The Yellow House Café

Cooking up a successful business with focus and freshness

  • Yellow House

    Highly regarded by Lonely Planet Guide, Stuart Belk, Jonathan and Kiaya Banks at The Yellow House Café.

Word is spreading around Wanganui that The Yellow House Café is dishing up some extremely tasty food. In fact, since the highly regarded Lonely Planet Guide listed it as one of the go-to places in the district to eat, owners Stuart Belk and Jonathon (Jono) Banks can expect even more hungry customers to beat a path to their door.

The Yellow House Café is located on the outskirts of the city, near the Wanganui River. It is open each day between 8am and 4pm for breakfast, brunch and lunch. Stuart is in charge of front of house, Jono is head chef and his wife Kiaya is the baker and part-time chef.

A unique feature of the café is that all the food is made on-site. “We make our own bread, jam and chutney; we buy in very little. This gives us the ultimate control over our product and means everything is always fresh,” says Stuart.

“In Wanganui, business is largely done through word of mouth and if you don’t have a good reputation you won’t last long. We are good at what we do and we are consistent.”

It took some effort to turn the café around from when Stuart and Jono bought it in June 2011. “We basically bought a café in a rundown state and are improving it daily. We have increased our business by 15 to 20 percent.”

The business partners are friends who have both travelled and worked overseas in the hospitality industry, before returning to Wanganui. “We worked together for five years at a restaurant in Wanganui – Jono was head chef and I did front of house. The ultimate goal when you work in hospitality is to start at the bottom and gain experience before branching out on your own.”

Stuart really enjoys being his own boss and “doing what you want in your own way and controlling your own destiny”.

The Yellow House Café employs seven staff. “We have a fantastic team who work well together – we don’t have a high staff turnover. I think that is because, from the outset, we wanted to include them to give them a sense of ownership. That way they feel as if they are achieving something too.”

With business up and running smoothly, Stuart and Jono added two more income streams to their operation. In the evenings and at weekends they cater for functions such as work parties and birthdays. They also out-cater for a number of businesses around town.

“These days you have to have several arms to your business and not rely on just one thing,” says Stuart.

Some good advice they’ve had along the way has helped them tremendously. James Bowen Moore Stephens Markhams Wanganui Principal, has been with Stuart and Jono from the start.

“I’ve known James for many years and when we went looking for a café we brought him on board. When it came to buying the business and setting us up as a company, he helped us to make all the financial decisions. We hadn’t done anything like this previously and he was able to answer any questions we had,” says Stuart.

One of the best pieces of advice they received was to concentrate on fixing the business up before starting on anything else. “James got us to focus: if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have done everything 100 percent. He basically reined us in.”

It took 12 to 14 months to turn The Yellow House Café around – longer than Stuart and Jono would have imagined, but with the help they’ve had from Moore Stephens Markhams, they feel as if they are now heading in the right direction.

And the support is ongoing. “If I need to know anything I will give James a call –there’s no making appointments – it’s all face to face, which you probably wouldn’t get from any other accounting business. What he gives us is priceless.”

Published Summer 2013.

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