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The secret sauce for opening a second site - with Aaron Carson and Fran Mazza

For the second interview in our secret sauce series I caught up with Aaron Carson who, with Fran Mazza, have been upping the Auckland cafe scene for everyone's enjoyment.

I first meet Aaron at Hello Friends and Allies in Epsom, Auckland. The moment you walked into this cafe you were welcomed by an incredible arrangement of sweet and savoury treats from the talented hands and mind of Fran Mazza. These two as a team are an incredible force and have definitely helped raise the standard of cafe operation in Auckland.

Aaron Carson and Fran Mazza

Jonny: The past year has been an incredible journey for you both and a key question I have been asking other operators with multiple sites is when did you decide it was time to open your second shop?

Aaron: We went from only ever operating one store at a time to opening five in one year. We did spend a year planning that very busy year though. Once we had certain resources in place we realised it wasn't actually any more difficult to open multiple sites than it was to open one - other than budget of course.

Jonny: “What was a key learning from your first venue you opened that you were glad to know before going at it all again?

Aaron: “I would hate to have opened a second store without having gone through the full cycle/rollercoaster of making one store work over a full couple of years. It’s never fixed or finished. Stores need constant attention and often you need to make in-flight course corrections if things are not working. Even the seasonal nature of this business is something you have to really get a handle on. I guess what I am saying is that just because it’s going well in the first three months doesn’t mean things won’t change very quickly. If you are only able to react when the shit hits the fan, rather than having a contingency plan, then having two stores just means there's more shit on the fan and still no plan!

Jonny: You have a very strong following now and many who look up to you for your ability to continuously deliver an exceptionally high standard to the market. If you were to give a piece of advice to our audience who are looking to open their second venue, what would it be & why?

Aaron: If you are even thinking about a second site it’s a given that your offering is great. Either that or you have a magic unicorn that shits cash.

If your business is not profitable at one store, don’t expect that things will improve simply by increasing scale.

Get your cost of labour and cost of goods in line before expanding and understand the "worst case" for all aspects of the expanded business as the likelihood is that this will be the reality.

Once the magic unicorn has run off, even if your offer is popular and you seem to be busy, it has to be financially sustainable or it will be a popular failure.

Jonny: “Aaron, thank you so much for taking the time and thank you for providing such honest answers. I think we all wish we had a magical unicorn but your words are very true, it does take getting your labour and cost of goods under control before you should start considering that second site.”

Aaron: “I hope people out there find it useful.”

This concludes our second interview in our Secret Sauce to opening a second site. A current theme from our first two interviews has been knowing your numbers and making sure you have these under control before looking to open the second one. Next we will be hearing from James Meek from Sydney and his journey that has taken him from Cafe Manager to running his own two bustling Bondi based cafes in 4 years.