By The Captain - Jonathan Williams

The biggest issue you are faced with when running a business is, of course, your bottom line and your cash flow. The really difficult thing is sticking to your principles in the face of inadequate profit margins.

I started Café Môr in 2010 as I wanted to run my own business celebrating the best of local and sustainable seafood in an innovative way. These are still my guiding principles and when I am trying to find an answer or a solution to the countless questions and decisions I have to make every day, I rely on my principles to guide me.

And it is these principles which I hang onto when I go and see my accountant at the end of every year. Every year he shakes his head at me for my low Gross Profit Margin at Café Môr. He has actually on occasion shouted at me, especially when I was selling lobsters rolls at £10 a go.

I must sound like some beach bum trying to explain to him that: Yes, it is about profit, you need profit for the business to survive, but it is also about the very reason you started the business in the first place and that is something I believe you should never lose sight of.

I face these questions at Café Môr Freshwater West every year. For if I was purely a numbers man, then Café Môr would have to close because in truth the Café Môr numbers do not stack up. In essence, the overheads of running such a place while serving such expensive ingredients does not equal good profit. It means that my hourly rate is £5.25, a lot less than the “National Living Wage”. It means that margins are tight and the pressure for finding cheaper alternatives is constant.

But I am not an accountant and I see Café Môr in a different light, that is why I am a very unsuccessful money man. I see going to work at Freshwater West beach every day as a dream come true. I see that serving the best food I can source as a privilege.

Café Môr provides the best food we can possibly offer, sourced from the best producers in the area and that is it. But do not expect cheap, but expect value and the best.

Once you have decided to be the best, then decisions on your ingredients are easy:

Q. Do you want this cheap roll for £0.05 OR this amazing roll for £0.50?

A: I’ll have the best please.

  1. Do you want cheap factory hen eggs or free range Pembrokeshire eggs

A: I’ll have the best please.

  1. Do you want this frozen Canadian Lobster for £5 which has travelled halfway around the world or do you want Pembrokeshire Lobster which has been freshly steam cooked by Danny at Dash shellfish in Little Haven. Claw, knuckle and tail meat all separated out, but it’s twice the price?

A: I’ll have the best please.

(Danny Curtis supplies simply the best lobster and crab I have ever seen and tasted. In fact he is such a perfectionist he cannot trust anyone to pick the crab and lobster, he does it himself; he may not be the cheapest, but he is a perfectionist and these are the people I want to work with because we do the best).

See, it is easy:
I want to sell the best lobster roll in the world.
I want to sell the best burger in the world
I want to sell the best bacon butty in the world
We do the best and we are proud of it. We do not do the cheapest, we do the best. We do value for money. We do quality. Because I made that decision to stick to my principles we have won best street food in the UK in 2011, 2014 and become one of 80 must visit food trucks around the world.

Achieving the best is the easy part, the hardest is trying to translate this to every customer you have and to try and make a profit. 90% of people get it, 10% don’t. 10% ask why they’re paying £20 for a lobster roll and £6 for a burger. My answer is always the same: because we do the best. Of course, things happen day to day, things break, stock runs out etc. etc. The queue may be long, we may have run out of something, but our guiding principle is always to be the best. Our guiding principle is to cook the best local seafood and be the best at it in the world.

We should start asking why food is so cheap rather than why it is so expensive, start asking if we’re getting value for money here? Start asking who reared that animal, who made that burger, we should just start asking anything apart from why is this expensive, because in truth it is not. In truth there is no faster way than money to leave our local economy than by buying cheap, products made in distant lands, owned by multi nationals with investors who or demand maximum profits and healthy dividends. In truth buying cheap is actually more expensive for the planet.

So in truth, Café Môr as a business should be closed, in truth I am earning £5.25 an hour.

When you can come to Café Môr, expect the best not the cheapest (there are plenty of places doing that). We should stop asking & start understanding, start demanding quality, and enjoying the best food with the best view, because life is too short for anything less.

Hope to see you soon at the beach

With love

The unsuccessful money man