Café case study - The sweet smell of success!

Café case study - The sweet smell of success!

Heaven Scent, which now has three outlets in Scotland, began life back in 2003. Originally called Scott Hospitality, owner Andrew Scott bought a run down flower shop in Milnathort, near Kinross, with a vision of bringing city living to the countryside, and transformed it into a café.

The small shop quickly grew in popularity, and when the flat upstairs came up for sale in 2014, Andrew snapped it up. Just six months later he opened Heavens Above catering and events space, specialising in afternoon teas and private hire for private celebrations and meetings. Keen to make the experience as interesting as possible, he created a secret entrance with customers making their way through a Smeg fridge door, up an enchanting black and white staircase, then into one of three rooms.

Andrew then set about transforming the outside space into a secret garden, which opened in the summer of 2016 with 50 covers. It incorporated many of the quirky features that are now synonymous with Heaven Scent, attracting ramblers, dog walkers and cyclists, as well as those who enjoy a spot of al fresco eating and drinking.

This led to an invitation to tender for the operation of the café at the prestigious new Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries. Designed by high profile architect Richard Murphy and hotly anticipated, the brand new venue is one of Scotland’s most exciting cultural openings of the year. It is at the heart of Dunfermline’s new Heritage Quarter and is the focus of tourism promotion in the area, as well as local interest. At the start of May 2017, Andrew received the news that he had been awarded the contract to launch and operate the new 60-cover café. The downside was that the team had just 11 days to get everything in shape before the grand opening.

In addition to running Heaven Scent, Andrew is a business consultant, so he was well placed to put his experience into action. He also found that the popularity of the existing Heaven Scent Coffee Shops – there is one at Knockhill racing circuit in Fife, in addition to the Milnathort branch – proved useful when it came to recruitment. “We received almost 200 applications for the 15 new jobs we created, with many people applying because they had heard of the Heaven Scent brand and wanted to work for us,” says Andrew. “Our existing staff stepped up to the mark and we were able to get a great team together really quickly. Our training procedures, which were already pretty slick, certainly came to the fore. The fact we were fully staffed and operational by opening day demonstrates the strength of our culture and reputation, and is testament to the dedication and commitment of our staff.”

The new Heaven Scent mezzanine café is housed in a spectacular £12.4m building, which has already won the EAA Building of the Year award. The huge windows offer stunning views over the landscaped garden to Dunfermline Abbey and other historic buildings. On sunny days, customers can enjoy tea and cake on the balcony. It links with the world’s first Carnegie Library and houses a new museum, exhibition galleries, local history reading room and new children’s library.

The building may be a huge draw for customers, but it also comes with challenges of its own. The café space has no kitchen so everything is made off-site with the team having to estimate quantities of dishes to make in advance. This was incredibly difficult to predict initially, as the venue gained unexpected levels of interest almost immediately. All of Heaven Scent’s baking is homemade, but in the first week it sold out of scones by 11am and couldn’t keep up with the demand.

“Our suppliers pulled out all the stops to make sure we had everything we needed, and our staff, both new and old, worked fantastically well as a team to make sure it all came together,” says Andrew. “The building is stunning and it’s an honour to be part of it. While the venue is, of course, a huge attraction, many people have come primarily to see the new Heaven Scent, which is a tremendous accolade.

“It’s early days and we’re still working hard to make sure our new outlet reflects everything we’re about – a warm, welcoming atmosphere, quirky décor, friendly staff, great service, delicious food, and amazing coffee – to provide an enjoyable experience for all our customers. The reviews so far have been incredible and we couldn’t be more proud!”

The café’s opening hours are dictated by when the building itself is open, so it closes at 2pm on a Wednesday, traditionally in the middle of the lunchtime rush, and 7pm on Monday and Thursday evenings, which are much quieter times. It offers breakfasts, lunches, barista coffee and homemade cakes. In keeping with the ethos of using ethically and locally sourced products combined with creatively prepared dishes, the menu includes a mixture of classic soups and sandwiches, as well treats such as milkshakes and the aforementioned baking. Dishes include toasted flatbreads, a warm tart of the day and a range of breakfast options. The two most popular dishes so far have been a chicken tikka and mozzarella flatbread and a grilled pineapple, haloumi and sweet chilli sauce panini.

In keeping with the venue’s family focus, there’s a healthy, fun and flexible menu for children. In addition, the team is expanding the kids gluten-free choices, catering for children with dietary requirements with different breads, spreads and fillings. Heaven Scent’s multi-allergen-free options are particularly well known, with the business being a finalist in the national Free From Awards for three years running.

“Without a kitchen our menu is more restricted, but we’ve worked hard to ensure that Heaven Scent’s core strengths are included, whether that’s creative gluten-free dishes that are so delicious no-one can tell they’re free-from, healthy and delicious dishes that children really enjoy or really good home-baking,” says Andrew.

Looking to the future, the café will be looking to cater for larger groups as time goes on, as well as tying in with the events programme put together by On Fife. This presents opportunities like combining themed food and drink offerings with the venue’s events. “Now the hype of the opening is behind us and things are working so smoothly, we’re looking forward to working increasingly closely with On Fife to create specials to reflect their events. Themed events to combine with the popular Harry Potter children’s events should be great fun!”

The customer demographic has been varied and reflects visitors to the venue, he concludes. “We welcome visitors to the museum who had no idea of our existence before stumbling across us when wandering around, as well as loyal Heaven Scent customers who have come specifically to check out the new café. The café’s relaxed ambience is definitely supported by it being part of a cultural hub like this. People come here to relax and enjoy themselves, which helps create a great atmosphere.”