We were delighted to feature in the latest Allpress (our amazing coffee supplier) edition of ‘Keeping Good Company’ – see words on their blog here, or continue to read below.
Why did you want to open your business?
Before Flotsam & Jetsam was born, I loved the idea of opening a business in a vibrant industry. The café world is super social and I firmly believe a beautifully brewed morning coffee is a key ingredient to a fantastic day.
It’s a rewarding and positive industry that I wanted to learn more about and be involved in! Although I’d never (really) worked in hospitality before, I liked the culture behind it and wanted it to be part of my everyday life…not just for weekends. I’m a determined and creative person, who relishes a challenge and with a background in Brand and Marketing I thrive on the creative process – coming up with new ideas and implementing them.
Running Flotsam & Jetsam means taking a few risks and giving things a try. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. As a team we learn something new every day, it’s all part of the fun and makes every day different.
You are from New Zealand, did you see an opportunity to do something that wasn’t being done in the UK?
There are a number of leading Kiwi-operated cafes in London, and they have really pioneered the rise of independent, specialty coffee shops. Visiting these cafes and speaking to other New Zealanders who had succeeded was inspiring.
With London being so dispersed with a big population, there was scope for a unique café offering, like what you find in New Zealand, but south of the Thames. East London is packed with awesome speciality coffee shops but I wanted to create a destination café that locals could be proud of, and visitors would travel to try.
The reason I picked South West was due to the strong antipodean community, who I know crave a non-chain coffee. That ‘just like home’ experience is what our Allpress coffee and our fantastic baristas allow us to create. We’re a healthy bunch who believe brunch can be enjoyed at any hour of the day. Our menu is a tasty one – dream of mounds of smashed avo on sourdough sprinkled with fresh feta and pickled chillies. Food is about trying new things and we’ve put imaginative twists on the good old classics – adding burnt butter and Allpress espresso to our hollandaise is one that keeps our customers coming back for more…
What research did you do before you opened?
My partner Brad and I did caffeine crawls around London and weekend trips to mainland Europe, seeing what was on offer and what our points of difference would be. We also did a trip home, visiting leading Auckland cafes and chatting to owners. Coming in ‘green’ to the industry I wanted to know everything; what they saw as the positives and challenges of running a café.
When deciding on location I spent days just cruising around on my bike. I stumbled on Wandsworth Common, soon realising it was a highly residential, family-friendly, dog-loving community that needed a fresh new place to socialise and enjoy. When I saw the ‘for rent’ sign on our shop door, I immediately had a gut feel it was the place for Flotsam & Jetsam. I visited daily, sometimes multiple times a day, looking at the footfall and the demographics of the area. Speaking to locals about our café concept gained lots of encouragement and interest. This spurred me to get the ball rolling and open the doors!
When designing the menu, I spoke to people about what makes a good brunch great – and fresh, locally sourced ingredients jam-packed full of flavour make it memorable. Slicing open a perfectly poached egg and seeing the yoke, a vibrant burnt orange colour, gets a wow from customers. Knowing where our produce is created gives us pride and confidence in what we serve. Supporting local small businesses, just like us, is important too.
The research never stops. Locals want small businesses to succeed, and they want to feel proud that their neighbourhood has a unique local hang out. What I loved most from day one was that people were willing to help with their honest feedback.
Tell us about your site? You have a strong design interior – how important was this to you and why? I think you spent more money than average on your interior which is brave. Did you get the return on the investment?
Flotsam & Jetsam has a beautiful old shop frontage, gets all-day sun and is nestled just off the main road and opposite the leafy Wandsworth Common. It’s a residential area, lots of schools, families and has a caring, community feel.
What’s on the inside is just as important so a lot of thought went into our interior. A full refit of the existing shop was required with the aim of creating a warm, light and relaxed feel – like being at a beach house. A hidden gem. After all Flotsam & Jetsam is a nautical term.
The fit out wasn’t cheap, but I don’t believe in cutting corners or compromising on quality. We sourced our furnishings from a range of sources – far and wide. For example, our bespoke hanging planters were imported all the way from New Zealand, and our green mermaid tiles were handmade by a small business partnership of a husband and wife who live in Henley-on-Thames.
By spending a little more, we’ve managed to create a place people enjoy coming back to, a place to call their own, and we’re very fortunate to have so many supportive and loyal regulars.
Some cafes don’t survive their first year – what has been the key to a sustainable business?
Creating a warm, upbeat and fun working environment. The amazing team we’ve created is what I’m most proud of. There is a real family feel within the team, which we like to think extends out to our customers.
Getting to know our regulars. Coffee orders are the epitome of personal taste, so getting to know our regulars names, how they like their coffee, their favourite foods and even their dog’s name – it’s all key! It’s the best feeling visiting a place where the owners and team know you and this is what we strive for at Flotsam & Jetsam.
Keeping our offering small but of a consistent high quality. We love to mix our food and sweet treat offerings up, keeping things seasonal and exciting.
Refining our operational processes – over the 16 months we’ve been open we’re constantly trying to improve the way we do things. With any new business, there is always a teething period and from time to time things will go wrong – it’s inevitable. It’s how our team deals with the issues and learns from them is what really matters.
We like feedback, and can never get enough. It’s the breakfast of champions and we take our customers feedback very seriously. We celebrate when it’s positive and learn from the constructive – it’s what helps us make Flotsam & Jetsam a great place to eat, drink and socialise.