The Keys. The making of a Melbourne café.
Filter Now Open 555 Collins St
Episode 6

The Fit Out

What will Filter look and feel like? The Fit Out tells the story of how the current empty space will be transformed into a bustling cafe. Coda's Kate Bartholomew joins us, lending her expert eye to help guide the designs in the right direction.

Andrew Kelly Journal Entry

Works about to begin by Andrew Kelly

My previous projects, Auction Rooms notably, have been executed in a fairly loose and evolutionary fashion: sure, there were many revisions of sketches using a dodgy domestic quality drafting software, but however much was prepared, there was always modifications up the 11th hour. I was there with the carpenters, or sparkie or plumber, working through details, right to the end.

This project is different (and will remain so, fingers crossed).

Pretty much every detail, and you'd be amazed how many there are, needs to be figured out NOW, so that the myriad cascading events unfold in the right way over the build. Plumbing core holes to the below ground need to be in the right spot, now, every single element of coffee equipment and fit out similarly needs to be conveyed and accommodated, right now, and even things like merchandising and menu communication needs to be figured out... right now.

No, there's not much to see yet for all these labours on site. So far in fact only scoping works have been undertaken. Soon though, the site preparation proper will commence, and then we can truly start going backwards in order to be able to go forwards.

Meanwhile, the gentleman furniture maker has started ordering materials for the construction of the bar, and work will soon commence in his facility. Still little evidence of work will be seen on site until his completed work starts arriving in March for assembly.

I'm hoping for a reprieve from all the stuff that hurts my brain once the design is signed off, and the final details are locked down. Let's hope that's soon, and then the specialists in their respective areas can do their expert things, and I can get back to my roast profile tastings, my trial brewing, and my other projects!

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The Message – Kate Bartholomew

By Max Olijnyk, Broadsheet

"The way a space looks plays a big role in attracting the crowd you want." General manager and co-owner of Coda and Tonka, Kate Bartholomew offers her insight into the importance of getting the interior design of a venue right.

Working in hospitality was always supposed to be a means to an end for Kate Batholomew; some extra pocket money while she was at high school, then it became a way to pay the bills while she was at university. "Hospitality got me through my degree," says Bartholomew. "I've always loved food and working in the industry meant I could continue studying and do what I loved on the side."

Through work, she met now husband and business partner Mykal. His passion for working with food gave Bartholomew the courage to take a year off from her studies, take a leap of faith, and open a restaurant with him. "I was writing a thesis and I needed a break, so I thought I'd just work for a year," says Bartholomew. "We found my dream location and then we started looking for a chef and found Adam (D'Sylva)," she says. "I feel incredibly lucky."

Bartholomew always had a passion for interior design but admits, "I don't think I really knew or understood anything about it." Working on Coda offered her the opportunity to collect notes and work alongside innovative local design studio Projects of Imagination to create a sleek, distinctive space. "I had some strong ideas for Coda, but Projects of Imagination were amazing. They did that job on very little money. It was incredible," she says.

Taking the skills and confidence she learned from their first (very successful) venture, Bartholomew was ready to "take more of a front seat" in the design process for the trio's second venue, the modern-Indian restaurant Tonka. "I started to trust more of my own decisions and felt much more comfortable," says Bartholomew. Tonka opened early in 2013 to instant acclaim, not least for its elegant interior, which boasts, among other things, a dramatic ceiling art installation by Naomi Troski.

Reflecting on what makes a space work, Bartholomew says, "I suppose the ceiling has been a point of difference. I like doing custom things and making it our own." She's been acting as a mentor for Andrew Kelly, the recipient of The Keys as he works towards opening Filter, an innovative new CBD cafe. After visiting the site for Filter late last year, Bartholomew met with Kelly again recently to look over plans for the new venue at Design Office in Collingwood. The results can be seen in the latest instalment of The Keys video series, The Fit Out. "I was really impressed," says Bartholomew of the models and colour swatches for the new venue. "It was soft and lovely but still strong for the city."

"I think Design Office has done a really good job interpreting Andrew's vision," she says, before adding, "so good, in fact, that we're looking at them for a new project." Watch this space.

