A popular cafe is under scrutiny from franchise bosses - and the public - after it appeared to sell cake bought from the supermarket next door at a mark-up of almost 400 per cent.
A video posted to the You Know You’re in West Auckland When … Facebook page on Friday night showed a worker at The Coffee Club LynnMall taking what appeared to be a $7.30 cake from Countdown out of its packaging and onto a tray.
The cake, divided into five portions, was then put into the food cabinet with a display price the Herald later confirmed was $7.20 a slice.
“Seven fifty [sic]a slice for a f***** $6 [sic] cake”, said the man filming the scene, which also showed supermarket-bought muffins being put on another tray.
When the Herald visited on Friday, a worker confirmed the carrot cake and muffins were bought at the Countdown supermarket opposite the cafe.
“Most of the things here are bought, we hardly make anything.”
Both items were part of a school holiday special to help promote the business, the woman said.
“What we’re doing is when the kids are on holiday, we’re trying to promote the business. So, when the parents buy a coffee they get a free muffin.”
When asked why there was a price tag on the carrot cake, the woman said: “Oh that shouldn’t be there”.
Asked if they were actually selling the cake, she said: “I mean, legally we don’t.
“Like I said because of the school holidays and things like that, that’s what we are trying to do at the moment. Business is very quiet at the moment.”
The franchisee was breaking the rules, and had been spoken to, The Coffee Club NZ director and marketing manager Andy Lucas told the Herald this morning.
“We’ve had a really good chat to them about why this is not allowed. Obviously our customers are paying a reasonable price, they need to get the same level of quality.
“This is not standard practice at all … we have approved products that we let our franchisees buy, and that’s definitely not one of them - anything from Countdown, for example, they’re not approved products.”
The Coffee Club was known for its all-day breakfast and lunch, meals which were made from scratch with fresh ingredients, and most stores also made their own muffins and scones, Lucas said.
Cakes across the country’s 63 franchises were usually supplied by a contractor.
“It’s a New Zealand company, they’re made in New Zealand using brands like Cadbury, using cream from Fonterra. So they’re really good, high-quality products.”
The Coffee Club hasn’t been running a school holiday promotion, although franchisees could do their own promotions - but they still should be selling approved products, he said.
“We have a high standard in terms of the sweets, cakes, slices and muffins, and obviously this is a one-off. For whatever reason the franchisee has done this, and I’m not entirely sure why. We’re still investigating.”
In 18 years since he started The Coffee Club in New Zealand this was the first incident of its kind, and he was confident regular customers would’ve noticed if the practice was widespread.
“I can’t comment any further on what the future is for [The Coffee Club LynnMall]. But, we’ve made it very clear to them that they can’t do that.
“We have a really rigorous compliance programme within our business, like a lot of things in life, it’s not perfect. And unless our team are there all day, every day watching, you’re not always going to get it right.”
Cherie Howie is an Auckland-based reporter who joined the Herald in 2011. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years.