15/07/2010 - 00:00

Hamper hub breaks the mould

15/07/2010 - 00:00


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Top-quality food and locally sourced coffee are just part of the story at Hub on Hutton ... hampers are another. Aimée Sargent reports.

Hamper hub breaks the mould

There’s a new destination for the gourmet foodies of Perth, yet it’s located in a rather unlikely location – the predominantly industrial Osborne Park.

Owner-operators Brad and Sandra Foote say this is the key point of difference for their business, which combines gift hampers with a cafe and is targeted at the area’s corporate clientele.

Mrs Foote had industry know-how after running an IGA store in City Beach with her sister, but was burned out after years of seven-day trading.

One of the lessons she learned at IGA was the demand for gourmet products.

“At IGA I was in charge of the grocery buying and because it was an upmarket area, the customers wanted gourmet food.”

The Footes also noticed the growing popularity of online shopping and grabbed the opportunity to sell gourmet products directly to the public.

They set up the Australian Food Merchants website in 2005 and “sort of fell into making hampers” before realising the spin-off product had overtaken the business. Plus it ended up being a much more profitable product.

Rebranding the hamper business as Relish Gourmet, the couple quickly grew out of their home set-up and in 2007 they opened the Osborne Park shop front.

“A lot of operators work from home and aren’t seen as professional; our clients can come into the store and design their own hamper,” Mrs Foote says.

“We didn’t spend a lot on advertising, instead we walked around the area letting businesses know we were here.”

After 18 months Relish was turning a profit, but there was a cash flow problem – 80 per cent of the orders were at Christmas and Mrs Foote says this was not good for the sustainability of the business.

Additionally, the Footes noticed that the majority of food outlets in the area did not cater to corporates.

“We began encouraging our clients to order hampers at other times of the year, and also realised that a lot of people were driving to Innaloo to buy their lunch,” Mrs Foote told Gusto.

The two needs were addressed with one solution – a cafe adjacent to the hamper store.

“It was hard getting people through the door for hampers, so the idea we had was that the cafe would drive people towards it,” Mr Foote explains.

“Now we’re even getting guys in overalls buying chutney.”

The new cafe, Hub on Hutton, has been profitable since it opened earlier this year. The Footes decided not to make any of the food on site, partly to keep the workload under control, but mainly due to council restrictions.

“We are very different from a traditional lunch bar,” Mrs Foote says. “Our food is from high-quality local caterers and we have experienced baristas on site making locally sourced coffee.

“The food is quite reasonably priced and on some days we sell more food than coffee, so there’s obviously a need for it.”

Mrs Foote says that although the cafe is linked to the hamper store, it was branded differently as part of the couple’s long-term plan to open other ‘Hub on …’ cafes in locations such as Malaga, Wangara or Canning Vale.

“It was always in the back of my mind that if we wanted to sell anything [in the future], it would be Relish – we would keep the cafe because there’s a real lack of them in commercial areas,” she says.

To cope with the cafe’s rapid growth and the ever-increasing hamper orders, which have grown by 40 per cent each year, the Footes looked outside the business, with a marketing consultant and a bookkeeper engaged to carry on the momentum of the two businesses.

With the marketing consultant being a close friend, and with her husband being her business partner, Mrs Foote has had to learn to separate business from her personal life.

“It’s handy having a friend like that, but business is business – I’m generous by nature and would never charge my friends when they came in, but now realise that I have to cover our costs,” she says.

And with more growth on the cards, including a potential cooking school, the Footes have stuck to a pragmatic approach.

“We look at what’s working on a daily basis, and if something is not right, we change it.”



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