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How an inexpensive makeover revitalized a small cafe

From Raw Bar to Undrground: A Café's Journey of Transformation

In the dynamic world of cafés, adapting to changing customer preferences and market trends is essential for sustained success. Amy, the owner of what was originally Raw Bar, has embraced this challenge head-on. This blog post delves into the journey of transforming Raw Bar into the thriving Undrground café, offering insights and inspiration for café owners and enthusiasts alike.

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The Origins: Raw Bar

Raw Bar began its journey in 2017 as a humble raw treat cake takeaway shop. Initially focused on serving healthy, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free options, Raw Bar quickly expanded its offerings to include coffee and lunch items. The café shared its space with Ivy Lane, a plant shop, creating a unique ambiance that appealed to health-conscious customers.

The Need for Change

The transformation from Raw Bar to Undrground was driven by several factors:

  1. Space Utilization: When Ivy Lane moved on after 12 months, Amy faced the challenge of making the expanded space work solely for her café.
  2. Customer Preferences: Exclusively offering dairy-free alternatives limited the café’s appeal. Many potential customers preferred traditional dairy options, leading to lost business.
  3. Market Trends: Staying relevant in the competitive café market required updating the menu and overall vibe to attract a broader customer base.

The Transformation Process

Rebranding and Redesign

  • New Identity: The café was renamed Undrground to reflect its broader menu, moving beyond just raw food. This rebranding included a fresh color scheme and a redesigned space, making the café more inviting.
  • Cost-Effective Changes: Amy and her husband managed the transformation on a modest budget of around $1,000, primarily spent on paint and signage. Their son contributed by designing the new logo and branding, further reducing costs.

Menu Expansion

  • Diversified Offerings: The menu was expanded to include a variety of items, catering to different dietary preferences and ensuring that there was something for everyone.
  • Dairy Options: Adding traditional dairy milk options helped attract customers who might have previously been deterred by the exclusive focus on alternative milks.

Staffing and Expertise

  • Experienced Barista: Employing Ethan, a seasoned barista, elevated the café’s coffee game. His expertise and passion for coffee brought in more coffee enthusiasts and improved customer satisfaction.
  • Team Involvement: The collaborative effort in rebranding and redesigning the café fostered a sense of ownership and pride among the staff, contributing to a positive work environment.

The Impact of Change

Customer Attraction

  • New and Returning Customers: The fresh look and expanded menu attracted new customers and encouraged previous visitors to return. The rebranding effectively communicated that the café offered more than just raw food.
  • Community Engagement: The café’s new vibe and broader offerings helped build a stronger connection with the local community, enhancing its reputation and customer loyalty.

Business Growth

  • Increased Coffee Sales: The focus on improving coffee offerings paid off, with a noticeable increase in coffee sales.
  • Positive Feedback: Customers appreciated the refreshed ambiance and menu diversity, which translated into positive word-of-mouth and higher foot traffic.

Personal Fulfillment

  • Owner’s Satisfaction: Amy found the transformation process refreshing and motivating. The changes revitalized her passion for the business and boosted her confidence in its future success.

Advice for Café Owners

  1. Embrace Change: If your café feels stale or business is slowing, consider a makeover. Even small, cost-effective changes can make a big difference.
  2. Listen to Customers: Pay attention to customer preferences and feedback. Offering what customers want, whether it’s menu items or ambiance, is crucial.
  3. Collaborate and Innovate: Involve your team in the transformation process. Their ideas and enthusiasm can lead to innovative solutions and a more cohesive effort.
  4. Invest Wisely: You don’t need a massive budget for impactful changes. Be resourceful and leverage in-house talents to minimize costs.

Final Thoughts

The journey of transforming Raw Bar into Undrground showcases the importance of adaptability and customer-centric thinking in the café industry. Amy’s experience highlights that with thoughtful changes and a commitment to meeting customer needs, any café can rejuvenate its brand and achieve new levels of success. As the market continues to evolve, staying ahead of trends and maintaining a fresh, inviting atmosphere will remain key to thriving in the competitive world of cafés.

For more insights and inspiration, be sure to check out Amy’s cookbook, “Gather,” featuring some of the amazing recipes that have contributed to Undrground’s success.

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