As Boudy Yaacoub greets customers by name, makes room for their prams, and personally brings out their dishes, the community feeling of what has made this Degani café so popular is evident.
Boudy says generosity is key when working in this industry, in getting customers to continue to come back.
“If you’re not generous, then you shouldn’t think about opening a café,” he says. “We believe that hospitality starts with generosity.”
It’s been three years since Boudy traded his suit and polished dress shoes in for shorts and an apron. His introduction to hospitality was originally a way to pay his way through a Bachelors degree in International Business Management with an honours in Economics. Upon graduation, after working for a few larger companies and organisations, he found himself dreaming of his days chatting with customers behind the coffee machine.
He found a kindred spirit in Johnny Chehade, who at the time was working as an Eye Specialist. “We missed that customer service, going to work in shorts and t-shirts instead of suits,” he says.
As so it was the pair left their office jobs to open a Degani franchise in Rathdowne village, in Melbourne’s inner north. Boudy’s easy nature and friendly air is evidence that he’s happy with his decision to move back to hospitality. As one of the only cafés bustling with customers in the middle of the week in this competitive location, Boudy and Johnny were clearly destined for life outside of the office.
“I love this location, this is a beautiful street,” he says. “It needed a bakery café.”
Boudy opted for a Degani franchise as he wanted to go with a recognised name that offered quality products. He says the traditional and reliable Degani offerings of breakfast, sandwiches and bakery items – as well as good coffee – has worked well.
A good offering, however, is not enough to succeed in a competitive neighbourhood. With dozens of cafés within a few blocks, Boudy says a strong community focus has been key to a steady flow of customers.
“This business is built on good will, we’re very good friends with the locals,” says Boudy. “We’ve developed some good relationships and at the end of the day that’s been really important for us. We’re privileged to have such a great base of support within the community.”
Boudy has been so successful in his location, when neighbouring Tre Bicchieri café was for sale he decided to purchase that business as well. He had been good friends with the owner, and thought the coffee culture focus of the Tre Bicchieri location would compliment the Degani business.
As part of the Degani group of cafés, which currently supply 65 stores around Australia, offering Monin syrups was for Boudy a welcome part of the franchise package. Boudy says he was familiar with Monin syrups through a close friend of his that ran some bars in Beirut. There, he witnessed beautiful fusion cocktails created using Monin syrups.
“For me, getting to serve Monin was like hitting two birds with one stone,” he says. “These are great syrups that I’m happy to work with.”
At his Degani location, he uses Monin syrups to create Caramel and Hazelnut Lattes. He says Hazelnut is by far a customer favourite, as he goes through bottles of it rather quickly.
“Serving flavoured coffees is really about giving customers some options,” he says. He adds that Monin’s products fit well into his direction for better quality across the board. “Across the business, we need to ensure we’re delivering the right product. Our customers are happy to pay for that,” he says.