Diet-based cafe rolls out

Paleo cafe PaddingtonFitout3 oAs the Paleo diet trend continues to gather pace around the nation, a far north Queensland couple is hoping the concept is more than a fad.

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Jai and Marlies Hobbs, founders of Paleo Cafe, are hoping to build a 30 store network around the premise of eating a diet based on the food groups of our hunter gatherer ancestors during the Paleolithic era.

The husband and wife team opened the first Paleo Cafe in their hometown of Cairns in October 2012, after they began on the paleo eating path as a result of their young son being diagnosed with a milk intolerance.

“It was hard trying to maintain the lifestyle, being organised enough to prepare three paleo meals a day for my family, and it was proving to be difficult and embarrassing going out for a meal, which is how the concept came about,” Marlies Hobbs told Inside Retail PREMIUM.

“We thought, wouldn’t it be great if there was a place that was a paleo cafe and you could get a take home meal and supplies without jumping all over the place.”

Fast forward to December 2013, and there are five Paleo Cafe’s operating across the country, four of which under a franchise model launched earlier this year.

Paleo Cafe’s are an 80/20 split of cafe to retail. Beyond freshly prepared dine in paleo meals, the stores stock take home meals, Paleo Cafe t-shirts, Kora skincare, a selection of wholefoods such as chia seeds, almond milk, coconut products, organic nuts and dried fruits, paleo education and recipe books, coffee, supplements, and natural protein powders.

Cafes range in size from around 100sqm to 150sqm and have seating or between 50 and 100 patrons.

“We’re trying to remain flexible about products and see what the market demands. We thought about doing our own products, but we’re really interested in banding together with other small businesses and supporting each other.

“We’ve got some [Paleo Cafe branded] sauces, dressings, bread, ready made meals, granola, trail mix, and dukkah and we’re contemplating a baked goods range that people can add wet ingredients, but those things aren’t a high priority, the priority is bringing the cafe concepts to different towns.

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The concept has seen a relatively quick rollout since launching as a franchise in March, with four other stores trading at Paddington and Brisbane CBD in QLD, Bondi in NSW, and Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne.

Three more have been signed up for Adelaide, Albury, and Townsville, and negotiations are reaching a close for franchises on the Gold Coast, and Norfolk, both in QLD.

“We launched in March as a franchise business, by April we had our first franchisee, and it  went from there,” says Hobbs.

“Our goal was to have 10 cafes signed up by the end of 2013 and we’ve just achieved that goal.

“We’ll have at least another five open by the end of March 2014, then the goal is to have another 20 sign up in 2014, so 30 by end of 2014.

“People think we’re a bit mad because we could be making a lot more money out of it, but our franchisee fee is very reasonable.”

For a $35,000 upfront fee, paleo advocates can sign up to own a Paleo Cafe franchise, which includes five days training at the Cairns store and a chef and manager for the first four days of operation.

Beyond the initial fee, which includes all Paleo Cafe systems and recipes, franchisees pay a $500 weekly fixed fee, with no marketing or percentage of profit deducted.

“It’s very affordable, especially when the stores are turning over between $30,000 and $35,000 a week.

“Those fees might increase in time to cover our overheads, but we believe what we’re doing is a positive thing for the community and people’s health to make healthy eating convenient.”

A Paelo Cafe book written by Marlies will launch in January, which she plans to promote via a tour of the Paleo Cafe network, while the retail products will be available from the company’s website in the near future.

This story first appeared in Inside Retail PREMIUM issue 1982, December 13, 2013.

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