BAWA café in Melbourne is the creation of Shri Bhagwandas, Chris Griffiths, and Kael and Matt Sahely. A little over six months old, not only are these guys a Xero customer, they’re conveniently located next to our offices in Hawthorn! We grabbed five minutes with Shri to learn the story behind the eatery.
Shri says he fell into hospitality, spending years with Dukes Coffee Roasters, and opening Story Coffee & Foodstore in Docklands with his partner a few years ago.
“Matt and Kale were customers of mine at Dukes in Windsor – they’d come in on their days off. And I’d do the same at of Pillar of Salt. Basically we got to know each other through going to each other’s cafés and all ended up ready to start something new at the same time.”
Around the time the group started thinking about the business, the site that’s now home to BAWA café came up.
“Do you know who Geoffrey Bawa was?” Shri asks. “He was a Sri Lankan architect and the driving force behind the style that is now known as ‘tropical modernism’.”
“Anyway, one of our crew had just come back from Sri Lanka, and he’d stayed at the Kandalama Hotel. Bawa hotels have this beautiful aesthetic where the outside world seems to be merge with the inside – this was the inspiration for the BAWA café design – and the name followed naturally.”
Shri says he loves running a café because of the fast pace and the countless interesting people he gets to meet.
“I love being on my feet and being able to move around – I find it hard to sit down and sit down in one place for too long. The cool thing about Melbourne is there are cafés everywhere you go that offer such an incredible range of options and experiences.”
Having a small business and creating a destination that people really want to go to has been a longtime dream fro Shri. After all, he believes being able to understand the customer and what they want is key.
“It’s also important to truly believe in what you do – it gives you the confidence you need to succeed. What’s more, it filters through to your staff and customers – and plays a huge role in sustaining the vibe of the café.”
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