From IT officer to beach café owner
I left school at 18 and took an office job in IT. I always imagined myself working in an office, wearing the standard office attire and earning a regular salary. What I didn’t imagine was the reality: it was stressful and boring at the same time, with long hours and a difficult-to-navigate hierarchy.
I was earning enough to live comfortably and at weekends I found solace in doing catering work, something I’d always really enjoyed. I quickly realised I was looking forward to my weekend work and enjoyed it far more than my regular job. I started to wonder if there might be a better way. So I quit my job and with only a few thousand in my account and no business plan, I rented a lovely spot on the promenade. The window didn’t close and it only had a small sink and a counter, but I loved it. All I had was my mum’s recipes but I thought: ‘what else do I need?’ Looking back, it should have been daunting – financially, it’s difficult to get a cafe off the ground. But I think my passion helped me overcome my fear.
Rewarding and social
I had to hustle constantly for custom, but I fell in love with trading on the beach. It’s instant gratification – everyone tells you what they think of your food and you’re face-to-face with your customers each and every day, rather than being hidden behind a wall of waiters or locked away in the kitchen. Plus there are the other seafront traders and despite being competitors, we’re an amazing community.
You might think that the catering industry has little to fear from the digital revolution, but I beg to differ. Whether it be stock control or logistics, marketing or social media; almost every aspect of my business is being impacted. If I don’t continuously invest, upgrading and improving my technology, then I’d fall behind - and quickly, spelling doom. Currently, I am keeping my head above water but my modest cafe needs me to get some digital skills – it’s a matter of sinking or swimming as the digital tide sets in.
The beginning of the first summer season was tough. I was losing a lot of my business to cashless customers and the paperwork was mounting, resulting in a painful three weeks of non-stop accounting in the lead up to the end of the tax year. I recently became a Worldpay customer, and am now able to satisfy the demands of the many customers who prefer to pay by card than carry cash on a trip to the beach. Having seen the instant benefits to my business that this technology affords, I’m keen to learn about how other complementary tools and technologies can help me save time, grow my business and ultimately deliver the type of experience my customers want.
Being selected as an iStreet ambassador, I finally have the chance to learn how I can reach my target audience in a new way; using digital channels such as a website and social promotion that uses geo-targeting, a method that could help me attract the attention of incoming day-trippers.
And in an effort to make it easier for me to get back to doing what I love and focus on growth, I want to lighten my workload from an administrative perspective and look at ways of integrating my existing payment transactions so it’s less time-consuming… I’m excited to see how the iStreet programme can support me in achieving these goals
Follow Jack Button on Facebook to see how he is getting on this summer.