So & So Cafe on What Sets Australia’s Coffee Scene Apart

Coffee shops all over the world are now taking care of business with Square Point of Sale. Over the next few months, we’ll be featuring conversations between Jordan Michelman, cofounder and senior editor of coffee news site, and the owners of some of the planet’s most boundary-pushing cafes. Here’s his interview with Warren Wu of So & So Cafe in Melbourne, Australia.

How did you decide to start this business?

We wanted to develop a business that provided a resource for the local area. My business partner Rodrigo and I were living in the neighborhood at the time and were surprised at the lack of comfortable, interesting spaces. We think it’s fundamentally important for local businesses to be interesting and add value to the area.

What’s your first six months been like?

A seesaw of challenges and rewards. The first week of the fit-out, the ceiling of the property collapsed. It would have been a pretty disheartening event, but it happened that one of Rodrigo’s friends owned a demolitions company and removed it with relative ease. The landlord eventually paid for the replacement, and we were able to make changes to the layout that actually improved the whole space. So we’ve overcome challenges and also seen the silver lining in them.

How is the coffee scene in Melbourne different than in the rest of the world?

Melbourne has a very distinct coffee scene for three reasons:

What we drink

Melbourne’s heritage lies in espresso coffee as a result of the influx of Italian immigrants between World War I and World War II. This is markedly different from most of North America’s relationship with coffee, which is primarily realized through the drip and filter. This is further distinguished from the European experience of espresso, because Melbourne, unencumbered by tradition, has innovated the way espresso is extracted and presented.

The way we drink it

It’s a twist of our cultural past that we have mashed our full English breakfast heritage (which typically means eggs, sausage, beans, mushrooms, and sometimes black pudding) with our adopted European cafe/coffee-drinking culture. The result is a continually evolving coffee scene that is very unique. In any other city in the world, you’d be hard-pressed to find a cafe where you can drink an espresso coffee with a bacon-and-eggs breakfast or substantial lunch. In most other cities, it’s typically just a pastry. Of course this has gone further in Melbourne to include dishes like “tuna sashimi, broad beans, soft-boiled egg, amaranth, and brik crisp” (Proud Mary) or “corned beef brisket, potato hash with shredded cabbage and leek, Sriracha hollandaise” (Auction Rooms).

The audience

The Melbourne coffee-drinking public is spoiled for choice when it comes to good coffee — and they know it. We are awash with boutique roasters purchasing amazing parcels of “cup of excellence” grade beans. The upside is that we are punching above our weight when it comes to the volume of customers demanding a high standard.

Our most popular drink is the great antipodean delicacy, the flat white.

How does Square Point of Sale help you run your business?

We’re continually finding new ways to improve our operations through Square. We can streamline our point of sale and check Square’s analytics for insights. Changing and updating items is easy, which allows us to be quite dynamic with our food and beverage offerings, all while tracking the changes through the analytics.

The most helpful tools for small business are the ones that deliver simplicity and efficiency. With Square, we can reduce the time and cost of training, and have seen fewer errors.

What’s the most surprising thing that happened in your first year?

I actually have some spare time! I have many friends who are entrepreneurial types and I am constantly amazed at the workaholic nature of the lifestyle they lead. I was expecting a much larger workload. But a combination of a good business partner and a clear and simple product has meant we’re not killing ourselves.

What do you strive for most as a business?

One of the key attitudes we have is that we’re hosting a guest, not simply serving a customer. This pushes the emphasis to beyond simply a monetary transaction and makes it more about relationship building.

What’s the most rewarding part of owning your own business?

It’s pretty cliche, but when you put a lot of effort into something like this, the simple pleasure of watching it grow is the most rewarding part. And I’m a statistics tragic, so seeing such a high R-squared value on a linear regression of our revenue data gives me a little thrill.

Learn more about how Square Point of Sale can help you run your business in any corner of the globe.

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