’t make me yell
I have left a café more than once when my friend and I realised that we couldn’t hear each other over the music. I think there is a great opportunity for someone in hospitality (not me, please see Note 4, above) to start up a chain of Quiet Cafés or Sanctuary Cafés. No shouty music and check your mobile at the door. I’d love it.
Note 6 to café owners — don’t buzz me
I was recently highly amused to see that a café (part of a chain, and no, not Cibo) has brought in the buzzer thing. Which means you make yourself comfortable just in time to get buzzed so that you have to get up again and go and get your coffee and cake. The thing that I found absolutely hysTERical is the location of this café. Inside a posh retirement complex. Yes. Whatever genius thought that it was a good idea to make older people with pacemakers, hip replacements and arthritis get up to get their own coffee is a… well, I’ll let you fill in the blank.
Well, I think that’s quite enough whinging from me. If you have a café whinge, or alternatively, if you establish a Quiet Café, please do let me know. I would love to hear from you.