McCain: Hi Freddy, thanks for talking with us. Let’s start at the beginning; how did you get into owning a café?

Freddy: I’ve been involved in the hospitality industry for over 30 years. When I was finishing my last year at university I bought my first establishment in Ferntree Gully which was a rundown Italian restaurant and saw a great opportunity to take it over and redesign everything from de décor to selecting the best quality ingredients. This is where it all started…my passion for hospitality.
After 11 years I decided to sell the business and set up a café in Cranbourne and another café in Elsternwick based on the same principle as my first business.

“If money is the only reason you are going into running a café, I’ll tell you from day one you will fail.”

Fred Kerbage, owner of Cucina Dolce café

The reason why I’m saying this is that once you have a system in place and you believe in delivering quality in everything you do, you will succeed.
There is a lot of ingredients that go into making a café successful – currently I have been here at Cuccina Dolce in Chelsea for nearly four years. I took over a vacant shop and implemented the same theory as my previous cafes. Great décor, quality food, really nice modern fit out, best of everything you need to have from cutlery to tables everything has to be 110% for you to succeed.

McCain: What do you believe makes your café successful?

Freddy: I am a very hands on operator, I source everything from the ordering of the dry goods to actually going to the market and handpicking the veggies, sourcing out everything on a weekly basis.
Monitoring what goes out to your customer determines if your café will be successful or not.

McCain: Who are your typical customers?

Freddy: 80% of my customer are regular families and gen Y, middle class income earners that enjoy eating at a funky quality modern café with a medium price range. I know all my regular customers and enjoy getting to know them.
It’s three times easier to get your existing customers to come back then attracting new customers.
I believe that you should treat you regular customers like loyalty, never neglect them as they are your bread & butter for the business.

McCain: What is currently your signature dish on the menu?

Freddy: Our highest selling dish is The Chicken Wrap which has baby spinach, roasted capsicum, specially marinated grilled chicken tenderloins and McCain Beer Batter Steak fries which complement the dish – something that is quick to prepare for lunch service.

McCain: You currently have on your menu McCain Beer Batter Steak Fries, McCain Seasoned Wedges and McCain Sweet Potato fries, what made you select these fries for your cafe?

Freddy: Whatever we put on the menu has to be premium so we tested multiple different fries and McCain Beer Batter Steak fries came out number one….this is why we put them as our bread & butter item on the menu.
A lot of people have wedges as a starter so they have to be tasty and look appealing. The McCain Seasoned Wedges are perfect, customers love them and they are also quick to cook.
We added McCain Sweet Potato fries to the menu as an option for health conscious customers and as a started with a nice garlic aioli. The fries look and taste great …. More popular with younger hipsters and females which tend to order when having a few drinks.

McCain: How do you manage multiple fries in the kitchen?

Freddy: We have a large freezer onsite so no problems with freezer storage. We have a twin fryer and can cook anytime two type of fries at once. Our busiest time which is lunch time we serve all our dishes with McCain Beer Batter Steak fries and if someone orders the wedges that’s a separate order so no problem at all. Very easy to manage.
People are very selective of fries, we get lots of compliments on the Beer Batter Steak fries.

McCain: Are you aware how much profit you make on fries per plate?

Freddy: We want the plate to appear full and there is nothing worse than getting a plate with a few fries. We can’t afford to cut corners so chose a nice chunky fry. We don’t weigh or measure out the fries per plate on a daily basis but I am 100% aware of how much profit I make. Everything is always costed out before going onto the menu.

McCain: You have a chain coffee shop and a fish & chip shop next door, how do you deal with all the competition?

Freddy: I’ve had people come in and ask me how can I charge $10.90 take away for Beer Batter Steak fries when they can buy fries for $4.50 next door….. I tell them that’s fine they can go next door but I also offer them a sample of our fries to try and 10 out of 10 come back to my cafe because you just can’t beat quality in whatever you do, food, clothes cars you can’t! The product will always shines.

“McCain Beer Batter Steak fries hold their colour really well, they don’t suck up allot of oil and there nice and crispy. The chips can sit on the table for 5 to 10 minutes and they don’t go soft and that’s important because people eat with their eyes.”

Fred Kerbage, owner of Cucina Dolce café

McCain: What do your customers want in terms of fries?

Freddy: I believe that every single customer not just mine, everyone wants a premium product and wants to pay a fair price. No point loading up on bad quality fries. If you have a good quality fry you can use less and customers appreciate it more. People are aware of what they are getting.

McCain: What advice do you have for café owners when it comes to selecting fries?

Freddy: It’s very easy, and I would give this advice to every café owner, you have to source the best possible product on the market. The reason for that is, in the hospitality industry there is so many pitfalls that will happen before your customer will tell you.
If you choose a premium fry you are minimizing potential stuff ups along the way that can happen with
If the chip gets to the table and if doesn’t taste nice an. You have to minimize any stuff ups. If it’s under cooked or overcooked it’s still going to hold up, because it’s premium
I know it’s going to pay off down the track. Use the best because it works, and I know from previous business I have ran.

McCain: What inspires you as a chef and café owner?

Freddy: Im a pretty outgoing person and I love people in general. You have to pay attention to everything. I love what I do, Money is great but I can’t be your number one motivator in this business, because if it is, honestly you will close up. It’s so competitive out there. You have to love people and you have to be out going and connect with people. Your food has to be great, but you are in hospitality so you have to be hospitable and make your customers feel comfortable.

McCain: How do you come up with ideas for the dishes in your cafe? And how do you test them?

Freddy:I research online and trying to see new ideas then add my own signature to it. I never copy them. You always tweak it, don’t reinvent the wheel, just add my own point of difference. Update menu every two to three months. Specials I change on a weekly basis to keep it fresh for cutomers. We run combo deals for customers during quitter months such as winter. Chicken wrap with fries or muffin & coffee combo. McCain is quality, that’s your point of difference.
Build you’re business on what you believe is the best product.