Mobile businesses are on the rise — from pop-up coffee bars to mobile beauticians — having your favourite businesses come to you is becoming the norm. There’s no industry where this holds truer than the events industry. Two entrepreneurs who have jumped right in are Chris and Mike, the owners of Big Shot Café & Bar, a mobile cafe and bar business.
We sat down for a chat with Mike to hear all about their journey launching a business on four wheels.
Mike — tell us about how the business started?
We came up with the concept in 2017, and worked to make it a reality in 2018. My business partner Chris and I were both working corporate gigs at the time, I’m an engineer and Chris works in interior design, but we were both craving a more customer facing role. We’ve both worked in hospitality in the past and missed that interaction with our customers… and so the idea for Big Shot was born!
Bernie is a cafe and bar on wheels, making him much more than your standard coffee cart. We wanted to be able to lay on cocktails for weddings, drinks receptions for corporate functions - and of course great coffee anytime we fancied.
Tell us some more about Bernie
Bernie is our beautiful van. He’s a classic 1969 Citroën HY that we tracked down rusting away in a field in France. If you head to markets or festivals in Europe these amazing old Citroëns are fairly common, but they’re very rare on Aussie soil. As soon as we saw him, we knew he was the one for us.
It took seven months for to the body and engine to get refurbished and arrive on a boat from Europe, and in early 2018 we got to work on the interior conversion. Bernie now boasts a stunning café and bar fit out, complete with a La San Marco coffee machine, Mazzer Grinder, fridge, display drawer, sinks, plumbing, cabinetry, timber benches and a fold out bar.
We believe that people deserve something special for their events these days, and Bernie has been designed and dressed to add his unique vintage flair to your occasion.
What are the trends you’re seeing in the mobile food business?
We’re definitely seeing more and more interest in mobile businesses for events. People want to be able to curate their events, and being able to pick and choose their favourite vendors is much more fun than more traditional options like booking a single caterer who’ll look after everything.
The wedding business in particular is going through a bit of a transformation. People used to book a function room and be done with it, now we’re seeing more and more amazing DIY weddings where we get asked to put on a cocktail bar, coffee service, or champagne reception on location. It’s always great fun and such a privilege to be involved in the grandiose of a curated, on-location wedding – and we just love it!
What have been the challenges of getting the business up and running?
Getting our name out there has been the biggest challenge. Neither of us have a marketing background, so it’s something we’re learning as we go. Social media has been a big part of that, it’s a great way to sell yourself, tell your story and build some awareness.
We’ve also been working to get ourselves a spot at bigger events — it’s a great way to get in front of new audiences and make a name for ourselves. The biggest we’ve done to date was the Melbourne Formula 1 Grand Prix — it was an amazing experience!
How has Square helped the business grow?
We needed a point-of-sale system that was simple and easy to use. We wanted something that would grow with the business and be easy to train our team on if we had temp staff coming in for bigger events.
Square has been a great solution. The best thing about it is the efficiency and speed of each transaction — if we’re getting slammed on a busy day it gives us more time to focus on customer service, or on getting orders out. Our customers often think it’s some kind of magic how quickly they can pay and be on their way.
We’re seeing more and more people paying by card over cash, but it can differ from event to event. Some days we’ll do as much as 90% of our transactions on card, some days it will be more like 50:50. Either way, without an eftpos machine we’d be missing out on a huge number of sales.
As coffee pros — where’s your favourite coffee spot in Melbourne?
We use Rosso Roasting Co Coffee at Big Shot. They’re Melbourne based and we love their ethos of doing things properly — they hand roast every single batch of their specialty graded coffee and it really shows in the flavour profile of the final product.
Rosso have just opened up their first café in Melbourne’s CBD. Check out Rosso Espresso Bar at 472 Flinders Lane for an incredibly made cuppa.
If we are out an about on the Southside of town, we love making a pit stop at St Ali - always a great cup of coffee served inside a funky warehouse, and fun to check out what’s on their specials board for some interesting coffee blends.
What’s next for Big Shot Café & Bar?
Right now we’re enjoying letting the business grow organically, with the intention to work at a variety of different types of functions and events. Amongst a number of private bookings and markets scheduled for this year, we will also be serving at some bigger public events like the Royal Melbourne Show. Part of the fun of running a mobile business is that every time we open our hatch, it is a new environment.
Whilst we enjoy taking each day as it comes, we are always on the lookout for new and interesting opportunities, and having a business on wheels means we can get there!