Tell us a little bit about yourself and your backgroud:
I’ve been in the coffee industry for around 15 years and I guess I’ve done it all. I’ve made coffee as a barista, dishwasher, managed the cafes, and now I find myself managing our wholesale business, so looking after all of the beautiful people who buy our coffee around Australia.
ST. Ali, when did that come about for you?
So ST. ALi’s been around for 16 years now. We founded the cafe along the little laneway in South Melbourne. It’s hard to find. You need to know where to look, to find it. And yeah, look, since then, it’s been a journey. Our success hasn’t come overnight. We started roasting for ourself on the cafe floor a long, long time ago. And now, yeah, like I said, the coffee is enjoyed all around Australia.
What can people expect when they come into your space here?
Look, I don’t think people expect to find ST. ALi where they do. You’ve got to know where to look, to find it. And ST. ALi somehow finds a way to always be busy, whether it’s a rainy, cold Melbourne day or a beautiful sunny day, and people are enjoying coffee on the street, it’s always got this really special energy about it that you don’t really find anywhere else, and it’s really hard to put a finger on.
What’s ST. ALi known for? What would you like to be known for?
I think we’ve always been really proud of the fact that we like to push the boundaries of, I guess, what a coffee brand’s known for and what a coffee brand does. And that carries through everything that we do, whether it’s the drinks and the way we prepare coffee on site, all the way through to some of the products that we like to do today. So canned products, instant coffee, we carry through everything we do in the business.
What does the future look like for ST. ALi?
The future for ST. Ali is bright, I think. I mean the last couple of years have been tough for everyone, but it forced us to diversify the business in a way we hadn’t done before. So, we were very concentrated on supplying a lot of other cafes coming into COVID, and for us, the last few years have made us look at what else we can do and where we can take the brand. And I think the next few years we’ll continue along that trajectory.
What do you love about in-house coffee industry?
Look, the thing I like about the coffee industry is the people I think. We’re a fairly small, tight knit industry and that’s pretty supportive of each other. There’s no one out to get each other or going behind people’s backs. It’s a tight, new group of friends who are I guess, brought together by their combined love of coffee.
For you, what’s been the biggest challenge?
Look, the biggest challenge would have to be people, to be honest. It’s probably the tightest labor market almost in history, I think, across pretty much every industry. And hospitality’s no different. So I think the biggest hand brake for us moving forward is finding the right people. And so if you’re looking for a job, reach out.
Talking to people as well, what would your advice be for somebody looking to jump into the cafe space?
My advice for people jumping into the cafe space is just to do your research. I think a lot of people look at owning or running a cafe as something like a romantic idea, and running and working in cafes is hard. I mean, it’s incredibly rewarding, but it’s hard work and it’s nonstop. So I think my advice to people would be, do your research, find the right location and be really settled on your concepts before you go ahead and sign the lease.
Why ST. Ali chose to partner with Alternative Dairy?
Yeah, look, we chose to partner with Alternative Dairy in the early days because there was this willingness to, I guess, work with us, I guess, experts, to develop a product that was fit for purpose and excellent. We loved the fact that the product was manufactured here in Australia, and for us, it was a really simple thing. It was an open, transparent relationship that we would take feedback back and forth. And yeah, it’s been great to be part of the journey.
How do you think The Alternative products perform?
I think the Alternative Dairy range of products performs brilliantly with coffee, and I guess that’s the main reason why we support it. I think, we could be best friends with other operators or makers of products, but if it’s no good, the simple fact is we just wouldn’t use it with our coffee. I mean, the taste is paramount. So I think for us, all of the milks in their different ways, bring out something different with the coffee and I think are best in category.
How important is sustainability for you in your business?
Sustainability is incredibly important for our business. We’re undergoing climate active certification at the moment and is definitely something that we look to when partnering with other businesses as well. And I think it’s important for each and every one of us to be doing our part.
How important is it for you, to use local milks and coffee ingredients locally made?
It’s incredibly important for ST. ALi to partner with local suppliers and manufacturers. I think the last few years have probably amplified that. I mean, supporting local has almost become necessary because you can’t buy from elsewhere. But from us, I mean, being able to buy from whether it be the local egg producer or the local dairy or the local almond milk manufacturer, I think keeping money and jobs in Australia is the right thing to do.