Lower Marsh is home to one of London’s oldest and much-loved market streets. Steeped in history and flanked by both Waterloo station and the reputable Old Vic Theatre, Lower Marsh has attracted a host of shoppers, visitors and passing trade since the mid-nineteenth century. Over the past decade or so, the area has undergone massive gentrification.
Thankfully, pay a visit today and you’ll still find the odd ‘greasy spoon’ caf, budget supermarket, charity shop or cobbler sandwiched in between fancy eateries and hipster coffee shops. It’s here that Balance Cafe has made it’s home. We were fortunate to be able to use their popular cafe as a backdrop for this year’s Counter Top Display Feature. We dropped by to ask them a few questions about their cafe and see how they are using WBC’s countertop display offering, to inspire sales. This month, In the Spotlight: Balance Cafe, Lower Marsh Street.
It’s all about the Balance
You might think a cafe, is a cafe, is a cafe. But when your market is saturated and the competition heavy, whatever you can do to stand out, becomes a test in survival of the fittest. It’s fair to say that one of the first thing’s you notice upon entering Balance Cafe, is it’s vibrancy in colour. Walk by it, and I defy any true foodie not to stop. It demands attention, particularly in terms of food presentation.
If you’ve ever been sceptical about the importance that good quality display plays both in footfall and direct sales, find a cafe that lays out its food the way Balance does. There’s is a lesson in display by abundance. The sheer scale of food: soups, quiches, pastries, sandwiches; the variety of superfood salads, including a salmon and avocado dill, with rocket, spinach, radish and poppy seeds. It’s all there, and it adds to the vibrant array of colour and variety.
Balance offers a coffee, juice bar and a ‘Make Your Own Salad’ station. In spite of the scale, the cakes, salads and ‘fusion street foods’ are presented with elegance. Not least in part to the clever use of counter top display and risers which give prominence to produce and entice you to buy.
5 minutes with Balance owner Gengiz Arif
What is your busiest time of the day?
Our busiest time of day is between the hours of 11.30-14.30pm. We attract London’s lunchtime crowd which ranges from business types in suits to train workers from nearby Waterloo station, and everyone in between.
Does balance have a specific target audience?
People who’s fitness is a priority to them love our cafe because of the fresh salads available. There’s a salad boom that’s reinvigorating the lunchtime market, with many foodies particularly amongst the millennial generation, wanting food that emulates their clean health eating lifestyle.
Your website describes ‘Fresh Clean Eating’ How is convenience fast food lunch time eating changing?
People are becoming more aware of what they are putting into their body. They are choosing healthier options rather than the processed foods that are on the market. In order to survive, cafes need to respond to this evolving trend. It’s out with the fried chicken and in with the quinoa.
What do you always have on your counter and what’s your best seller?
Our cake display. Which might seem incongruous with our healthy shoppers but almost all our cakes our vegan. Chocolate & avocado fudge cake is a top seller. Cake always gets people through the door.
How would you define your style and interior?
Industrial timeless design that is chic.
What are your thoughts on WBC’s BRIX Modular Retail Display range and counter top collection.
WBC’s range is very simple but effective in design. The BRIX system is clever because it allows us versatility in the way we build our shelves. One season we can have them hanging from the ceiling with rods, and the next used as floor standing units. It is the most flexible system I’ve come across.
In a growing competitive sector, how does Balance create a point of difference offering?
It’s all in the combination of the products we offer: from cold press juices and smoothies to the kind of artisan coffee we serve. Seasonal healthy choice of salads for those that are health conscious is essential for our trade. Backed up with a variety of meats, fish & award winning sandwiches for the more traditional. Of course, we wouldn’t be who we are without a bit of naughtiness thrown in with our vast range of sweet offerings. All are hand made and delivered by our cake supplier.
What role do you think counter top display plays in café – culture?
Counter Top Display is increasingly important because the market is so competitive, how you present your food is key. Serving bowls, platters, retail risers, trays, baskets and pans, WBC have everything under one roof. That’s why we love working with them, their products are so creative and versatile.
With regards to creating a retail space, what is one single important point to share with people that could be instrumental in creating a fabulous customer experience?
Great customer service. You can have the greatest produce in the world on offer but if you can’t deliver it you’re onto a losing battle. There’s just too much competition out there. Lose a customer once and you rarely get a second chance to impress them again.
Are there plans to open more Balance cafes?
Watch this space! We are considering a central kitchen which will not only deliver delicious clean eating to offices, but also to your homes as well.