If you build it they will come (but will they come back?)
As a provincial coffee roaster, based on the wild West Coast of New Zealand’s North Island, setting up shop in Auckland was a daunting prospect. This is a city with possibly the most competitive and established specialty coffee market in the world, a hospitality scene operating at the top of its game, and customers who are super discerning.
The goal for us was to create a space that could be all things for all people without falling into the trap of blandness. Our All Day, Every Day philosophy filters through the design of our space and menu. We want the community to use the space for any number of reasons – as their office, meeting space, post-exercise re-fuel spot, date-night, place of celebration, mid-dog-walk-caffeination-stop. The key challenge for any all-day operation is the seamless transition of space and offer throughout the day and into the night – from the first coffee of the morning to the last dessert of evening service the change has to feel natural. Our customers will let us know very quickly if we don’t live up to this.
Our roastery/ eatery spaces are long-term investments that require an engaged community in order to survive. The all-under-one-roof approach requires a large footprint, so we take sites that are off the beaten track and a little more affordable. By creating a destination space that doesn’t heavily rely on footfall, we have to take confidence that positive word of mouth will spread and people will come. Then it’s about the conversion of a first time visitor to a regular customer. Good PR at the time of opening will provide awareness but it doesn’t build lasting community or friendships – that comes later and only through the consistency and effort from our operational teams.
Getting people to change their daily routine and choose to spend time in our space is a huge undertaking. And I believe the best way for us to be successful in this, is to simply Be Human. That when someone walks through our door, we look to truly listen to their needs and accommodate in the best way we can (another Danny Meyer philosophy). In my opinion, the best hospitality people have equal measures of self-awareness (to understand what they personally bring), empathy (in their interactions with customers and co-workers), and technical ability (the practical skills to do the job). By embodying these three elements, we act in a more human way and open the door for connection, and ultimately community.
We can also act more Human by sharing stories and experiences. If we take the time to come together as a community we can learn and grow collectively – through a simple book recommendation or attendance of a panel discussion on mental health in hospitality. Our hope, is that through our Sustinere programme of events we can help facilitate this coming together. Creating an environment where we can all be humble, open to new perspectives, and ultimately build each other up.