Urbanbar Design: Behind the Bar (Bear & Bean)
A little drive away from the madness of the Melbourne café scene, there’s a buzzing local achiever making its customers happy through its thoughtful casual dining offering. A hub for Geelong folk of all stripes, the family business serves great local produce in a welcoming environment: a formula that’s proved successful through creating a contemporary yet friendly vibe. Urbanbar sat Behind the Bar with owners Lauren and Trav (sister and brother).
What is it about Bear & Bean that has made it so successful?
From the beginning we set out to create a space that was inviting for business people, professionals and also catered for parents and kids. The biggest drawcard for our cafe is our nutritious menu. We cater for all dietary requirements including vegan, gluten free, FODMAP friendly, paleo and lactose free. We wanted to create a cafe that catered for everyone and made everyone feel welcome. Our style is casual dining – to the point that people feel so comfortable they often stay for hours at a time, enjoying the food, coffee, atmosphere and free Wi-Fi.
Kids are welcomed and enjoy our blackboard where they can play and express their artistic side while parents enjoy a quiet moment.
Having just opened up our outdoor courtyard in the last few weeks, it has already added another dimension to our cafe and is attracting those wanting to dine outside.
What do you like the most about working with your team?
We have had the same staff for two years now so we all know each other really well. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses and when the busy period hits, we all work as a collective to ensure our service is fast and friendly, at a high standard. The best part of our team is the ability to have fun and laugh with our customers and each other.
“At the end of the day, having fun at work and creating an environment where everyone is comfortable is one key to a successful team.”
How do you manage the pace of working in hospitality?
We use our down time to ensure we’re fully prepped and ready for our next rush. That way when the rush hits (usually from 12-2pm everyday) we are prepared and ready to meet it head on. We all have our role to play during the busy period. Communication between staff and keeping a calm level head is important, as it can get hectic at times. We understand that some of our lunch customers may only have a 30-minute break, so we focus on delivering their order in a timely manner.
What’s been your favourite Bear & Bean experience so far?
The morning we opened two years ago when our first customer walked in was pretty special. I remember three of us serving him his coffee – all smiles and keen to impress. We were all nervous and excited. That particular customer probably walked away thinking we were all a bit over the top, but we were just so excited to see the dream become a reality.
The other exciting moment was being nominated and then winning the Golden Plate Award for “Geelong / Otway People’s Choice Award” in our first 12 months. Up against some very good cafes and restaurants in Geelong, we were surprised and honoured to take home this award voted by the general public.
What do you try to achieve through presentation, uniforms and design through the café?
We want our cafe design to say “casual but professional - fun and funky” . Everything has been carefully planned and designed to create the atmosphere we are after. From the thousands of drawings on our ceiling, to the 10 ft. Wooden Tiki in our courtyard, to the graffiti on our front door, the communal tables, to the Chesterfield couch. It all creates a space that seems to work and customers appreciate. Our staff doesn’t wear uniforms to keep our casual approach. We just ask that they dress appropriately, and wear an Urbanbar denim apron over the top.
“The aprons are what distinguish us from the customers, and although we are casual they bring the touch of professionalism we are after.”
The added bonus is they look great and of course serve a purpose.
What’s your perfect after-work drink?
Two years ago I would say there was no need for an after-work drink. But after only two years running the business I would say a wine!
There are days you want a wine after work, then there are days you need a wine after work. Luckily, we’re a fully licensed venue now, so we don’t even have to wait to get home!