More than food
Paleo Café is a revolutionary health food café and store based on the logical philosophy for optimal health, The Paleo Lifestyle. The “Paleo” lifestyle is all about eating and living as mother nature intended – this includes eating meat, seafood, eggs, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and berries while avoiding dairy, grains, legumes, sugar and preservatives which our bodies are not designed to digest. It also includes making sure you get enough sleep, exercise, play time and laughter.
In August 2011, founders Jai & Marlies Hobbs learnt through Jai’sCrossfit gym the benefits ofeating “Paleo.” The timing was perfect as their then-two-month-old son Troy was suffering fromsevere acid reflux, which was later diagnosed as being caused by a dairy intolerance. After muchinvestigation and desperation, four month old Troy was put on a dairy free formula, Neocate. Within two weeks, Troy went from waking every hour screaming in hunger and pain to sleeping contently throughout the night. Jai & Marlies gradually introduced a variety of Paleo recipes into their own diets, receiving undeniable health benefits. Marlies’ skin and digestive problems cleared up, they both lost weight, were sleeping better and waking refreshed. The more they adoptedthe Paleo lifestyle, the better they felt. There was no turning back.
One day Marlies said to Jai, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place you could go to thatwas a dedicated Paleo health food store and café? It would have all the products you needin one place with convenient fresh Paleo meals and readymade meals – all without thetemptations of the bad food options.” And the Paleo Cafe was born!
A new beginning
Paleo Café Cairns opened the doors on the 3rd of October 2012. The response to the concept was overwhelming, and it wasn’t long before interest in the concept came from all over Australia. Franchising the business was always the desired path – it’s just that founders Marlies and Jai never expected it to happen as quickly as it did.
The Franchise model was released to the market in April 2013, with the company’s first franchise location opening in Paddington Brisbane in October 2013, 12 months after the first store in Cairns. Since then, Paleo Café has expanded to have 12 open cafes throughout Australia and many more in the pipeline.
The future is looking bright for Paleo Café expansion with upcoming sites planned to open shortly in Mackay, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and New Zealand. They also have strong interest from the US and Canada which they will operate under a Master Franchise arrangement.
“Paleo Café is the missing link between the information and the action,” says Jai. “The awareness about the effects of food on our health and body is growing, and there is a wide variety of information available to people looking to improve their health through cutting sugar from their diet to eliminating grains or dairy. Paleo Café is well positioned to provide these people with a single point of reference for food, drinks, educational materials and store items.”
Good quality food with a home cooked taste is what you can expect when walking into a Paleo Café. All ingredients on their menu are extensively researched and recipes are tested to ensure they adhere to the Paleo guidelines. The one exception they do make in store is allowing customers any choice of milk with their tea, coffee or smoothie.
“A lot of customers follow the Paleo lifestyle with their food but still have milk in their coffee, and we want to ensure they feel comfortable coming to Paleo Café,” says Jai.
In every café you will also find a cleverly stocked store section containing educational books and DVD’s on Paleo including Paleo Café’s own Lifestyle and Cookbook, often hard to find Paleo pantry ingredients such as coconut oil, coconut flour, ghee, bullet proof coffee beans and MCT oil.
“We set out to create a positive and supportive environment for people to firstly understand the principles of the Paleo Lifestyle and secondly be able to easily follow it. We want our customers to spend more time doing the things they love and leave the cooking to us.”
Adventurous and Supportive
Whilst setting up the original café and searching for cookbooks and educational materials, Marlies realized there were no Australian Paleo style cookbooks available, everything was US-based and used their ingredients. In early 2013, Marlies began writing the Paleo Café Lifestyle & Cookbook – the book is not just a cookbook but an inspirational coffee table display book with lifestyle images and quotes, a background on Paleo Café what they are about and how they started as well as over 130 recipes. The recipes are simple yet effective and don’t take up your day in preparation or cooking time.
“I wanted to ensure that people on the go could enjoy the Paleo Lifestyle without having to spend their entire time in the kitchen,” says Marlies.
