CAFE AND CATERING, BRIGHTON.
Meet Ben(left) Luke(centre) Tommy(right)and Simon(absent)
This business has grown from strength to strength in just a few short years... The Little Ox cafe was born of Tommy Collins Catering, which came from founders Tommy and Ben fulfilling a job for a contact who's caterers had pulled out at the last minute... the rest is history.
RH - SO YOU 'STUMBLED UPON' YOUR FIRST CATERING JOB - THEN WHAT?
TOMMY - It was lucky actually, because that job lead to another from someone who attended the first do, then at the second event someone else approached us about another. It was a good group to fall in with, and at each event they demanded a little more from us, so it was a great way to start out!
RH - HOW DID THE BUSINESS GROW FROM CATERING TO THE CAFE?
BEN - At first we were operating out of a shared premises, we shared with a butcher, he had a kitchen set up but rarely used it. We soon outgrew that kitchen and were looking at other places. One that fell through was on Little Oxford Street, so the cafe was coined The Little Ox.. and it kind of stuck! This site here on New Street came up for lease. I really wanted it - I had had my eye on it for years, before the business even, we had to plead our case but we won! We were offered the lease and were stoked. The lease only allowed seating for six so we had to apply for a permit extension for a full blown cafe. That was nerve wreaking.
RH - WHAT DID YOU WANT FOR THE CAFE?
TOMMY - We are all about hospitality, and food, having grown from a catering company... so we visualised a really laid back space for a casual dining experience filled with lots of cook books... kind of a foodies haven. We also planned to tie the cafe menu in with catering jobs... and we do to some extent but the cafe has taken on a life of its own (RH - IT IS TRUE - LOCALS QUEING OUT THE DOOR THROUGHOUT THE INTERVIEW!!)
RH - WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE SO FAR?
(A LOT OF HEAD SCRATCHING...)
BEN - It has flowed really well actually! Even the staff - 2 of them Simon (chef) and Luke (cafe manager) impressed us so much they are now business parters. We have great staff retention.
TOMMY - If anything it has been the willpower to hold back the reigns from time to time - opportunities come along all the time, but you have to choose when to move and when to hold back... so we don't crash and burn I guess.
RH - WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE THINKING OF OPENING A CAFE?
BEN - Don't do it for the money! Do your research. Don't think of it as just a business. It has to be your passion.
The Little Ox
452 New Street, Brighton
Words and images (c) www.rhphoto.com.au