Customer Story: Ritual Coffee Traders, Northbridge
Northbridge is known for its friendly, community spirit, and Ritual Coffee Traders is the absolute embodiment of the neighbourhood’s reputation. In the heart of the shopping village on Sailors Bay Road, we caught up with owner Nathan Laylim about his journey as a cafe owner, and how he’s built a loyal customer base with his approach to customer service and quality.
Nathan originally worked at Ritual as an employee, but wanted to get into his own business as he was sick of working for someone else and really enjoyed the 1:1 relationships he was able to build with customers coming into the cafe.
It took a bit of time to find just the right spot, chopping and changing jobs at different cafes until he found the one. “I came across Ritual and I just liked the vibe and how they treated their staff.”
Eventually the owners wanted to move back to New Zealand and Nathan took the leap and bought the cafe. “I’m pretty lucky because it’s the one cafe I really enjoyed working in out of all the different places I tried.”
Nathan always wanted to own his own cafe, and has leapt at the chance to bring his own personal twist, and values, to running Ritual. For Nathan, those values are about quality, and building really good relationships with his customers. “It’s small but everything we do, we do to the best of our ability. If we couldn’t do something 100%, then we wouldn’t do it and that’s the thing I like about it.”
What this means for Ritual, is that because there isn’t a full kitchen, they don’t try to have a full menu as it wouldn’t be the best experience for customers. “We’re not going to try and be a big cafe and do everything, but what we do provide is the best quality.”
Ritual serves a range of carefully selected sandwiches, salads, cakes, bacon and egg rolls and diet specific options, like paleo banana bread and gluten free muffins. “I know that what I’m giving the customer is going to be good quality, something that I myself would want. It’s made fresh, it’s going to taste really good.”
One of the most fun parts of taking over the cafe, was reviewing all of their suppliers to choose the very best products. “We order from Luxe because they’ve got the best bread, and the best croissants and the best banana bread. We’ve changed different suppliers before - that’s half the fun when you’ve got a business is trying to search for the best quality product.”
This hunt for quality has meant each item is carefully chosen and the decision is driven entirely by the product - there’s no ordering something just because it’s easy at Ritual! “We’ve got many local suppliers and we like to choose the best supplier for each product. We like to outsource to the number one company. Everyone likes everything that we do because we go to the effort of sourcing the best, we don’t just settle.”
Nathan says the most popular order at Ritual is a plain croissant. “Everyone just loves them. Other croissants we tried were smaller, not very consistent, it felt like the bakery was just rushing them out the door, some were even undercooked. Luxe croissants are just so good and flakey. They leave a mess everywhere when someone eats them, but that’s the sign of a good croissant! It’s just a Luxe thing, no one else has got that.” Nathan also orders the Luxe soy and linseed sourdough, the light rye for sandwiches and milk buns for their bacon and egg rolls. “It’s really nice bread. We’re trying to do some more sandwiches and experiment with more items as we come into winter.”
On the sweet side, Nathan loves rotating the cake and pastry offerings to give people different treats to try. “We just started to order the almond croissants because I’m a big fan myself! They’re so good!”
One of the most important factors for Nathan is the 3pm cutoff for next day delivery, as they quite often sell out after the lunch rush, which makes it difficult to get orders in for early cutoffs. “A 12pm cutoff is too hard. And being able to just message! It’s a lot of peace of mind knowing that if there’s an issue someone will reply and something will be on its way within an hour.”
As for the customers that come in? Nathan has a steady customer base of regulars, and loves that people have more time to talk and interact in Northbridge. “When you’re in the city everyone’s in a rush and want their coffee and that’s it. Here you know everyone’s name and you say hi and have a little chat. We know what’s going on with their lives. That’s what makes it everyone’s little Ritual when they come in here!”
That can also prove to be quite challenging as a business owner. Nathan’s #1 challenge is his own work life balance. “Having a seven day business and trying to have two days off is really hard. It’s about finding the right balance and trying to let go a little bit. It comes down to finding the right workers. It’s really hard to find the right people that interact with customers like you do, on a personal level.” Building a great team around him has meant that he’s able to take time off and stress less about what goes on when he isn’t around.
“People come in for that special little touch we bring!”