Banana Pancakes, Salmon Eggs Benedict, Seared Tasmanian Salmon with Sweet Potato Mash and Asparagus, Crispy Skin Pork Belly and Avocado Chocolate Mousse are just some of the recipes you can expect to find in the cookbook. The recipes were created by the talented Paleo Café experienced chefs but can be easily replicated by anyone.
Upon entering a Paleo Café you are greeted at the door with a friendly smile, and immediately you realise this is more than just a café. From the “Paleo Food Pyramid” on the walls to the extensive range of books and educational materials available to read while in store, there is a focus on customers understanding what Paleo is all about and how they can live the Lifestyle.
“We listen to what people have to say,” says Jai. “But we didn’t pioneer this stuff; the information has been out there for years. All we do is encourage our staff and customers to be adventurous and willing to consider their options. We are here to provide support and guidance along the way in an authentic and caring position.”
Paleo Café franchisees range from experienced hospitality mangers and chefs to ex gym owners and everywhere in between. According to Jai, the optimal Paleo Café franchisee is someone as passionate about the business as they are.
“Brand passion is the number one reason for us starting Paleo Café, and it’s what we look for in franchisees,” says Jai. “Life is too short to not do what you love, because when you love what you do it doesn’t feel like work.”
“They also need to be optimistic – because anything is possible,” he adds. “The difference between owning a business and owning a successful business is whether or not you’re willing to give up the things now that others won’t, to live the rest of your life like others can’t.”
In order to make sure every Paleo Café franchisee receives the required guidance and support, Jai says the Paleo Café HQ team communicates with each franchisee a minimum of once per fortnight, giving encouragement and listening to feedback.
“We talk about anything form performance, menu, business growth, or even the direction the business is going,” he says. “But we work with every franchise a bit differently, because what I determine as success is different than what a franchisee sees as success.”
The Paleo Café HQ team is made up from a diverse range of experience including legal, financial, business growth, marketing, restaurant management and kitchen management. Their Franchise Advisory Council ensures franchisees have a chance to provide feedback and suggested improvements on operational and marketing ideas, these are held quarterly at different locations around the country.
Paleo Café’s philosophy of openness transcends their café walls and also extends to their relationships with suppliers. While the food industry “may be hectic at times,” Jai says that their relationship with suppliers has been one of continual support and cooperation since opening the first café in Cairns.
“I would like to think all our suppliers are proud to be a part of what we are doing, proud of the mission we are on, and proud of the message we are sending. And if they can take the punt on us, we want to reward them with our loyalty.”
The Paleo Café HQ team works with their franchisees to ensure the supplier relationships are built on a mutual trust and respect. Ingredients must be of the highest quality with their meat grass fed and hormone free. Ensuring that every Paleo Café in Australia receives a constant supply of high quality produce at a competitive price takes a tonne of hard work and commitment from the entire Paleo café team. Liam, the Executive Head Chef of Paleo Café spends a big part of his time building and maintaining these relationships as well as searching for new and innovative products.
“But it’s what we do, and we’re proud of it,” he says.
A healthy future
At the 2014 TNQ20 (Tropical North Queensland) awards, Paleo Café received the Young Entrepreneur Award, which is an accolade that recognises the brightest young business leaders under 30.
“We are very honoured to receive the Young Entrepreneur Award at the TNQ20 awards. We had a vision, truly believed in it, and did not settle for anything less,” says Jai.
Marlies and Jai are a couple with a big dream of where Paleo Café sits in the market place, and they assure us this is a long way from where they are at the moment. Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit summed it up with his quote, ‘Money is essential to run a business, but it is not what makes a business grow. Business grows on dreams.’ Paleo Café is proof of this.
“We never started this business for the money, it was genuinely a desire to improve the health of our nation through education and proper nutrition, it made such a difference to our family and we wanted to share our experience,” says Jai.
There are 12 Paleo Café’s at the moment, but Jai hopes that there will be 20 by the end of the year. “We have a couple interested parties in New Zealand, but by 2015, we want to be in Canada and the United States,” he adds. “It is exciting for us in an international aspect, but we would like to continue growing in Australia – we know can add value to the community.”
“We do things because we truly believe it is the right thing to do and we are adding value,” he concludes. “If we keep doing that, we’ll be successful. We have the customers’ best interests at heart, and will continue to do so moving forward.”