Tim Singleton Norton

communications, media, advocacy, campaigns

Hipster cafe 101

The rise of the hipster cafe has demanded some new rules be taught. These tiny, ironic food outlets are permeating the inner suburbs of all our major metropolitan hubs, increasing the likelihood of getting a quick coffee whilst also destroying the art of Saturday morning food. Whilst some might rejoice at the increased marketplace, I say enough is enough! It’s time these wispy moustache-wearing, fedora-sporting ‘business owners’ are taught how that whole ‘hospitality’ thing works.

So, for all you hipster cafes out there, we present: the Limited News guide to making your venue way more enjoyable for normal people.

Music
Your music choices should set the mood of your venue. Ironic music is not a mood setter. It is not funny or ironic to play ’80s love ballads – no-one except my friend Steve wants to hear that, and he’s got problems. The same goes for any music that originated from an internet meme, experimental instrumental dubstep, over-enthusiastic cock rock or an unknown, un-signed local band. Hell, even if you do choose to infuriate my sense with your shitty music tastes, at least make sure the sound level is below that of a normal speaking voice. Yes, I am well aware that it is hard to hear over the clanging of pots and the sound of the coffee machine, but you chose this profession. Deal with it.

Salt and pepper
I don’t care how refined you think your palette is – don’t season a dish that doesn’t explicitly state it on the menu. If you bring me a plate full of salt, be understanding when I tell you to shoot right off back to the kitchen and make it again. Buy pepper grinders, not shakers. Buy sea salt, not iodised table salt. And please, put the salt into a sealed container. It may be all homely and European to have salt in finger bowls, but actually it’s just gross.

Flies
Buy a bugzapper. They’re like $90 max and will stop me from throwing your cheap cutlery at giant mozzies that are intent on resting in my latte.

Tea
Sure, most cafes are centred around coffee, but tea is an important aspect of British life, and we all know how awesome Britain is. Have a good range of teas – from English Breakfast to Darjeeling to Chai to Herbal. Throw out the Earl Grey – that shit is rank.
Provide proper looseleaf tea with brown sugar cubes and separate mini milk jugs.
Do. Not. Buy. Tetleys.

Furniture
Wow, what an original idea – using 1970s kitchen chairs in a cafe. Hey, I’ve got a better idea – use something that’s actually comfortable and cost more than $5 at an op shop. Milk crates are technically the property of the dairy that supplied them – if you attempt to make me sit on one, I will be calling the cops to report stolen property.

Space
Ensure you actually have enough of it. Sure, you might be able ‘squeeze in’ a few more tables and chairs, but if that fat guy behind me pushes his chair into the small of my back one more time, I can’t guarantee that I won’t beat him to death with his own focaccia. Also, be accommodating and friendly when people request that you move a few things around. Did you know that not everyone turns up to eat with two other friends? Sometimes they have more, and it’s not that hard to push a few tables together.
Important lesson for the day: a lane way does not an alfresco dining area make.

Decor
Reprints of 1960s Hawaiian beauties fall into the above cheapskate op shop category, however I’m prepared to allow some leeway in the decor of most hipster cafes. Actually, wait, no I’m not. Don’t ‘shop’ from the Savers down the road. Don’t let your ‘artistic’ friends help and do NOT try to sell the artwork as well.

Food
Of course, this should be the heart of your shop, and it boils down to this simple rule: experiment all you want, but also provide the basics. Some people like rocket – some like iceberg. Some people like smoked, spiced ham and Gorgonzola – some just want a BLT.
I might be happy to try your ’5 cheese omelette with capers, rocket, Parmesan and chutney’. Or, I might like you to just make me three poached eggs on toast with a side of mushrooms.
Pay special attention to the construction of your dishes. Poached eggs that are perched directly on top of toast will inevitably result in soggy bread that will in turn result in you having wet toast on your face. Take two seconds to separate wet from dry and we’re all good.

Special needs
Cater for them. All of them. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, disabled, babies, elderly, etc. And do it properly – having one vegan option on a menu full of chorizo is just being an arsehole.
Provide at least one baby seat – even the cheap plastic $10 one from Ikea is ok. Or be prepared for every mother to drag her giant, off-road, three-wheeled baby-carrying monstrosity inside, getting in the way of the rest of us.
Make sure all your doors, passageways, toilets and thoroughfares are wheelchair accessible. Yes, I understand that you and your skinny jeans can easily slide into your miniature toilet, but don’t be a dick.

Payment
Welcome to the 21st century! Now buy a fucking eftpos machine. I mean who honestly is prepared enough to get some cash out on a Friday, ready to hand it over to you on a Saturday morning? The only people carrying cash these days are mafia and old people, and I’m pretty sure they’re not your clientele.

Smoking
Sure, the law allows people to smoke outside, even with recent changes to the legislation in relation to food-serving venues. But here’s a equation for you: cigarettes + food = gross.
Don’t provide ashtrays and maybe I won’t have to nut the insensitive bastard blowing smoke over my breakfast, bringing the cops down to your non-health-inspector-regulation establishment.

Cutlery
No, your tourist attraction collectible spoons are not cute – they are irritating and covered with the filth of several generations.

Reading material
Newspapers – provide them. More than one copy. Herald Sun = bad. The Australian = bad. The Age= tolerable. Green Left Weekly = not a newspaper.
Magazines – if the sticker price is over $10, go for it. That’s Life = bad. New Internationalist = good.
YOU OR YOUR FRIENDS’ ZINES ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE.

Focus
You run a cafe. That’s it. No one needs to know about your ideas for an independent music festival, an avant-garde film festival or poetry slam. This includes advertising them with shitty photocopied posters, attempting to scout out free help from your customers or holding organising collective meetings while you should be making coffee.

Cleaning
Do it. Daily. Not with herbs, and not with bleach. Find a middle-ground that kills germs but not my nasal passages.

Interwebs
Provide them. For free. And actually for free – don’t make people ask you for the password on a half hour basis. Provide at least three spots where people can plug their laptops in to get some juice.
Don’t be afraid to ask moochers to buy a minimum of one coffee for each hour they sit there, but also don’t get annoyed when your fellow hipsters plonk themselves down for five hours as they agonise over the first page of their independent screenplay.

Coffee
Ok now we’re finally into what should be the most important element of your establishment. Good coffee is an excellent thing, but let’s have a bit of perspective here too. It’s not that hard. It’s not an art. It’s just a coffee. You don’t need to make it any more difficult than it needs to be. That being said…
Barista. There’s a reason that word exists. It means the person making the coffee actually knows what they’re doing. An expensive coffee machine is all good, but if you have the water too hot, or the pressure too high, or the grounds too fine, or the angle of the glass wrong… Also, find a fair-trade coffee supplier so at least you’re not contributing to the world’s problems. We will expand on your misguided thoughts about single-origin supply chains in a later article.
Speciality delivery methods of coffee such as cold drip, Clover or Aeropress are great, both in terms of unique marketing and in the product they create. But you really don’t have to give me ‘tasting notes’ or some rehearsed spiel about how you picked these beans especially due to their hidden tones of caramel on your last scouting trip to Columbia. I just want a coffee.

Look, I know that’s quite a lot to take in, and might seem a little harsh to some. But the important thing is that if you follow my simple rules, maybe your adorable little cafe will last longer than the average 3 weeks. At the very least you might avoid the torch-bearing angry mobs I’m currently mobilizing against you.

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