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Cape Town business owners spill the (coffee) beans

by Kim Maxwell 31 May 2024
Aninke van Antwerpen

Three women entrepreneurs with destination eateries discuss their Cape Town CBD business journeys.

BUTTER

“People really love our all-day breakfasts,” says Aninke van Antwerpen, co-owner of Butter All-day Breakfast & Bistro Bar. “After Covid, the breakfast thing seemed to explode. Since we opened three years ago, there has not been a dead weekend.” 

The breakfast and lunch menu is based heavily on butter with the reasoning that the “majority of people, if they’re not vegan, love butter ‘cos it does make everything better”. Fair point.

Before opening in May 2021, Van Antwerpen worked for Royal Caribbean Group in sales. “I spent more years out of the country than in. But I always had this thing that I wanted to open a coffee shop in Cape Town,” she says. “In July 2019, I came back and partnered with my sister Karien. She’s a chartered accountant by day, and a hands-off investor in Butter.” 

Butter has a parklet, an outside sidewalk extension very popular with regulars. Inside, slick tables and chairs in lighter wood give a Scandi look, against a pale-yellow floor. 

“I wanted something fun, not to be taken too seriously. The duck on the wall is that quirk, as it’s lying in a ‘lake of butter’.” Comfy, with a sense of nostalgia for something familiar.

“My family will tell you I’m a messy cook, but I know what I like and what I want. My sister said in the first six months everybody wants to try the new place. But after that, it’s consistency that will keep them coming back. So, I’ve been hammering at quality control.”

“Being involved is important, once you step away it’s also when the quality drops,” explains Van Antwerpen. “So, I’m very proud of them as my team has stepped up.” A second, bigger Butter is opening in Sea Point Main Road in June. 

When asked about the secret to good local cafés, she doesn’t hesitate: “Our warmth and hospitality as South Africans sets us apart.” This is also a pooch-friendly place.

Butter must-haves: The Bun with Everything (bacon, egg, cheese, jalapeño, hash brown and homemade tomato jam on a brioche bun) inspired by a New York café. “We do flapjacks with butter and maple syrup (add extra bacon or buttermilk chicken). Or the Buttermilk Blues: blueberry coulis and crème fraiche. Our benedict is different because it has a more buttery hollandaise,” says Van Antwerpen. “And to our surprise, the breakfast my sister makes at home is one of our bestsellers: the Hashbrown Stack.” There’s also fresh orange juice, or breakfast cocktails include Bloody Mary or Mimosa. Risottos, soups and salads appeal later in the day. 

An intriguing Butter fact: “A customer David has ordered the Bun with Everything and an iced coffee more than 80 times on Uber Eats, and more than 20 times inside Butter. He’s tried to make it at home but says he can’t get it quite the same.” 

Butter All-day Breakfast & Bistro Bar, 70 Loop Street, Cape Town. Mon to Fri 08h00 to 15h00, Sat 09h00 to 15h00, Sun 09h30 to 14h00. Tel 071 336 8270, butterallday.com

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Megan Kritzinger
Megan Kritzinger, founder of Stellski Café & Coffee.

STELLSKI CAFÉ & COFFEE

For Megan Kritzinger, founder of Stellski Café & Coffee in Bree Street, coffee shops represent happiness, and a trip down memory lane to her childhood. Stellski only serves African-origin coffee, packaged as their exclusive Salisbury Street blend.

The first Stellski Café was born in 2019 as a small hole-in-the-wall coffee bar on 59 Loop Street. “Stellski was inspired by my high-energy Staffy dog, Stella (she’s about enthusiasm, joy and high-energy ‘get up and go’),” says Kritzinger.

“For two years we were about quality coffee and toasties – and we did a lot of delivery to offices – walking the CBD streets or on my scooter, come rain or shine. I made a lot of mistakes and learnt so much with this first coffee bar. It was a lot of fun.” 

Stellski must-haves: Quality coffee, baked banana bread and “our famous carrot cake” aside, Stellski foodie favourites are the Rise and Shine Toastie, Shakshuka, homemade soups and the Chicken, Mushroom and Leek Pie.