Kate's top tips for getting your venue's interior and fit-out right

1. Big budget isn't always best
You don't need a lot of money to do something really cool. The best things are done with just a creative mind.

2. Find the right designer
I think it's really important to invest money in an interior designer. Spend some time looking into spaces you enjoy and find out who was responsible for their look.

3. Function over fashion
It's got to be as practical as it is enjoyable to look at. I could kick myself every day for some things I thought looked good, but now they drive me mental.

4. Don't be scared of colour
The problem with white is you need to keep it clean. Colour brings warmth and energy to a space. I really like the idea of picking between one and three colours and using them as small accents throughout a space.

5. Find a good builder
Build a good relationship early and try and hold onto it for as long as possible. Always keep track of things with emails. So many times we've come to the end of a project and said ‘who said what about this?' You have to keep a record of it all.

6. Don't change your mind!
It slows the process down and costs a fortune. Make decisions and stand by them.

7. Opening dates and budgets
There are so many things that are out of your control and that you would never have imagined that you would need to think about. Be realistic. Allow for double the time and the money you originally planned.

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The financial ins and outs of interior fit outs

Fitting out your café interior marks a very exciting time in the journey of getting the business up and running. The thing is, there's so much more to consider than simply choosing colour ways, cool seats and coffee machines. As with every stage of the project, forward planning is paramount. A bit of homework now will save unwanted headaches and heartache down the track. That's why we've asked Vanessa Hastie, one of our Relationship Managers in the Leisure & Hospitality team from our Corporate & Commercial Banking Division, for a few tips that'll help you out when preparing for that all-important fit out.

Read Vanessa's tips here

1. Feel out your financing options
When it comes to knowing how much budget you can devote to your fit out, the more advice and information you can get, the better placed you'll be to proceed with confidence. The best way to start is by speaking to your Bank or Finance Broker about your financing options. As they're the experts in this space, be sure to ask any questions you think will help you make informed decisions, and better manage your fit out cash flow. When talking with them, it's a good idea to get their advice on whether longer term financing (i.e. equipment financing) will be a good option for you.

2. Choose contractors & suppliers wisely
Deciding on a builder should never be a game of chance. So research your options, ask around within the industry and even when you think you've found the right tradesmen for the job, be sure to check out their previous work. A leap of faith or a rushed decision at this stage of the project could really cost you – both in terms of time and financially. So opt for someone who specialises in fit outs (preferably cafes) who's also reputable or comes with strong recommendations. And don't be shy about asking who did the work in cafes/restaurants you personally love the look of. The same goes for making equipment purchases. Use a reputable supplier, and find out up front about any terms and product warranties.

3. Source multiple quotes
Be sure to get a minimum of three quotes – more if you have time and want to be certain you're making the most informed decision possible. Doing this provides a great level of clarity around what to expect, and a very helpful cross section in terms of labour and material costs, and what's included in what you'll ultimately pay for.

4. Build in a buffer
Even when you've selected your builder and agreed to a fixed price contract, don't tie up every dollar you have in this. Things always crop up unexpectedly, so set some funds aside to allow for any incidentals. Rest assured there will be some.

5. Prioritise with profit in mind
If you happen to run over budget, or money starts looking tight, focus your spend on items that'll deliver a return or a great customer experience, not just a nice aesthetic. At the end of the day it's simply common sense – a bigger, higher quality coffee machine will help pay the bills far better than that fancy Italian tile you have your eye on!

About Vanessa:
With twenty years of banking experience to her name, ten of those in business banking, Vanessa Hastie has a way with numbers. Starting with Bank of Melbourne in late 2011, she operates from the Camberwell branch, taking care of local businesses in the inner eastern suburbs, in particular, Hawthorn, Kew, Ashburton, Glen Iris and Balwyn. Vanessa has worked across Sydney and Melbourne over the years, and has recently completed a Banking and Finance Masters at Monash University in Caulfield. She is proud to be helping local businesses, owning one herself, and is passionate about finding realistic banking solutions for Victorians. Her values lie in honest and open banking, ensuring businesses know exactly what they need to holistically understand their finances.