09/07/2009 - 00:00

Coffee & chocolate

09/07/2009 - 00:00

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Who would have thought chocolate could be such hard work? Jonathan Barrett reports.

Coffee & chocolate
SWEET: Natasha Readdy has taken some time to adapt to the hectic pace of her new business – Chocolateria San Churro – which specialises in all things chocolate. Photos: Grant Currall

THE plan to open a Chocolateria San Churro store in Perth was hatched in Melbourne, arguably Australia's home of the cafe lifestyle.

Just more than a year after the business partners behind the store discussed the idea of opening up a franchise, the ceremonial ribbon was cut at the new store on Fremantle's busy Market Street.

The chain, which specialises in Spanish doughnuts known as churros, hot chocolates and ... lots of other chocolate things, quickly found its niche in Perth, where other similar franchises were yet to set up.

"We just thought there was nothing like this in Perth. Melbourne has four or five chocolate shops and I think Sydney has the same," co-owner Natasha Readdy told Gusto.

"We were originally going to open in Subiaco but after going to Melbourne and working there for three weeks in one of the stores, we realised it was much more of a night trade than a day trade, and we thought Fremantle would be better for that."

It appears the first-mover advantage has started to pay off, as people become aware of what a real hot chocolate should taste like - melted chocolate.

A slow couple of months after the December 2008 opening has given way to a steady week-day crowd and lines out the door at peak times at the weekend.

But like many cafe owners, Ms Readdy's working hours are long. She often survives off five or six hours of sleep a night, after staying late to cater to the night crowd. Working with a transient workforce - workers are often backpackers and students - means staffing issues also consume time.

"It's 10 times more work than I thought it was going to be," she says.

"It took me about five or six weeks before I was able to let someone open and close. I think that's the hardest thing; trusting your staff to give them that type of responsibility."

Churros, which are dipped in melted chocolate, and hot chocolates are the store's best sellers, but Ms Readdy says she is a "coffee person".

As there were no San Churros in Perth, Ms Readdy committed to the business without tasting its coffee.

"When I went to Melbourne for my three weeks of training [at San Churro head office] I was really nervous because I hadn't tasted the coffee," she says.

"Actually the first coffee I had there was terrible and I was so worried, but it was just the way the girl made it. I don't know if she burned the milk or burnt the coffee but it was terrible. But then she made another and it was beautiful."

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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