Number of bottles saved so far: 7500
Who we chatted with: Charles Cameron
Time in the coffee/hospitality industry: 10 years
Business Name: Matinee Coffee
Marrickville – 23-29 Addison Rd Marickville NSW; (02) 9519 7591
Who am I?
Hi, I’m Charles Cameron, born and bred in Sydney Australia. I run Matinee Coffee in Marrickville.
What made you decide to go into business as a cafe owner?
It hasn’t been any one thing in particular, there’s been a multitude of reasons why. I’ve really loved working in the industry and felt like I had things to say, which led and inspired me to open my own business. Running a cafe is pretty hands on. It’s been a great way to contribute to the community. There is a sense of immediacy. You can positively affect people’s lives in our line of work, and that’s a big motivation that keeps me going.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Our whole concept stems from the word ‘Matinee’ and the connotations surrounding a daytime show. It’s the sense of occasion. Like going to matinee movie when you’re a kid… It was always something fun. It really correlated nicely with a lot of my thoughts about cafe culture – particularly in Australia, where it is mainly a daytime event.
The Australian “Cafe” is like what the “Bistro” is for the French. It’s something you know… an intersection of culture and culinary experience. A vehicle for different types of cuisine and experiences to be delivered to people. The word “Matinee” is what it conjures up to me, there’s definitely a sense of the theatricality that comes through in the space and mixed in with illusions to that of old milk bars and diners. We have a very egalitarian space where it doesn’t have a sense of exclusivity the way that sometimes a restaurant does, but it still feels special. It’s a nice place for people to take part in as part of their day.
What was your mission at the outset?
My mission for Matinee came about from my experience as a business owner. The whole thing of business is that hindsight is 20/20. In my previous business, we had a space which was two levels. From that I learnt a new skill set about what I wanted to communicate in the space and how I wanted people to interact with the space.
It all started when I was going into this area of Marrickville, where I lived, looking for a space. I knew the area quite well and knew that it had to be space that really catered to a cosmopolitan crowd. Something that works for young families to retired people. The space needed to be really comfortable, something enjoyable, for a cross-section of people so they can interact in the space and feel like valued regulars.
That was a big part of my motivation. Going into an area and just hoping that you’re going to do something which is going to become a “destination” is great, and I think you definitely should have that ‘wishful thinking’, however you have got to look after the people in your own backyard, the ones who live around the corner from you. Because when you get torrential rain or it’s a 40 degree day, they are the customers who will still come in, whereas sometimes destination cafe customers might not.
What is your vision long term?
It’s multifaceted. We roast all our own coffee in a shared roasting facility and we’re exploring the avenues for growth for this part of the business. We also make all of our own pastries in house. Being part of a cosmopolitan area of Sydney’s inner west, we’ve got a lot of products which cater to different dietary requirements. Trying to get some of those products elsewhere in the marketplace is another goal that we have. We’re always looking at options with the whole concept in mind.
Exploring ways at making better use of hours outside of the core hours of cafe service is also part of our vision. The next phase is trialling a couple of evenings of trades and using the space to host events. We’ve hosted the reception of one wedding and we’re looking to do things like that in the future. Restaurant pop ups in the evening are also on the cards. We’ve pencilled in a couple of those for later this year. It’s a combination of all of that which formulates Matinee’s goals for 2019.
To what do you attribute your success to?
I attribute our success to having the patience to really get to know our customers. To learn from mistakes and not take it as a personal criticism. When I started out, I was very personally attached to any concepts that I would come up with, and a sense of ego would get in the way of changing or refining things for the business. Nowadays, I’m a lot more willing to be adaptable and change things based on what’s working in the business and what the neighbourhood is responding to.
Having the fortitude to stick it out – sometimes with particular parts of the business with long-term goals that may not rate as immediate success – is also important. As an example, when we employed a pastry chef full time to make all of our pastries – it’s not something that’s paid for itself from day one, but it’s something that will in the long term. It helps us differentiate our business from the rest of the pack. We learn as much as we can from our journey and believe that in time, it will work and flourish.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
As a business owner, you’re really the backbone of the business. You have to look after yourself and your mental health. Your business success will be forever handicapped if you’re not in the right headspace to make decisions that you are constantly required to make.
Six Simple Machines believes in six simple philosophies of good business – To be Sustainable, Ethical, Efficient, Profitable, Innovative and Passionate.
What are your thoughts on these philosophies? Are these in line with how you run your business?
Sustainability is very important to all industries, including ours. There are many decisions as cafe owners that can be beneficial for the planet. For example, we’ve switched to reusable or compostable straws. We have a waste management plan where food scraps and other compostable waste is turned into forms of energy.
There are a lot more avenues for business owners to look into adopting sustainability practices than there were five years ago. We’re also looking to make some of our own products that can have very beneficial impacts on the environment. We’re always looking to our suppliers to try and do away with any forms of packaging that are harmful. It’s a lot easier now than in days gone by. It’s something that our regular customers are interested in and it is great marketing for your business.
If you can be living and communicating that message, you are not just running a business that is successful but one that is sustainable as well.
How did you come across The Juggler?
I’ve known and used The Juggler for many years. I used to work with a coffee roastery, so I got to play with the prototypes of the machine. Then when I had my own business “Brewtown Newtown”, we had a Juggler installed and when it came time to start another business that was mine, it was really something I didn’t think or deliberate on. It’s been wonderful to see The Juggler in action in a whole bunch of other cafes. The mechanics and the support regarding the equipment, it just seems to be getting better and better.
For me, it’s like having driven a hybrid car for the past 10 years. It’s reached a point where using The Juggler is something that I know is better than the alternatives. I haven’t had to deal with the alternatives for a long time, but there’s a reason why I’ve chosen to stick with it across multiple venues.
So far, cafes and restaurants using The Juggler have prevented the use of over 18,000,000 single-use 2Lt plastic milk bottles. How do you feel about that?
That number is staggering. It’s wonderful, but bitter sweet. To know that many milk bottles have not had to go into production, makes me think that it’s a lot of waste in a relatively small amount of time…
The guys at Six Simple Machines have done an excellent job with The Juggler to enable us to contribute to the war on waste in a way that we can quantify. Our responsibility for sustainability can be taken more up the food chain.