At a time when the Amalfi Coast couldn’t feel further away, an Italian café, deli and bar has proven to be a ray of European sunshine when Sydney’s inner-city set has needed it most.
Launching a business is not for the faint-hearted. Launching that business during a global pandemic, a week after your city has gone into lockdown, and within the hospitality space, deserves a hearty bravo/brava.
Belinda Porra, husband Luca Andolfo and brother Anthony Porra took a leap of faith when they chose to open Bar Positano in Surry Hills, one of Sydney’s most vibrant dining and drinking precincts, in July 2021. With its yellow-and-white branding recalling the beach club umbrellas of a European summer, Bar Positano offered locals immediate respite from the winter lockdown blues.
“We’ve never actually operated in full capacity,” Belinda tells Kochie’s Business Builders. “We didn’t know how long we’d be in lockdown for – we just wanted to start and get into it and get a feel for what the community wanted. A soft opening in a sense.”
It all started with a food truck
In 2020, Belinda and Luca started the Bar Positano mobile food truck as a side hustle with Belinda’s brother Anthony. The couple, who run an event hire and styling business called Simply Seated, had extra time with less events and weddings on the calendar, and were keen to create an experience that reflected Luca’s Amalfi Coast heritage.
Serving paninis, cheese boards, coffee and cocktails at events, food fairs, markets and around local neighbourhoods, Bar Positano quickly built a name for itself.
“During COVID you’re not doing what you’d normally do so you have time to think about what you actually have an interest in, what you want to do, what you’re good at,” Belinda says. “So we thought, ‘let’s just give it a go and see how it goes’. One thing just led to another and out of the food truck came the café.”
Adapting the concept – pronto
The Surry Hills bricks-and-mortar venue is three in one: a deli, selling pasta, sauce and other Italian smallgoods; a daytime café serving coffees and takeaway paninis; and a bar for cocktails and authentic Italian bites.
Without the option of sit-down service due to restrictions, Belinda and her team redirected their focus on their takeaway and delivery arm of the business.
“The panini has always been the big things of ours because the menu is basically built around the deli section,” Belinda shares. “So the panini was always going to be a takeaway option for customers, but what has come out of COVID has been the takeaway cocktails. It’s something everyone’s enjoyed.”
With the benefit of having an on-site deli, Belinda and the team have also found success selling customised pasta packs, antipasti boards and the now-very-popular picnic kits.
“In a way it’s been good because obviously we’ve got the opportunity to test different things – different menu items,” Belinda says. “Surprisingly, it’s worked. And it can only get better when we actually fully open.”
Pivots in product, but also in payment
While product innovation has been an essential ingredient in Bar Positano’s winning recipe, so has their ability to tailor their operations. Making the customer payment experience quick and seamless has been a priority with takeaway and delivery, which is why Belinda is quick to recommend the Australian payments company Zeller.
“It’s a necessity for us – we wouldn’t be able to operate without a good payments system,” Belinda says. “With COVID too, a lot of people don’t even want to step into the shop – or they’re not even sure they even can – so having that whole safe, quick and easy transaction is so important at the moment.”
Bar Positano uses Zeller Terminal, a secure, contactless card payment and EFTPOS solution that accepts every tapped, dipped and swiped transaction for a standard fee of 1.4 per cent. It’s a super-low rate that has made Zeller a competitive alternative to traditional business banking, giving small business owners like Belinda a simpler and more flexible way to accept payments and manage cash flow.
“It’s really reliable – the payments come through the next business day,” Belinda says. “We’ve never had any issues or delays with the product itself. It looks good – the whole minimalist design would work with a lot of other businesses’ décor and it works well with ours. And obviously, having something people can just tap, particularly because not many people are carrying cash at the moment and everyone uses their card or ApplePay, is important.”
“We are really excited to open up properly”
While the Surry Hills flagship café/deli/bar has only been open for a few months, all indications look positive for Bar Positano as we go into warmer weather and NSW restrictions look to lift in October.
“A lot of the concept for the café was built around a dining experience, from the furniture to the way we present the food,” she explains. “While COVID’s been hard and it’s worked out OK for us, because we are a new business and we’re located in a central spot, we are really excited to open up properly just so we can offer everything that we’ve thought of to this point so everyone can enjoy it.”
Her biggest lesson from starting a business during an uncertain time?
“I think it’s just important to know your customers,” Belinda says. “We’ve had that time just to ease into it, to know what people want and be aware of the environment and just pivot, take risks. Some will work, some won’t and that’s fine. We’re risk takers and we do things that we like and we hope that other people like. We just learn from it and grow.”
Find out more about Bar Positano here. Have a look at Zeller’s full suite of products, including Zeller Terminal, the Zeller Transaction Account and Mastercard, to see how they can help your business.
This article is brought to you by Kochie’s Business Builders in partnership with Zeller.