Coffee On Campus Interview

Sink or swim: How Nick Svinos stays successful in hospitality after 30 years.

When it comes to staying above the water in the hospitality industry, the trick is according to owner of Coffee On Campus, Nick Svinos “to do your research and know your environment”.

Nicks ability to understand the ever changing world of the hospitality industry comes down to his 30 years – plus, of experience in the game. Or as he likes to say “30 years without sleep”. Currently Nick also operates a successful cafe in Brisbane, Café Santina, in Milton.

Coffee On Campus is located in the heart of the UNSW main walkway, a key location which attracts UNI students, UNI staff and lecturers and general foot traffic, from community locals to business men and women on their commute to work.

The main design and aesthetic of the cafe is centered around it’s mechanical engineering building which houses it. , Guru Projects took care of construction and fit out, working very closely with Nick and his team, changing and altering when necessary to ensure maximum functionality. The Industrial look of the cafe brings warmth and style to the large open space. Creating an ambient mood ,while simplicity and vertical lines plays a major role in the fit out.

After a one on one chat with Nick, he left us with four really vital teaching points: Environment, Design and aesthetic, Business Culture, Market research. These four elements can play a major role in the success of your business. Nick explains why.

Q: Environment can make or break you in this industry, how do you make sure you have the right location?

Nick definitely has had his fair share of cafe locations, and not all of them run so smoothly. Sometimes its the external factors which we cannot control that make or break us “I had a café in bankstown, it was absolutely the hardest business I had ever run, purely because the demographic was so poor. The fact was, no one had spare money to spend. You had to be sharp on your pricing and product. It’s exciting because it is changing, out in the suburbs. There was a time when Dulwich Hill was dead, where as now it is booming”.

Know your demographic, know who your customers are and you will know how to appropriately price and sell. When you’re in a lower financial demographic It’s about “Trying to get the right balance, learning how to minimise your wastage, we had to be spot on every single day to be successful” Bankstown was difficult, Nick had to be extra careful on how the business ran. In comparison “I have other cafes, where you can tell the chefs to pump out food all day and not to even think about stopping until the last minute of closing”. What i learnt from Nick is at the end of the day, it comes down to location, demographic and market research. Know your environment, know your customers and learn how to adapt accordingly.

“It is all about looking for the right market and then getting the right concept. ”

Coffee On Campus is targeting University students, staff and professors, that means there is a mix appropriate for upmarket options for staff and a more affordable one for the stufents as well. i can’t stress enough that “you need to know the market. Every suburb every spot in the city is different. Some places you can sell caviar and some places hotdogs. Know the income. Know the clientele. Set your prices for your environment not your personal goals. Everyone has a mortgage, kids, family, bills”.

Q. What about Design and aesthetic, what role does that play?

Design and fit out is becoming massive part of industry success. “I believe in doing quality fit outs, you want something appealing to the eye. Weather its grungy for the industrial area, or modern and boutique for the city. It keeps cycling, in the last 30 years it has changed a thousand times and its just going to keep going in circles”. Nick believes you should put money and thought into your Design layout, especially in the kitchen. ”You really need to know how to set your work areas out to make it functional, it can either make or break you, It has to be functional and it has to be smart”.

Q. Business culture is vital in creating successful growth, what is your view on this?

Its an old saying, but Nick believes “you are as good as your staff”, I believe in “respect, leadership and building a team. I think its up to the owners to encourage their employees to want to be there. “Its about a proper training system, communication and support”. I would rather employ someone motivated and eager to learn then someone over qualified and entitled.

It is very important to have system in place for training, it is the common denominator amongst successful business owners, “I teach how to cut cost and save on expense and minimise waste”. It’s about getting the right staff and keeping them, “my best staff I normally take them on as a partner”. It’s known that in this industry there is not a lot of room to progress, so that’s why “I want to keep my loyal staff close and happy”. I know them, their abilities and their weaknesses. “It has always worked for me and my businesses”.

Q. You mention how important it is to do your market research, can you elaborate?

This industry has so many risks and unexpected opportunity and downfall, you “truly, have to do your homework. It not the same as it was 30 years ago. There is just so much more competition”. The Main pieces of advice in regards to what is happening here and now, “Recycled items: you need to do your research, you need to go outside the project and get off your bum and actively seek ways to save”. Fit out, design, Construction is not a dollar project, Saving is possible when you do your research and ask the right questions. “You can save by doing your own homework, running around and cutting costs here, you can end up saving yourself tens of thousands of dollars”.

Ultimately, It’s the way you design your shop, ask yourself, In 5 years time what do I need to do to change the look of it? I know that my tiles can be ripped off easily, I can change the paint, I can change the signage, it’s all pretty simple and inexpensive, and it can change the whole look, and there you go you have a new café.”

Q. How was your experience with Guru Projects?

“David and his team had the right attitude, he had the right price and his team was fantastic and very easy to work with. David Castelli and the construction workers are so easy to work with, I was able to really get involved and change things. They were so happy to comply, we worked very well together. I wanted it built so it’s functional and Guru knew exactly how to do that. I wouldn’t hesitate to refer David and Guru Projects, intact I already have”.
Visit Nick at Coffee On Campus next time you are on University Grounds.

Original Article source: Connective