The Need for Coffee‘s Naveed and I recently met for brunch at Lowe. And somewhere between the sweetcorn hotcakes and the panna cotta we debated if either of us would one day open a coffeeshop. After I asked the hostess for more of the smoked maple syrup, I concluded the discussion (or so I thought) with a firm “no”.
I just don’t think I have it in me. Naveed, a text book glass-half-full kind of guy, started making his case for why opening a coffeeshop may be my calling.
As I drove home (3 hours later), I wondered about two things. How does one smoke maple syrup? And what does it take to run a successful coffeeshop?
I reached out to Necip Camcigil, founder of one of Dubai’s most popular establishments, One Life Kitchen & Cafe. They’ve been around for 6 years and were recently awarded the Restaurant Team of the Year – Casual Dining award by Caterer.
What made you want to do open a coffeeshop?
I wanted to open a coffee shop because I was tired of spending money at coffeeshops. But I also felt like there was a lot of cool stuff that could be created in this city, whether from abroad or things that I’d seen.
How are you involved in One Life’s operations?
I’m pretty involved in the food side of things, which I think is the most important side of it. Making sure that it’s always high quality, I do that a lot by tasting different food & coffee items on the menu regularly.
I also try to be involved in all the other things as well as I think that it’s quite important to be hands-on and to define, within your team, what a high standard looks & tastes like.
Obviously, Dubai has a love of coffee, especially specialty coffee which I think is quite unique if you consider the number of people who prefer specialty coffee over commercial coffee. And so, it’s important
that you would maintain a high standard of it, whether that’s the bean itself, the roasting of it, which we do in-house, or the barista’s ability to talk & craft the coffee. We do serve specialty coffee, but we’re not a specialty coffee shop per se, because we’re also a restaurant & bar but we still have to maintain a high standard of coffee.
Last year One Life was awarded Casual Dining Team of the Year by Caterer – what’s the key to
developing a good team?
I think this purely depends on leading by example. Showing people how you want them to behave with each other as well as with customers is the number one way that you can get them to emulate that same behaviour.
What are the important qualities a restaurant owner should have?
It can be quite daunting to talk to people you’ve never met before. I found in my case that it’s an important skill to have; to be able to strike up a conversation with your customers, get to know them, get close to them. Because often your customers will be the greatest source of great ideas & real feedback, and they keep you on-course in terms of making your offering stronger.
A lot of what a coffeeshop or restaurant owner has to do is to assess what adds value to their business versus what doesn’t. You have to be very good at understanding what’s good for the business & what isn’t.
Your brand is usually an extension of yourself, so when your brand gets criticised, you do take it personally. I’ve been doing this for 6 years and it still hurts me to read a negative review or a negative comment. I think it’s a superpower to take negativity & turn it into positivity, in this context. The only way you can really do that is to separate things that are hurtful and look if there’s real value in the negativity, something that might be correct, or you may not have considered. A change that may be good for your business to make, and then to make it accordingly. I also think it’s important not to discount the positive feedback that you get. People do have a tendency to focus on the negative but that’s not the best way to do it.
Where would you like to see One Life in 5 years?
The key things that I want to see for One Life in the next 5 years is that we’re recognised as a name that does great food, great coffee, great service & great experiences. And people know that they won’t leave disappointed, because we won’t let them leave disappointed.
How do you achieve this goal?
You have to be extremely militant about avoiding distractions. Define what your goals are as a business, and only focus on doing things that take you in the direction of your goals, and not doing things that distract you from that.
About One Life
One Life is a café, restaurant, coffee roaster, catering company, work space and host to a number of community events. Caterer noted the reasons they won the award. It’s the way they operate. For example, they’ve given free filtered water to all dine-in guests for five years, saving an estimated 200,000 bottles of water. Ingredients are local to limit the carbon footprint of their transport. Food waste is re-used where possible. And discounted after 3pm each day and anything left is distributed to D3 staff.
You can follow One Life on instagram here. And visit them at: D3, Ground Floor, Building 5, Dubai Design District, JVC, Hive, Jumeirah Village Circle.
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