Café ProFusion is a small restaurant in Summit County, Colorado. A “little gourmet hole in the wall” serving an amazing and eclectic menu of curries, braises, soups, and stews. In addition to the fabulous flavors, our menu is 100% gluten free. While the restaurant is successful, we could use your help. Here’s the story …
When starting CaféProFusion, I didn’t ask for investments. How could I? Here I was, a mathematician in my 50s, whose restaurant experience ended when I left college. Working with a personal chef (Chef Bill), I hired a longtime professional chef with a proven track record as a restaurant consultant. Café ProFusion opened on 29 February 2012, on a shoestring budget and partially funded by credit cards. Needless to say, the venture was undercapitalized.
The space we could afford is off the beaten path, to say the least, so it took time for people to find us. One thing we didn’t realize about Summit County is how the population fluctuates throughout the year. While there are ‘summer people’ and ‘winter people,’ these don’t account for many of the visitors. Many visitors come annually, and stay for a short time, for instance, being here every year in the second week of February or the third week of July. In order to thrive, we didn’t just have to establish ourselves with the locals, visitors from the front range, and the people who come here for 1 to 3 months at a time, but also with the people who are here for 1 week every year. (We are still making new friends among front-range visitors and regular short-term visitors and receive wonderful reviews all the time).
Being an undercapitalized restaurant in a county with a highly fluctuating population proved to be a challenge, but we have survived.
Another challenge in Summit County is that spring and fall have traditionally been very quiet. Many small businesses, particularly restaurants, closed for some of the time during these seasons. These slow seasons are shrinking, and we are considering about being open, at least on weekends to take advantage of this. In order to do this, we would need to advertise locally to let locals know that we’re open. (Previously, locals have assumed that we would be closed for all of October and November, even though we have never been closed for that long.)
Everyone makes mistakes starting out – one of ours was not realizing that, in order to be profitable doing full service with metal flatware and ceramic plates, we would have to charge much more for our food than we wanted to, or felt that we could, because everything must be washed by hand (a dishwashing machine won’t work in our space). Even though everything at Café ProFusion is made from scratch—starting from toasting and grinding whole spices for the spice blends—keeping the meals in the midrange of Summit County prices is important. Hence, we switched to sugarcane-derived cutlery and serve everything in take-out-able containers (dinner bowls and lids are also made from sugarcane). Given that the takeout side of the business has also improved, this was a good decision.
Another challenge in Summit County:the population is growing and more condos and high-end second homes are being built—some very close to Café ProFusion, — but workforce housing is not keeping pace. Several businesses have recently closed due to the inability to find staff.Our solution:‘Family Style Supper Boxes’ that allow to-go or delivered food = increased sales and no increase in staffing costs.
Our ‘Family Style Supper Boxes’ are recently developed lightweight insulated boxes that maintain food at a safe and enjoyable level, and are absolutely perfect for groups. Unlike other restaurants, our menu works perfectly with this type of service. Instead of herding a large group of people into a restaurant vestibule to wait for a table for who knows how long, these boxes can be picked up or dropped off at the vacation rental or home for a much better customer experience. It’s a form of inexpensive pickup catering. We spoke to several vacation rental companies, and this concept was excitedly received by them. Given the overwhelming condominium development (and the prices these places command) we foresee an increasing demand for this type of service. We want to be in on the ground floor to meet this growing need, but additional funding is required for marketing and additional Supper Boxes
Despite the tough location and unique (for Summit County) food, Café ProFusion has prevailed. However, being undercapitalized at the start has resulted in some debt and also made it near impossible to develop good cash reserves or working capital. This leaves us no funds for marketing and advertising – imperative aspects for such a business. These options require working capital that we don’t have at this point.
Our need: Funds to augment working capital, strengthen marketing and advertising to drive a sizable increase in our patronage, and decrease debt. This will allow us to weather the slow seasons, endure the small bumps in the road, and take advantage of the large-scale development in Summit County with our Family Style Supper Boxes.
We have thought about seeking a more traditional investment structure, but are hesitant after having been in circumstances where investors seek to make changes in businesses in order solely to increase revenue without understanding the effect. As an example: we could lower costs by buying pre-prepared spice mixes rather than toasting and grinding the spices in-house or by not taking the time to build the flavors in the sauces. But these are the things that make Café ProFusion’s food unique and incredible, and bring people back time and again.
Become part of the team that l helps us get to this … and don’t forget to come see us.Every donor becomes a “family” member and gets a tasting sample when you stop by!
Cindy Trimble, Chef Bill, and staff.