According to Adam Humphrey of Restaurant Arras and Arras Too, at last count Sydney city’s Clarence Street had a total of 27 cafes – so how does he stay ahead of the pack?
For starters, he and his wife Lovaine make everything on site, from fresh bread and pastries through to traditional English fare.
“We make everything for our cafe, we are in at between 4.30 and five every morning and bake all our own bread, croissants and pain au chocolat, and we change our muffins every day.”
“We also do things that come from Britain like scotch eggs and pork pies, so we get a lot of English office workers coming in,” Humphrey says.
Customers don’t order from a menu as such, and when food is sold out its sold out, however they can request specific items for the following day.
“The customers will tell you what they want, which we find quite liberating – we want to keep it interesting for our guests and make them effectively what they want.
“You know your food is going to get sold because people have actually said ‘can we have this tomorrow?’ and that’s probably what sets us apart a little bit,” he explains.
There is a formula behind the menu at Arras Too, one that is marked by both consistency and change. “It’s a case of keeping a core group of things that are good and then introducing new things off the back of that.”
Cafes vs. restaurants
Humphrey believes the street’s remaining 26 cafes' ability to survive amidst such a competitive environment is testament to the city’s strong cafe scene.
“It’s a sign of how the cafe scene in Sydney is in terms of the amount of cafes on the street that are thriving and doing really good business.
“I’ve always said the Sydney cafe scene is without a doubt probably one of the best in the world, and I really, really like being a part of that,” he says.
Humphrey is also of the belief that people are creatures of comfort, and will return opt to the same venue again and again.
“They have a favourite coffee that they like to drink from their favourite cafe, or a favourite sandwich that a particular cafe does. Very rarely do you get somebody defecting to another cafe, it’s quite interesting.”
Cafes are more likely to survive when competition is high as opposed to restaurants, because they are both more affordable to run and offer food that is more affordable and convenient.
“If you put 27 restaurants down the same street you’d see a good deal of them dropping off because they just can’t sustain that sort of competition, whereas cafes run a lot leaner than restaurants so it’s simple that they can survive and there’s enough people to want their product,” Humphrey explains.
“The ingredients are more affordable, you don’t have any of the trappings of a big fit out and with all respect to the cafe workers you don’t need a trained chef with more than 20 years experience to cook cafe food.”
Since it opened three years ago Arras Too has built up a strong customer base, and Humphrey has noticed the same people tend to come in at the same time each day.
“It’s got to a point where it’s just really, really consistent in terms of we pretty much take the same money every day, unless we’re doing outside catering which is another big part of what we do, or school holidays then that affects it slightly,” he says.
“The same people come in everyday and effectively buy the same things, so that stands to reason that you are pretty much going to take the same money each day.”
A complementary business model
Restaurant Arras and Arras Two operate in tandem, and Humphrey says this allows them to test the waters as to what works and what doesn’t.
“Sometimes we introduce things that have been well received in the restaurant to the cafe, but in a more casual way.
“Our sort of food is always quirky and a little bit fun anyway so we think to a degree it transcends styles."
Arras is a business that operates as a one-stop shop, capable of catering to the food and beverage needs of all its customers.
“When somebody goes to eat in the restaurant they know they can get a coffee in the cafe next door afterwards, and others might come to the cafe in the morning and tell us they are going to come for some lunch in the restaurant later."
All images: Restaurant Arras website
12 November, 2013
Article reposted from Hospitality Magazine.