A Caravan in a Cafe! (C) 2011 Sharon Greenaway.
Where would you never expect to find a caravan? What’s that I hear you say, inside a cafe? Well think again, ‘cos T’Hooft cafe in Bendigo has a full sized circa 1960’s caravan inside the front door. Coffee and drinks are prepared and served here by the friendly staff.
Ryan Lynch, who co-owns the cafe with wife Kim, purchased the caravan off EBay.
He got the idea after chatting with a customer who had set up a coffee machine in a caravan in a warehouse in Melbourne.
“I just sort of thought what a cool idea,” said Ryan. “I had a few things I needed to sort out…with needing to build a bar, it [the caravan] ticked a lot of boxes…it solved a lot of problems [here] being an old building [for example things such as], where the sewerage points were.
“We didn’t have to close, [we] rolled it in overnight; we traded on the Wednesday without the Reno. done and then Thursday morning we opened with a caravan in the shop.”
For six weeks prior to the caravan being installed at T’Hooft, Ryan had worked on renovating the interior to ensure it would be ready for the shop.
Last November the caravan was winched in on an A frame after the front windows were taken out for the installation. The power and plumbing had already been set up prior to this happening so it was just a matter of positioning the caravan and getting the necessary tradespeople to connect it all. Ryan then stayed all night filling it up ready to go. The retro feel to the caravan suits the decor within the rest of the restaurant too, while from the outside there is no hint of what went on. The caravan has generated lots of interest with T’Hooft customers.
The reason for the Flemish name of the cafe, T’Hooft, (literally meaning The Head) Ryan explains is that it is his wife’s maiden name. Fittingly Belgian waffles and Belgian beer are served at T’Hooft as well as a wide range of cuisine that can be inspired by customers’ needs and suggestions, as well as sales. Most of the food offered on the menu can also be served gluten free for people who want/have to have this choice. Ryan’s sums this up well: “We’re making good food for everybody and it just happens to be gluten free.” (I can testify to the flourless chocolate cake that is offered here – it is one of the best I have ever tasted.)
The restaurant has been opened for five years, and before that the couple operated a catering company from their home in Quarry Hill. When the couple opened the shop (formerly a delicatessen) they thought it would make a good shop front for the catering business.
“I never thought [at the time] we’d be such a big cafe and breakfast scene,” explained Ryan. “The catering [business] I don’t drive that any more, I just take what comes…we just do the cafe it’s just so big, seven days [a week].
“We’re really proud, it’s a bit of a journey with what you think you are going to do, you just put it in the hands of your customers and let it take its ride and go along with it, it’s been so much fun and you end up being something completely different to what you ever dreamed you would be.”
Ryan said that when he refers to ‘we’, he regards his staff as being part of a family. When a new staff member comes on board he explains to them that what he wants “is the best way, not my way as my way is not always the best way, so if you bring something to me then let’s do it, I love change.”
Best and Worst part of running a restaurant…
“The best part [of running T’Hooft] is definitely the people, being exposed to so many different stories every day – both customers and staff,” Ryan answered. “You feel like when you are in a home and the kitchen is the central part of a house, so you feel like [that] when you are in the cafe you are in the central part of people’s lives.
“The worst? I love what I do; I suppose the only worst part is that I am always accountable. Even when I am not here I’m here.”
Advice for anyone else thinking of importing something large or unusual into their own cafe or business…
Ryan’s answer is simple: “Just do it. Don’t even ask; if you have a dream then you should do it! The way I approach everything in life is that there are only two options, you either make it or you don’t and not trying is you don’t make it.”
T’Hooft is located in Lyttleton Terrace Bendigo.
Opening Hours are Monday–Friday 8am–5.30pm, Saturday 8am–4pm, Sunday 9am–3pm
Magnificent Coffee roasting machine pride of place next to the caravan.