Greg Cornes loves hospitality and talks about how his bagel business is expanding staff numbers but how changes to immigration rules have made it harder to find cafe staff.

What does your business do?

Goodness Gracious is a cafe and bagelry which opened in 2014. We're a compact-size cafe with a bagel-centric menu. I like to think of it as Antipodean cafe fare that's been baglerised. It really came about due in part to the very small size of the kitchen and then the demographic that we were to serve in our first store.

Due to the really compact nature of the site, the bagel orientated menu lends itself to something that is easily made in a small kitchen.

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Why did you start it?

I've worked my whole adult life in hospitality so it was very early on. Once I left school I started a business degree and while I was doing that I was working in bars, restaurants and cafes and it was through that experience I fell in love with the industry.

With a passion for the industry and business combined, I could see myself doing something of that nature in the future.

It was through life and work experience over the next 10 or 15 years that kind of narrowed it down to a cafe and then it was when I was looking for a site that the whole idea developed.

I was looking at areas that had little competition and then was looking for sites that were fairly small, really to mitigate any risks.

A smaller place is obviously less rent and less staff, and as much as I was confident in my ability to do this, there was a little bit who me who thought worst case scenario at least I could work with myself up front and a chef out back and probably have a cafe and a reasonable income.

How do you stand out in a crowded hospitality market?

With quality and consistency, that's what a hospitality business should always have. Since inception we've been able to do that really well and all the core consistencies in regards to service and quality coffee.

Run me through your timeline of store openings?

We opened the first one in Eden Terrace in February 2014, Parnell in June 2017 and we are opening the Smales Farm one later this month. The new store is 36 sq m, they are all fairly small. I spend 40 to 60 hours still on the shop floor.

The compact nature of the business fosters great relationships with staff and customers, and has given me the ability to manage in a satellite-type situation.

Greg Cornes, Goodness Gracious founder, in his Parnell store. Photo / Supplied
Greg Cornes, Goodness Gracious founder, in his Parnell store. Photo / Supplied

Is Goodness Gracious in expansion mode?

I wouldn't say no to opening more stores but am conscious of not diluting the brand and keeping its uniqueness intact. You have to be conscious of growing too fast and spreading yourself too thin. I like hospitality in general so wouldn't rule out doing a restaurant or something of a different nature in the future.

What's the biggest challenge you face running a hospitality business?

Staffing. It's harder now with immigration rules changes; it's been a hindrance. With the dilution of the market in general, with a lot of new cafes and restaurants opening, the pool is small, coupled with immigration changes is hard.

I think it is going to remain hard. The cost of living in Auckland is hard in itself, lower income brackets are being pushed further out of the city and a lot of the positions within hospitality places are in that lower income bracket.

What's the hardest part of daily operations?

Keeping staff engaged and happy. I would call that the biggest thing - if you get it right then that flows through to customers having a good vibe when they come in, which is half the experience. We have a team of 15 staff currently, soon to be 20.

What advice do you give to others thinking of starting their own business?

Be patient, work hard and try to take that and all of your experiences to better yourself personally and professionally.