The challenges & opportunities of a new year.

I find writing on holidays to be therapeutic.  Thinking over the highs and lows of the past year and of the challenges and opportunities for the year ahead is just what naturally happens for me. Afterwards I can get on with enjoying where I am. 

The last year was big for Derailleur; a number of goals were set and achieved. Customer demand encouraged us to open Sunday's and evenings. In June, we installed a cool room so we could cope with the increased kitchen production, menu and beverages enabling us to open these extra times.  There are a huge number of milk crates that need to be stored for those weekend coffees that you all love!  The busy times at Cafe Derailleur then rolled on to include staying open over Christmas and New Year (a first for us).  Wangaratta just rocks at this time of year!

We were prepared for one of our busiest times during the Jazz Festival thanks to a strong team. But that team looks a bit different now with Laura heading off to start a family, Chris to start a cafe in Yackandah and Guy to build his fitness training skills. The evolution of our cafe team incorporates the essential element of staff training. We just can't rely on good people stumbling across our business with the skills we need, so our choice is to recruit people with the right attitudes and passion and then train them in the Derailleur way.  

Morgan Bennett is a great example of how this works.  She started casually with us in October 2014, then moved to a front of house traineeship in 2014. She now has the skills and the drive to rise to the supervisor's role and train our new front of house staff.  Thanks for stepping up Morgan!  

Mairead also joined us in late-2015 as our new front of house trainee and Tara has joined the kitchen brigade as a first-year apprentice. Our apprentice, Brad, has now progressed to third Year.  Nice one Brad! 

We wouldn't exist without these staff and their willingness to learn and apply themselves in our industry, so thanks to them!

Running seven days and three nights has been a huge experience, but it has also taken its toll personally and on my family.  So we won’t be open nights this year (well, maybe some special dinners but let's just wait and see). My daughter Ruby starts high school this year and Lauren is now half way through her Uni degree, so it’s time for me to focus on family and support them to do what they need to.

So, outside of the cafe, what are the challenges and opportunities for the year ahead? We’ll have a Federal Election with five or six candidates in Indi, then local Council elections.  Both will be a distraction for all levels of Government and associated agencies and funded bodies.  It will slow business down during these times unless Derailleur becomes the "Democracy Cafe" as several customers already refer to it! 

The Rural City of Wangaratta has a challenge in the year ahead moving from Administrators back to elected Councillors.  Let's hope some strong visionary people with solid ethical and moral backgrounds stand to lead us through this transition.  This will be a time to talk to all your friends, family and colleagues about what you want out of a Councillor and the role you want them to play in our community.  We most definitely know first-hand the cost of getting it wrong!

Talks in Paris in 2015 confirmed our climate is changing.  Climate change will continue to affect the way we work and live our lives over the next year. Availability of produce, its cost and freight will impact us.  As will the way we travel and how we spend.  Although these are challenges, they can be opportunities too.  Using local producers helps to secure fresh seasonal produce while at the same time keeping jobs locally and it also keeps our menu fresh and varied.  

The growth of the Wangaratta Farmers Market over the last year proves that we as consumers want local produce, now we all just need to support them even more to see where it will go in the next twelve months.  Derailleur for one is enjoying the fresh food the producers are dropping off from the market.  Our chefs now have the challenge of how to create dishes using this produce for our menu. Isn’t this the same challenge home cooks have? Let's see how we can help each other out over the next year with this.

Our customers' needs and dietary requirements are changing as we become more aware of the way our food choices affect our health and that of our kids.  We will keep meeting this challenge by creating fresh, healthy dishes in-house along with gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options on our menu.  We think that feeling good in your tummy once you have dined at Derailleur is one of the reasons our customers keep coming back.  Did I mention that by choice we don't have a deep fryer in the cafe!  

Of course, we’ll run our bread making courses again in 2016 as part of the High Country Harvest. Also keep an eye and ear out for a few of the other courses we hope to run too.

Happy New Year to all!

Tammy Atkins

1460 Snow Rd, Milawa, VIC, 3678, Australia