Introduce yourself – Tell us a little bit about yourself, your position with the café + your background?
My name is Romain Le Gal and I’m one of the owners here at Copain along with my wife, Natalie. I’m from Brittany in France originally, but I’ve been living and working here for about 15 years now. I’ve worked in hospitality for about 20 years now both in the kitchen and managing on the floor.
Can you tell us a bit about the vision/ethos behind Copain?
We also own the La Petite Fourchette stores in Wynyard Quarter and Britomart [Auckland CBD] and make all our own patisserie. So, it’s been a long-term goal of ours to make all our viennoiserie (pastries) and bread from scratch as well. So, the idea with Copain was that we would then be able to supply our other two stores and also make traditional French bread in the French style the way we want it.
What can people expect to experience when they come to Copain? Is there anything unique to the cafe?
We offer the full Boulangerie/patisserie experience here at Copain. We use traditional techniques to make our baguettes and we try to honour the classic French boulangerie here. So we offer two types of baguettes, both the traditional white one and the campagne (country style) as well. We also celebrate brioche which can be bought by the loaf, individually or as a burger bun.
How do you think The Alternative Almond, Oat & Soy milk performs? Is there anything you or your customers particularly like about them?
We’ve trialled a few different milk products and we really like the flavour of The Alternative Dairy Co. ones. Milk substitutes are increasingly popular and there’s been a lot of demand in recent years for more variety in the options too. Oat milk seems to be very much the new soy. There is definitely more interest in plant based.
What do you like about the cafe/coffee industry?
I love food and hospitality – I think sharing a drink or some quality time with friends is always better with food or drinks.
Are there any challenges you can talk to?
I think anyone in hospitality, and also the public, in general know of the challenges we’ve all faced over the past couple of years. I guess one of the toughest things this winter has been the shortage of staff, due to both sickness and just a lack of workers in hospitality. That has meant that I’ve really had to jump in everywhere – behind the coffee machine and lately more in the kitchen as well. It’s been pretty hard to get a day off.
Does sustainability play a role in Copain’s operations?
Yes we are increasingly looking at more sustainable options in terms of packaging in particular. We have also started fully composting all of our kitchen waste too, so we are excited about those changes.
What would be your advice to others thinking about jumping into the café space?
I think consistency is key and also staying true to yourself and your identity. Before we’ve opened any of our shops there have been more people that tell you why not to do it and why it won’t work than those that tell you it will. But I guess at the end of the day you need to back yourself, stay positive and give it a go – you’ve only got one life.