The difficulties of running a local café

Monsieur Poisson and I have been frequenting a local café by the name of Houlihans for about 9 months now and have observed its changing tides. It’s in a high traffic area near two entranceways to a major shopping centre, close to buses and a train station, and so is in an easily accessible location. But for whatever reason, it has had to shrink its menu and make major changes to its opening times in the short-ish time following its revamp from its previous owners under the same name.

It really affirms the idea that there are many hurdles to running a small eatery, despite it being the dream of many food-lovers, and that a lot of dedication is required. Despite there being good food on a reasonably-priced menu, current owner and barista Anthony has had to give up notions of introducing a tapas and cocktail menu for evenings and, in more recent times, opening during the evenings altogether. It turns out that the time, effort and outlay of costs for staff and operating are simply disproportionate to the returns.

And this is despite serving juices and soft-drinks which are 30-50% larger than most cafés yet charging similar prices, as well as tasty fare such as the Wagyu burger below. It’s around $16 from memory and the sizeable damper roll is packed with a thick, juicy patty along with plenty of other fresh fillings and comes with a choice of shoestring fries or salad.

For the same price there’s also a grilled chicken or Moroccan lamb burger (pictured below) on offer. Served on the same damper roll, the lamb burger is less meaty than the Wagyu but is more saucy with the inclusions of babaganouj and yoghurt with again a choice of salad or fries on the side.

The food servings are generous and the place is often full of people at weekends enjoying brunch or lunch, but I’m not around to see what business is like on weekdays. Anthony’s talking of adding scones and cakes to the menu which, of course, I’m most looking forward to but whether it catches on with the local crowds is another matter.

So if there’s a small local eatery that you like, make sure you support it by eating there and telling people that you know about it! And, if you happen to be in Chatswood, drop in to say hi to Anthony – he makes a mean coffee and is the only café that serves Campos in the immediate area.

Shop 5, 376 Victoria Ave (entrance on Anderson St), Chatswood NSW
Tel: (02) 9415 3300

Opening Hours:  Mon-Fri  7:30am-4pm
                        Sat  8am-4am
Sun  8am-3:30pm

Houlihans on Urbanspoon

happy eating!


  1. That burger looks great, and it's a good idea to support your local favourite cafe.

  2. All food bloggers probably have a local cafe/eatery they go to but never blog about... Good on you for supporting yours! The burger certainly look like a decent size!

  3. I've walked past Houlihans soooooo many times and it's always been packed but for some reason I've never gone in to actually try it! Must give it a go next time I'm in Chatswood!

  4. support!! will remember to pop by next time we 're in chatty =)

  5. I've found an AWESOME artisan sourdough bakery in Parramatta and I'm terrified it's going to close down due to lack of business...they seem to be doing great guns now, I just hope it keeps up as it's a great great place!

  6. I admire anyone who runs their own food business. It's such a tough industry. The burgers look great here, and ooh scones, surely you can never get enough of those!

  7. It's little wonder that 90% of businesses fail in their first year! We've had a great place open near us and we had such high hopes for it. Unfortunately, unless they get their act together, they're doomed to fail too!

  8. I'm sure they appreciate your support and blogging. It's certainly a tough time for small businesses.

  9. Good on you for supporting them and telling everyone about them. Having your own small business is definately a tough gig, I'm hoping that when it comes to my time I'll get a base of loyal customers like you =)

  10. I like local haunts and it’s good to stray away from the more popular places to avoid lengthy queues! And in many instances, they’re actually much better. Don’t fear that café that’s a little empty people!

  11. Hey Joey, not only, their fries with aioli are pretty good too.

    Hey April, I'd really hate for them to close down, as their operating hours are already reducing, because there's so much competition in the area =\

    Hey Jacq, the Houlihans name has been kicking about Chatswood for years but their coffee at the moment is the best around!

    Hey Grace, yah, support! =p

    Hey MissPiggy, that's my worry too! It took us forever to get Campos in the area and it's just a bonus that the food here is decent too - what will I do if it closes?!

    Hey Helen, I'm definitely looking forward to scones =D

    Hey Forager, I really do admire those who take the leap of faith to invest time, effort and money into what is quite a competitive industry.

    Hey Bel, I know, how hard must it be to distinguish yourself from other small businesses of the same nature...

    Hey Angie, haha, word of mouth really does wonders hopefully!

    Hey Adrian, must admit I'm guilty of the quieter-looking places when I'm in an unfamiliar suburb but it's true that you may uncover a gem in the process.

  12. I think running any small business can be hard, but I think the food industry is even harder. All you can do is show your support and hope others do too, specially when the food looks great.

  13. Good call - they can't all be glamourous, white clothed eateries. We need to support the little guys who keep us well fed most of the time rather than those who feed us once a year.

  14. Hey Sara, agree - whether it's food, a trade, retail - any type of small business needs the support of locals and to sing their praises further.

    Hey Tina, exactly! How often do we eat at a prestigious establishment? Or how often do we go back? The local joints for when we're feeling lazy are the ones which keep us fed =D

  15. I'm all for supporting you local cafes/restaurants (if they're good) but I agree, it's all too easy to take them for granted and then complain that there's nowhere good to eat locally! ^_^

  16. Yep, small food businesses are a very tough gig. My parents owned one when I was a teenager, and it was such hard work. Glad that you're supporting your local place :)


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