Cafe which sells 300 vanilla slices per week named finalists for business awards

Relish Cafe owner Ian Williams works 60-80 hours a week – but it’s not because he has to.

“I should be able to step back, but I just love it,” Ian said.

Buying Relish Cafe in Waikanae two and a half years after the previous owners retired, Ian vowed to keep using recipes loved by the cafe’s loyal customers.

Running the cafe since he took over has seen Ian not only retain those loyal customers but dramatically increase his customer base.

“We have doubled in size over the last two and a half years.

“Everything from turnover and staff numbers to food production has increased.”

Expanding their cabinet food offerings, their seating capacity and taking the service up a notch has added to the cafe’s success – knowing all their regular customers by name, along with their orders, is also a big plus.

“Margret comes every day for tomato soup, Dennis comes every day for his scone in the week and in the weekend he always has his main meal at lunchtime, we have lots of regulars that come every day.”

It is this service that has contributed to the cafe being named as a finalist in this year’s Electra Business and Innovation awards.

“We weren’t surprised [about being named a finalist] because we believe we have the best cafe in the whole area.

“It’s quite time-consuming getting the paperwork in to enter the awards, especially when we are so busy.

“We entered for the recognition – we know that our business is great so it’s nice to get the recognition.

“It’s all about a great team, I’ve got the best team.”

The cafe has eight full-time staff and four part-timers, alongside Ian who works 60-80 hours per week.

“I start anywhere from four in the morning and am in the kitchen until 10am.

“At that point I come out the front and am out there from about 10am-2pm before heading back into the kitchen at 2pm.

“I should be able to step back, but I just love it so much.”

The cafe’s claim to fame is the popularity of its vanilla slices.

“We sell about 300-350 vanilla slices each week.

“They’re pretty special, it is a secret recipe, people come from all over the place for them.”

With Covid-19 being hard on the business, in the same way all hospitality businesses have been challenged, adapting well to the changes has played in their favour.

“We never had a menu at the table, we relied on having it on the board, but level 2 said you had to seat your customers, since then our business has just gone ‘bang’.

“A lot of our customers who used to just buy cabinet food are now buying menu food instead and we have a lot more people staying around Waikanae instead of heading into Wellington.

“We now provide the whole experience, a round bundle that we want you to be pleased with.”

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