TABLE 1 Espresso owner George James sold two kilograms of coffee in his Merewether venture’s first week of trade.
Fast forward two years and the now-landmark cafe goes through up to 15 kilograms every day.
Table 1 Espresso’s upwards trajectory reached a new high this week, when it won the New Business category at the Australian Small Business Champion Awards.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet, it’s such a phenomenal feeling,” Mr James said.
“When they read out our name I could not move.
“I’m so thankful to our staff and customers – they have been the backbone to our success.”
Mr James, 39, grew up in Adamstown and saw his Greek immigrant parents Kerry and Maria operating a handful of restaurants, cafes and takeaway shops across the Hunter.
He dreamed of opening his own business for a decade and watched older brothers Peter and Harry open city favorites Blue Door and Harrys Schnitzel Joint respectively.
“It was the scariest decision I’ve ever made, but we’re all very competitive and they helped push me, drive me and gave me that will to get my foot over the line,” he said.
“99 per cent of people told me when I opened they would not do it if it was them.”
Mr James started trading on City Road on May 8, 2014, and spent the next six months working 90 hours a week and sleeping only three hours each night.
After reluctantly spending two days in bed to recuperate, Mr James implemented a raft of changes including boosting staff numbers from three to 19, which helped to transform the 120-seat cafe to what it is today.
He plans to open a second cafe within the next year, but said its location was yet to be decided.
Mr James said he was one of the first in the region to capitalise on the idea of “food porn” and still regularly posts drool-worthy photos of dishes to get social media salivating.
The most popular item from the modern Australian menu is the eggs benedict, but the cafe is perhaps best known for its pancakes, waffles and scrumptious smoothies in flavours including Bounty, Snickers, Oreo and Crunchie.
“We don’t have a professional food stylist, we take the photos on our phones on site, as soon as the meals come out of the kitchen,” he said.
“Once we get the flavour right we focus on how we present the food.
“People eat with their eyes, then their mouths and taste buds.
“The first thing people do when we set the food down in front of them is get out their phones too.”
Table 1 Espresso now has almost 30,000 Facebook fans and more than 8000 Instagram followers from across the globe, including a strong contingent from the United States and some from as far away as Japan, Hong Kong and India.
Customers come from along the east coast, Fiji, New Zealand, the United States and Europe to taste the fare many have ogled from afar.
Mr James highly recommends prospective diners call ahead to reserve a table on weekends, which are often booked up to three weeks in advance.
The cafe was fully booked months ago to feed 240 people on Mothers Day, May 8.
“Nobody leaves here with an empty stomach,” Mr James said.
“In fact, a lot of the time they are in a food coma.”
Table 1 Espresso won best new business at the 2015 Hunter Local Business Awards.
It also cleaned up last September at the Savor Australia Restaurant and Catering Hostplus Awards for Excellence (Regional NSW), taking home both a social media and consumer vote award.
Table 1 Espresso is at 89-93 City Road, Merewether. It is open from Monday to Saturday from 7am until 3pm and on Sunday from 7.30am to 3pm.
Visit: table1espresso.com, facebook.com/table1espresso, Instagram @table1espresso, Twitter @table1espresso.