Garth and Louise Dillon aren’t your average café owners. They had never touched an espresso machine before they bought Deckchair Café in Tauranga five years ago. Yet they have built up the café to become one of the most popular coffee spots in the area, and love running the business, where customers have become like family.
ANZ customer story
“If we are away for a couple of days, some people get a bit anxious, and ask ‘you haven’t sold it have you?’ This is the furthest thing from our minds. First and foremost we are ‘people’ people and that’s why we love running the café,” says Garth.
While café management may be a new experience for the couple, together they bring a wealth of business experience to the venture.
Garth was an accountant in a former life, and also a former general manager of a major plastics manufacturing company in Auckland, while Louise spent years in the banking sector. They have owned several businesses, including a car rental business in Queenstown.
Garth is passionate about change management, and the efficiencies to be gained in a business from looking at things in a different way. He has acted as a consultant to hospitality businesses in Queenstown, critiquing their businesses and making the necessary changes to add value.
So it’s no surprise that shortly after buying the business, the couple had a good look at the café, particularly the recipes and food products.
“You’ve got to continuously look at your costs, to ensure margins aren’t being eroded. Many business owners do a superb job working ‘in the business’ but not enough time ‘on the business,’” says Garth.
The couple transformed the café business. Bottlenecks were occurring at the serving area so they changed the physical layout of the kitchen and the café to make it more efficient and easier to serve customers.
As the café grew in popularity and became busier, the couple were looking for solutions to make everything run smoothly at busy times.
After a discussion with their bank, ANZ, they upgraded their EFTPOS terminal so that it could accept contactless payments. This means that customers can simply tap or wave their card on the contactless terminal rather than swiping or inserting their card.
“Because we can get so busy, every second we can save makes a big difference,” says Garth. “We installed a second EFTPOS terminal and decided on a wireless one that also allows us the flexibility to take it to the customer to save them from coming in to queue.”
Louise adds, “We have elderly customers who can struggle with swiping their card, so tapping their card is great for them. And it means we’re ready for the time when people start using their phones to pay.”
The couple’s ANZ Business Specialist, Gill Smith, says the contactless payment option is just one of the ways that ANZ is helping the café to succeed. And Gill should know: she’s a regular at the Deckchair Café on the weekends.
A key attraction of the busy café, says Garth, is its freshly baked cabinet food.
They employ two experienced bakers, one of whom is full-time, which ensures that there is a continuous production of freshly baked treats, seven days a week.
“The food in the cabinet is such a strength – it’s a visual thing, and customers buy what they see. We now have many gluten-free options too. Having baker’s preparing the cabinet food means the chefs can concentrate on the grill meals, without having to worry about cooking up a batch of muffins as well,” says Garth.
The summer period is their busiest time and they always look at their performance and use lessons they’ve learnt to make the following summer even better, says Garth.
This can be anything from equipment upgrades, further staff training, or a refresh in café procedure, he says.
“We would like to think we look after our staff well. It seems to be working, as they are a loyal crew, some with many years service. We also have staff who have returned to work at the café after a period away overseas,” he says.
Garth and Louise aren’t interested in expansion or buying another business at this point in time, rather concentrating on continuous improvement of their café.
“We just love it. It’s one of the best business moves we have ever made,” says Louise.
And needless to say, they have learnt to make a damn good latte.
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