The owners of Cream say it’s like an intimate dinner party every night at their inner-city restaurant. Carolyn Herbert reports.
JUST off the Royal Street cafe strip in East perth is a restaurant that aims to offer comfort and taste to all its patrons.
Cream owners Karen Veldre and Nellie Newberry say their restaurant is all about generous servings and the sort of no-nonsense comfort food that ‘your mum used to make’; and the décor – with its carpeted red walls, neon lamps and chocolate-coloured booths – adds another layer to the experience.
Since 2003, Ms Veldre and Ms Newberry have been a part of the Cream team, both working in front of house and administrative roles.
In July last year, the (then) owners approached the pair and offered them the opportunity to buy the restaurant.
Having never owned their own business before, Ms Newberry says she and Ms Veldre leapt at the opportunity to take the reins at Cream.
“We love this place and we were both at that age where we wanted something of our own; we’ve been in hospitality 20 or so years and this was our chance,” she says.
However, the pair told Gusto the process associated with their purchase of Cream was their biggest challenge to date.
“We started in July and it was finalised in November, “Ms Veldre says.
“We entertained bank managers and accountants to try and get finance and nobody would lend, but we persevered and got there in the end.”
Transferring the lease agreement and liquor licence for the restaurant was time-consuming, with paperwork and legalities resulting in the slow changeover.
“Liquor licensing was by far the hardest to deal with ... the approvals process took months and we were even on a first-name basis with the girl managing our case at liquor licensing, we just had to push, push, push,” Ms Veldre says.
Now, nine months into managing Cream, Ms Newberry says finding good staff continues to be an issue.
“Hospitality is a casual industry and you have a lot of students who work in this industry and their job is not their prime objective in life, so the care factor isn’t always there,” she says.
To solve this problem, Ms Veldre and Ms Newberry decided to hire predominantly close friends and family members, a strategy they say has worked for them.
“We spent five hundred dollars on Seek ads and the candidates we got were very limited,” Ms Veldre says.
“Employing close friends and family has been a much more effective way of recruiting staff.”
Instead of changing Cream’s image to keep pace with the evolving number of fine dining and degustation restaurants, Ms Veldre and Ms Newberry say they are focused on maintaining classic Australian dishes that are well-priced and generous in size.
“We both love everything about this restaurant,” Ms Veldre says.
“We aren’t serving with any pomp or tradition, it’s more like having guests into your home for a dinner party; it’s friendly, it’s relaxed and it’s comfortable.”
Ms Veldre also plans to expand the dessert menu.
“Our dessert menu is a little limited at the moment, but with a name like Cream, we want to have a large choice of decadent, old-fashioned desserts,” she says.
Being hidden behind the shops of Royal Street, it has been difficult for the restaurant to attract walk-in trade. Working on a new website to better market Cream has therefore become a top priority for the pair.
Despite these difficulties, Ms Veldre says Cream is fully booked most nights for dinner from Tuesday to Sunday.
“This is a real word-of-mouth restaurant and the locals know about us and tell their friends,” she says.
“We have considered opening for lunch and pushing the restaurant a lot more than we are doing now, but for us it’s not about the money, it’s about maintaining a good work/family life balance and managing our staff the best we can.”