17/03/2011 - 00:00

Raktacino... worth the trek to Salter Point

17/03/2011 - 00:00


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Raktacino is anything but a quaint little cafe in the suburbs. Carolyn Herbert reports

Raktacino...  worth the trek to Salter Point

ANYONE for a taste of Raktacino?

Star Trek fans will know it’s what the Klingons call a coffee, but for owners Shane Botwright and Carol Robinson it’s the name of their gourmet cafe, pizzeria and catering business.

Like the origin of its obscure name, Raktacino is also a bit hidden away – surrounded by houses in the leafy riverside suburb of Salter Point.

But Mr Botwright and Ms Robinson say Raktacino is anything but a quaint little cafe in the ’burbs.

It is a hive of activity where the locals meet for breakfast, an afternoon coffee or to simply enjoy one of its award-winning wood-fired pizzas or Mediterranean creations.

“I would liken this area to a country town. It’s a country town and Raktacino is the community hall. Everybody meets here,” Mr Botwright says.

Partners in business and life, Mr Botwright and Ms Robinson bought Raktacino in December last year.

“We always ate here. I liked the previous owners and the concept of what they were doing; it’s local, successful and busy,” Ms Robinson told Gusto.

But Mr Botwright says buying an already established business had its challenges.

“It’s always hard to lift a successful business even more. We bought this because it’s good, but we both knew we could take it to another level. We have improved on it and people have said that,” he says.

Mr Botwright comes from a small business background and ran a restaurant in his mid 20s.

Also from a business background, Ms Robinson used to decorate shopfront windows, later making the transition from visual art to ‘edible art’.

“I have always made dinners like my mother made. She was a patisserie chef and always made meals from scratch. I just love food, cooking home-made meals and entertaining,” Ms Robinson says.

In the day-to-day running of Raktacino, the duo has established very different roles.

“I look after the administration side of the business and customer service and Carol cooks and looks after the food. That works well for us,” Mr Botwright says.

“Carol and I both come from the same background and are very much ‘hands on’. We will never get a manager to manage our business because we will always do that ourselves.”

Since buying Raktacino, Ms Robinson believes they have enhanced the gourmet experience for their customers.

“We have slowly added lots of little changes. We make meals using local produce and do everything just before we serve it; nothing is pre-cooked or reheated,” she says.

A new edition to Raktacino is head chef Jules Colson, who brings almost 35 years of experience.

Ms Colson has worked as a chef on the Leeuwin and as head chef at Lo Zucchero in Dalkeith.

“I love fresh food and local produce and in my view everything needs to be made from scratch. We eat with our eyes, it’s just as important for food to look amazing as well as smell and taste fantastic,” she says.

Ms Robinson says Ms Colson’s attitude to food mirrors her own ideas and expectations.

“As soon as I met Jules I knew we had the same passions and ideas. We wanted to offer something a bit more creative than your ordinary local cafe, for instance put a unique spin on favourites such as spaghetti bolognaise,” she says.

Relying primarily on word-of-mouth marketing, Ms Robinson says her staff go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to customer service.

“There was a time when a few of our regulars couldn’t get a table, so we have traipsed the food up the road to their place and served it for them,” she says.

Open seven days a week, Mr Botwright says long hours and staff rostering are the most challenging part of running Raktacino.

“We work really long hours. We start at 6.30am everyday and work til late and the only time we shut at is at 4pm on Mondays,” he says.

Catering is another aspect of the business the duo hopes to expand and advertise.

“We recently did a corporate event for 480 people. We have done parties, corporate events and are starting to do weddings,” Ms Robinson says.

Franchising Raktacino is also on the cards, according to Mr Botwright.

Raktacino is a very marketable name, especially with the unusual Star Trek reference. It prides itself on good quality food and ingredients,” he says.

However, Mr Botwright says continuing to offer restaurant quality food at cafe prices and creating an enjoyable dining experience for customers is most important.

“We want to maintain a friendly cafe atmosphere without the stuffiness, which is still affordable for our customers. What’s Raktacino all about? It’s relaxed gourmet tucker; you can have a good laugh with the locals, a drink, and enjoy good company,” he says.



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