3 August 2018 Issue 24: Aug/Sep 2018

Startup Diary: 27.Elliotts gets ready for opening day

Our diarist Jess Elliott Dennison talks through the many highs and lows of getting ready for the opening day of her cafe 27.Elliot’s in Edinburgh.

Opening day nerves

As I write, we’re just a few days away from opening. The planning, painting and all-round cafe preparation is almost done. At 8am on a Tuesday morning I will be opening the doors of 27.Elliott’s to the paying public for the first time, not quite knowing how I got here but, all the same, being here. The endless 5am starts and late, late finishes have been brutal but we have needed every last hour. 

Recently, my attention has been focused on my newly assembled team who will work as baristas-cum-kitchen assistants. Fortunately, I had no shortage of applicants and people popping their heads round the door to enquire for jobs. In the end, CVs actually meant very little, and it was all about personality during the interview (which, in turn, was more like a chat on the bench outside in the beautiful May sunshine). 

I shortly had my team of five – which briefly dropped to a team of three (this is the hospitality industry after all) – before settling at five again. 

I really want to do away with traditional, rigid catering roles and make sure my team feel valued and have a sense of ownership. I’ve set about training everyone on the coffee machine and in the kitchen. We’ve been cooking together, holding tasting sessions and they’ve even mucked in with some DIY and cleaning. This has helped everyone bond really quickly and it’s helped me realise just how important the right team will be to the success of 27.Elliott’s. 

Finishing touches

The fit out is pretty much finished; our toilet flushes, our coffee machine hisses, the super-powered dishwasher rumbles. I have to give a shoutout to the brilliant tradespeople and creatives who have worked with me over the last couple of months: our Sydney-based designers who are working to our UK schedule; a wonderful florist from the Scottish Borders; a talented sign writer; and, of course, the lovely French plumber and ukulele-playing electrician. They have become more like friends; testing our coffee, telling me about their families and debating table layouts. 

Not everything goes to plan, though. Edinburgh’s tenement buildings – as old and wizened as they are – present challenges. In our case, weak water pressure and fragile sash-case window frames. Getting used to new kitchen equipment also takes time; a box of over-baked rye cookies is proof of this, although they did all get eaten in the end. 

Surprisingly, we have managed to stick close to our budget of £35,000, although unexpected costs have come up. Things like extra cleaning products, piping for the plumber, a rail to hang the counter curtain on, CCTV; all boring little bits which add up quickly.

There have been several overwhelming moments, especially in the early hours when I’ve been kept awake by late evening coffee machine testing. I’m so thankful to all the amazing people who keep me going and keep me smiling.

Just now the sweetest young woman came in to say she’s been watching our progress every time she passes and can’t wait to finally come in and try us out. I’m looking forward to welcoming her in.