Upon visiting a selection of Hull’s local independent cafe’s which serve home made soup, we also asked them a few questions about their lovely businesses, how they ended up running their own cafe’s, and what kind of produce they tend to opt for in their menus.
Q: So, you’ve taken over the business from the previous owners; do you find that it was the atmosphere that drew you to buy the café?
S: We didn’t see it as a working environment – for me it was the feeling when we walked in, even without anybody here; it was like when you’re buying a house and you know when it’s the one. It sort of gave me that feeling, and it just felt right.
A: It’s a good location too – it’s the first place you can go to from Cottingham road that sells proper food other than Tesco’s, and it’s quite close to the university.
Q: Did you know you wanted to open a café, or was it a case of just seeing the place and thinking this might be what we want to do?
A: We had been looking for a couple of years and saved up a lot of money so we just kept looking.
S: And this one came along. For me I’m a self-taught baker really and since having the children it has evolved, and then every time something was going on at work I would always be the one who took in the cakes and the brownies, and I was being asked to make cakes for people’s birthdays and that kind of thing. I just love it, and we wanted to do something together.
Q: So do you bake a lot with your children?
S: I used to when they were younger, when they wanted to spend time with their mum!
A: We don’t see them now!
Q: With your menu have you got any favourite item you like to make the most for people?
S: For me it’s the naughty stuff – the cakes and the brownie! There’s nothing I dislike preparing and I like all the dishes that are already there.
A: When the brownies are presented on their dishes with the strawberry – the colours and the presentation are really vibrant; the dessert just really catches your eye. If you look on our Instagram there’s quite a few good posts which show the textures and colours looking really good.
S: I do love doing the soups too, because of the colour – when you have all of the vegetables in the pan the colour looks really vibrant. That’s something I do everyday.
Q: Is there one particular item that you find sells out faster than other things, or something people tend to always come back to?
S: It’s just so unpredictable.
A: Avocado is an absolute nightmare – everyone wants avocados.
S: It’s either all or nothing. Some days we won’t sell out on avocados for a few days and on other days we sell around 12 or 15 avocado dishes in one day!
A: We tend to sell a lot of avocado dishes which suggests our clientele is away from a greasy spoon with egg and chips; we have a more refined customer base in a nice, clean place where people can come to just have a chat and eat nice food; nobody ever asks for chips.
S: We have regular customers and we’ve kept the customer base really.
A: Our customer base tends to be around over 40/45.
Q: Do you get many university students visiting?
A: Yes, we’ve started hammering the 10% student discount advert. We reckon we have about 20-25% of student customers. We’ve gone around some local businesses like Fruitopia where if they give us 10% off, we give them 10% off; such as the local barber – he comes here now instead of the costa in Tesco as he gets 10% off.
S: What we find with the students is the ones that did come along on fresher’s week or the week before sort of kept coming back a couple of times a week. They know what they’re getting and they’re happy with it.
A: A girl said to me the other day who comes in quite a lot “Ooh I love this coffee shop”, because she’s always sat at the back and left alone to do her work, it’s really nice and quiet and there’s free LightStream so you can use your laptop with fast internet. If you sit in here for a meeting nobody will really bother you, whereas in some coffee shops it can be a bit of a racket and too busy. Here you can order your coffee at the till and we bring it to your table.
S: People tend to come and meet weekly whilst they sit and have lunch with a coffee. A lady came in last week to ask if she could come here to start a knitting club. It’s quite community based which is nice.
A: Other people come to sit and play chess. It’s nice to have older people coming to meet and talk, they tend to come quite a lot.
Q: I guess it makes a friendlier atmosphere too, and with that friendlier atmosphere it draws even more people in.
A: A lot of people know each other now too.
S: We get a lot of people in from the community church too, which is nice.
Q: You mentioned you get a lot of your fruit and vegetables locally from Fruitopia, do you get locally sourced fish and meat, and free-range eggs?
S: We don’t do have any other fish dishes other than tuna. Our meat is from our wholesaler and I’m not sure if our eggs are free range but they come from our supplier. We tend to buy a lot of eggs, usually about twice a week we buy fifteen dozen eggs.
Q: Do you tend to stick to using seasonal produce or is it usually the same kind of menu throughout the year?
S: We took over the café on the 1st of July in the height of summer – we had more Mediterranean vegetables whereas now we have more winter root vegetables, so yes. We’ve just recently started doing jacket potatoes and we have a jacket potato oven – we do a hot filling each day which is warm and filling for winter. We also do sweet potatoes in the jacket potato oven which cook lovely.
Q: Do you have any interest in sustainability, such as trying to tackle food waste?
S: We don’t have much left on people’s plates which is obviously a good sign! We don’t really have a food waste bin because we don’t often need it.
A: It’s only really the side salad that doesn’t get eaten.
S: If we had a product that needed using up today the staff would have it for their lunch rather it being thrown a way, and it also saves them from having to buy their lunch. Nothing really goes in the bin, we’re lucky.
A: We had one jacket potato left last week and I gave it to my dog! We always check what’s left over and rotate things based on what we need.
Q: Do you offer any plant-based milk?
S: We do soya and almond milk at no extra charge. We may look at oat milk as people are starting to ask for it, it’s a possibility if there is a bigger demand.
Q: Have you heard of Talking Tables? It originated from the council where public spaces can put up a sign saying ‘Talking Tables’ which indicates that anybody sat at that table would be open to chatting to somebody new. The café can choose what days and times the sign goes up and it’s to help encourage people to talk more.
S: My friend’s daughter was in a video for Chatty Hull for the City of Culture where she sat on a bench and shared a cake with somebody.
Q: Would you be open to having something like that here?
S: Yes, I’d be open to that – especially in an afternoon when we’re quieter.
Visit Ponti cafe at 237 Newland Ave, Hull HU5 2EJ.