Now located inside a cosy enclosed courtyard inside Neighbourgood on Bree co-working space, Stellski staff are used to diverse requests from regulars – honey in espresso, quadruple-shot dirty chai, avo toast with scrambled eggs. But Kritzinger once had to call time-out at the café when load shedding hit the neighbourhood and a customer living nearby arrived with keypad, extra-large computer screen, mousepad, and slippers … to work for the day.

“I have made many mistakes but have no regrets. I have learnt through experience (eina!), and every mistake has taught me something, so that I am better the next time round.

“I surround myself with people who have great attitudes and are the best at what they do. Hard work and hustle got us through the challenging times. Now as we grow and expand, we are focusing on systems and training for the team.” 

Kritzinger’s vibrant, can-do personality is evident in her cafés (there is another Stellski in Woodstock). What is her vision of a great South African café experience: “There is energy! Music is playing, customers are chatting, the coffee machine doesn’t stop. Waitresses, baristas, and chefs are prepared and working together, engaging with customers. Flowers, dogs, babies, fashion students, moms and the creatives – it is diverse, busy, light and joyful.” 

Stellski Café & Coffee,129 Bree Street, Cape Town. Mon to Fri 07h30 to 17h00, Saturday 08h30 to 17h00. Tel 066-2755-115, stellskicoffee.com

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Debbie Wynne
Debbie Wynne, owner of Bree St stalwart, Café Frank.

CAFÉ FRANK

Café Frank owner Debbie Wynne says her interest in cooking developed later in life, while she was working on sail boats in the Med and Caribbean. “I completed a chef course in London and worked on the boats for another few years while completing my BComm degree. My plan was always to start a business.” 

On returning to Cape Town, she found “a gap in the market for restaurants offering fresh, seasonal food in a casual street café environment”. As a fan of healthier Mediterranean cooking, she opened a Bree Street hatch in 2009, offering customers free-range rotisserie chicken, homemade mayonnaise and a small selection of salads that changed daily. 

“Called Rotisserie 360 in Bree Street, I was given an opportunity to test my concept with only 30 m² and a flexible lease. It was me and one staff member, so I grew my business based on what people wanted,” Wynne explains.

“Customers enjoyed the food – prepared fresh each morning and set out harvest-table style – and the convenience.” Creating a speedy option for a wholesome lunch. “Slow Food, Fast was born.”

In 2012, Wynne expanded the hatch to add an inside seating area, including quiche, pies, salads, warm sides, soups, and specials. 

The name changed to Café Frank. Its menu, written up on the blackboard, still changes daily. “It was quite a manageable risk as I started so small, and I got to create a product that was what my customers told me they wanted.”

Menu must-haves: The “harvest table” lunch plate, the selection changes daily. The “soft” breakfast scrambled eggs that customers return for. The miniature milk tarts, of course. In addition, freshly squeezed juices, granola and Bircher muesli, banana bread, brownies and carrot cake, made inhouse.

Asked if she has any regrets, Wynne lists “not listening to my gut when I decided to open a second café in Century City”. It wasn’t the right setup. “It made me realise there are other ways of growing a business without having multiple stores,” she says. 
 
Positively, it led to growing the inhouse delivery and catering side by “focusing on just our Bree Street location”, while using the same menu and infrastructure to reach a wider customer base. “Currently our inhouse delivery business is about 30% of turnover; we have online ordering and despatch the orders on ebikes, making this a seamless and quick option to get lunch to your inner-city office.”

Office catering clients can also enjoy a harvest table at work, for up to 40 people. Wynne reduces single-use packaging with “returnable glass containers for our lunchboxes, breakfasts and soups, and custom-made wooden trays with lids for our catering business”, or compostable options.

And the appeal of Bree Street’s oldest café, aside from food? “People come back for our manager, Channé. Customers love her. Her customer service is unbelievable,” says Wynne: “It’s a bit of a community here. Small businesses, a lot of legal, architects and film industry, digital nomads. A nice mix, and people come in every day, often with their dogs. It’s part of their day.” 

Café Frank, 160 Bree Street, Cape Town. Mon to Fri 07h00 to 15h00, Cape Town. Tel 062 667 4633 or 021 423 0360, cafefrank.com

IMAGES: Kim Maxwell

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