Long Dog Cafe | Loving lifestyle change despite lockdown

Long Dog Cafe | Loving lifestyle change despite lockdown

Customers flock to a beachside café in Dunedin because they know they can rely on it being a top-quality experience.

Long Dog Café, located in the pretty seaside suburb of St Clair in Dunedin, has 'the best view in town' according to the owner, Paul Murray. Customers can enjoy their coffee and a delicious bite to eat and watch the waves roll in, either on the deck or seated in the café.

Paul and his wife Jackie bought the café two years ago, having decided, pre-retirement, they'd do something completely different. The decision meant moving home from Perth, where they had lived and worked for 30 years: Paul as a wool buyer, while Jackie worked in a high-end restaurant.

They have no regrets about their new lifestyle. "We love being near our family again and are enjoying running the café.  Our daughter McKenzie, who is a baker, works in the cafe too.

“We're in the heart of the community and have our regulars - retired folk who have their daily coffee or breakfast (in winter, the berry or banana porridge goes down a treat). We have a large following of students too – often a whole flat will come in for coffee and eats," says Paul.

They make everything on-site each day apart from the bread, which they buy from a bakery in Queenstown.

"Jackie is very particular to ensure everything is top quality, and I think that's part of our success. We pride ourselves on having an excellent team of bakers and employ five top-rate baristas. They love their coffee and are dedicated and proud of what they do. Sometimes they create caricatures of Olive the Long Dog, (who the café was named after), in the milk foam. It's those personal touches and knowing our customers by name that makes a difference."

Paul says that being the chief food tester is the best part of his job.

During the summer months, when the popular St Clair Hot Saltwater Pool is open, the café receives an influx of customers. Being part of a cluster of food businesses in the same area also attracts large volumes of visitors.

With the approach of Level 4 lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, Paul phoned Moore Markhams for advice.

"Within two hours, Judy Toomer, who is their payroll administrator, talked Jackie through our wage subsidy application. The government had the funds in the bank the same night.

“We couldn't believe how easy it was and were blown away. It took all the stress out of the crisis. Having the subsidy, meant 70 percent of our staff wages got paid, and we topped them up by 30 percent. It enabled us to keep all our staff and gave us the confidence to know we could go forward as a business."

When the country re-emerged from lockdown in May, and Long Dog Café reopened, it was business as usual. Paul is happy to report they are doing very well. "Our figures are better than before the lockdown. The two weeks in May when we restarted are better than May last year. In June 2020, we were 10 to 15 percent ahead of June 2019. It's been mostly local support: they've come back in droves, which is fantastic."

Paul and Jackie's accounting advisor at Moore Markhams Otago is director, Daniel Piebenga. "Someone recommended Moore Markhams to us, and we’ve had no regrets. Daniel is always there if we have any queries and is extremely approachable; even during the lockdown, we could contact him as he was working from home.

“Jackie does the accounting side of our business, and all I do is email through the wage sheets each week to Judy Toomer. We use Xero for our accounting package and staff management software, CostBoss to keep track of daily transactions. All in all, we are delighted with everything they do."