06/11/2007 - 22:00

Golden days for beach cafes

06/11/2007 - 22:00


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There’s something about the nature of the ocean that helps give beachside cafes a unique laid-back ambience.

Golden days for beach cafes

There’s something about the nature of the ocean that helps give beachside cafes a unique laid-back ambience.

Sitting under a bright blue sky beside a beautiful, glistening ocean is a great way to forget the pressures and concerns of the workaday world; time becomes irrelevant.

Why rush when you’re enjoying million dollar views for the price of breakfast, lunch or dinner?

It’s this kind of casual ambience that flows from Trigg’s Bennion Street Café; but don’t for a moment think it’s so laid back that it is filled with surfers eating BLTs.

Nor is it a full-blown restaurant serving only top-notch food.

Instead, owners Robert Schlegl and Kate Noone have got the mood just right.

A breakfast visit to Bennion last week discovered a blend of age and social groups in a chic setting.

The noises of mums and their babies was somewhat drowned out by a group of six blokes catching up over breakfast. There were a few ladies meeting over eggs, some couples enjoying cooked breakfast in the alfresco area, and even a guy with a stream of tattoos up his arm popping in for a takeaway coffee.

They’re all there seemingly for the same reason – good food and good service with a million dollar view thrown in.

Developing the business has taken the better part of three years, but it seems to have paid off.

The cafe was just awarded a gold plate for best unlicensed cafe dining.

While creating a successful business in the city, Mr Schlegl and Ms Noone have at the same time developed three other cafes, two of them in the state’s South West.

It’s an incredible workload and one that is seemingly going to get bigger, with Mr Schlegl telling Gusto he is in the midst of seeking outside investment to drive the business further up and down the coast of WA.

Mr Schlegl and Ms Noone have established Beach Cafes Australia as the umbrella business for its four cafes – Bennion, Scarborough Beach Café, Margaret River’s Gnarabup Beach Café, and Gracetown’s Sea Bar Beach Café, which was also nominated for a gold plate award.

While the different locations have separate menus and styles, all four businesses have one essential ingredient – an ocean location.

And it is along the coast the pair will continue to grow Beach Cafes Australia, albeit with the help of outside investment.

Mr Schlegl says they are consolidating their position at the moment but are keen to continue to build the business in the future.

“To help the business grow we are looking for some outside investment and we are talking to a marketing company to work on the overall brand of the business,” he says.

“All the cafes are different and we are not looking to do a franchise where it is the same thing everywhere, but we do want the same experience, a casual, laid-back place but with really good food and good staff.”

The pair originally started in Gnarabup seven years ago, getting in to the café there after being told the old building in which it was housed would eventually be redeveloped.

After a year of operating the Gnarabup business from Perth, they relocated to the town, but eventually got fed up waiting for the redevelopment and headed to Perth where they purchased the Scarborough kiosk.

Quite soon after, Mr Schlegl and Ms Noone bought Bennion Street.

Then, as luck would have it, the Gnarbup site was redeveloped and the pair had won the tender to operate the new cafe.

They couldn’t say no, so instead clocked up a fair amount of kilometres driving between Margaret River and Perth managing all three businesses.

Managing four businesses is predominately about the people, Mr Schlegl says, and the trick to operating a successful business is holding on to good staff.

To better do that, Mr Schlegl and Ms Noone are coming up with some innovative strategies designed to retain their top people, including bonuses for good performance as well as length of employment. There is also the lure of a few months work in Margaret River over summer.

The pair are also investors in Margaret River boutique brewer Ocean Beach Brewing Company, which currently produces one beer, Beach Blonde.


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