The Choc Pot: Taking chocolate to the next level.

The Choc Pot is quickly becoming one of Sydney’s hot spots as a specialty chocolate café. It is also one of the fastest growing businesses, with two existing stores (Chatswood and Burwood) and two more set to open by the end of 2015; all designed and built by Guru Projects.

“Live Cheeky” is the catchy tag line of the concept café, and that is exactly the bubbly vibe that owners Deirdre Tshein and Ashley Clarke portray. Their values and business ethos harmoniously blend together. Much like a reflection of the relationship of the two, the café operates vibrantly. To Live cheeky: “It comes down to life and how to just live happy and cheeky, indulge, and be positive, it’s for mental health,” owner Deirdre explained. “To be fun and light in the seriousness of everything else. It’s what truly represents us, how we live and how we want to portray us and our business. People truly connect and understand who we are just form that line.”

The pair is adamant on the notion of consistency, throughout service, operation, and product- a crucial component which supports a smooth management as the new stores roll out. “System management, consistent communication and solid training structure for staff,” are the key pieces of advice when it comes to opening your dream café or restaurant says Deirdre. “One of the most challenging aspects of building a franchise is going from one shop, to two. After that, it’s all uphill. Deirdre and partner Ash have not only successfully managed to do that, but plan to open even more Choc Pot locations in 2016.

Coming from two completely different professional backgrounds, when the first Choc Pot store was just a concept in 2013, Deirdre and Ash were more than happy to build a close relationship with the Guru Team, to lean on them for the best possible outcome for their store. The Burwood store was designed for comfort, vibe, and something completely unlike any other chocolate store that already existed. They wanted to move away from the cliché colours like dark brown and muted tones. That is where the yellow plays an important role, they wanted to create a “live cheeky” fun and positive atmosphere that drew people in and invited them to stay. Already having a vision of what the store was to look like, “We knew the mood and the vibe we wanted, Deirdre noted. “It was the ability of Guru to understand our vision and then take it to the next level,” which is what the pair plan to do as the new stores come into fruition.

When Deirdre spoke about the design of the new shops to come, she offered some great insight into their big vision:

“With the new stores on their way [Rosebery and Regents Place], Choc Pot is ready to explore new themes. Consistency is the key when it comes to franchise, especially in service. Design however can have consistent elements, but we want to differentiate the stores- a sort of inconsistent consistency. We will keep that “playful and vibrant” environment. It made sense for us to work with David and Guru, I feel like we are on the same page now, and they understand our vision of taking chocolate to the next level, and that’s the plan. We want to keep taking it to the next level, and we can’t wait to see the outcome.”

Guru Projects: Do you have a number in mind for how many Choc Pots you would like to open?

Deirdre: “We would love to push out into certain areas, sub 10, as we really want to keep that boutique and authenticity. We didn’t think it would happen so fast but we did have a goal in mind, our vision is to be “the global go-to dessert brand.”

Guru Projects: If you could give 3 pieces of advice to anybody about to start their own cafe or possibly franchise?

Deirdre: 1. When space comes up and when location is right, that’s when you seize the situation. A golden rule of thumb, you have to take advantage of opportunity.

  1. The hardest thing is always going from one to two, and it was huge deal for us. We learnt it’s important not to let the first store go. While we hired a store manager, where we fell down was putting too much responsibility on them. We are huge on team building and cultivating leadership. It is deeply ingrained in the Choc Pot business culture, consistency is key in success and that’s where we learnt an important lesson. Empowering our management and preparing the team itself, is very important. Which leads to point three.
  2. Training the staff faster and earlier to be fully prepared for being busy. That’s something big to think about if you’re going down a franchise path. A training system needs to be very strong to keep a consistent business culture. It was the little things that really mattered: plating and service, customer relationship, how they speak, serve, ect.”

The duo have big plans over the next few years, working closely with Guru Projects to create their vision as “the global go-to dessert brand.” We cannot wait to see the amazing things Deirdre and Ash create, taking chocolate to the next level! We know exactly where we will be heading on our next “live cheeky” day.


Original post by Rebecca Veksler: Connective