The Ioannides brothers Rodos and Chris are the inspirational characters behind the highly successful Caramello’s in Bloemfontein.
What are the secrets to building a trusted brand and much loved coffee shop?
We have decided to take the camera along when sharing a conversation with the brothers to try and find some of these secrets!!
Gerhard Steenkamp and Denese Lups managed to capture the brothers and a few reasons why Caramello’s is such a much loved venue from where to start the day!
Can you give us a brief history on Caramello’s? When did you start and how long has the family been in the food industry?
Caramello’s opened doors to the public in 2002. Both brothers were involved in the coffee industry at the time and our parents worked in the baking industry. As brothers we were always close and we entered into a business partnership in 1998. As the family was operating in the food industry since 1977 when our parents started Florentina Bakery we decided it was the right time to combine the skills and expertise gained with both coffee and pastry!
What was the inspiration behind Caramello’s?
We decided to bring some European flair and passion for food to the centre of South Africa. We always believed that coffee and pastry works together rather well!
What made you decide on the name Caramello’s?
The name Caramello’s has been inspired by the Greek word “caramella” which means “sweet treat”
We wanted to create a place where people can go and feel part of a family experience. We believe that food is and should be the “dough” that binds us all together in a relationship.
What is it that attracts all your regular customers to Caramello’s?
We are pleased to say that more than 65% of our clientele are regular clients. We believe that they return for quality food, quality coffee and a fine attention to detail! Our customers are our friends and we wish for them to feel that they are our friends!
Who is the brilliant mind behind the menu?
Chris is the food guru and we also need to note the importance of our mother and her role in the menu. From her days in the bakery she has developed special skills and secrets and some of the items on the menu is inspired from skills in the preparation of food and pastry dating back to the 70’s!
What would you regard as the most important ingredients to the successful operating of a coffee shop?
People and Relationships! It is all about building a quality relationship with your clients!
What would you regard as the biggest challenges since the opening of Caramello’s?
There is a constant process of building trust between business owner and client, especially in a place like Bloemfontein where new businesses in the food industry open and close regularly. It is important for us to stand the test of time. It is important to recognize that we live in a time of constant change – eating habits change and the economy and spending patterns change. Next year will be our 10 year anniversary and we are pleased to have been delivering on our goals for nearly a decade now!
What are the challenging dynamics and also the joys of working together as brothers in a family business?
The best part of partnering as brothers is that we challenge one another continuously! Even when we have differing opinions we can resolve them peacefully. We are looking after one another’s interests and trust in each other 100%.
How important is customer feedback to you and what do you do to ensure that you benefit from their thoughts and experiences?
This is everything! We chat to our customers all the time and there is no other way to find their opinion than to do so directly. They will only share their thoughts if they feel comfortable in trusting us and sharing any concerns or compliments with us!
If you could give your children a valuable piece of advice about running a business – what would you tell them?
We will tell them to remain honest at all times and never to be drawn into dishonesty. Your reputation is most important as you take that with you wherever you go! We will also tell them to work hard – to work very hard!
If both of you could choose your favourite item on the menu – what would that be?
Rodos: I am a pastry guy! I am most happy getting that fresh croissant right out of the oven. Add some butter and a fresh cup of coffee and I am at peace with the world and those around me!
Chris: Most definitely the Saganaki breakfast. This was my “invention” and still, after nearly a decade, still my best way to start the day! This is our trademarked breakfast.
Any specific goals you might have at this moment with Caramello’s?
We will continue to work hard and improve all the time whilst having our feet firmly on the ground! It is important to have ambition and we will continue to develop future brands.
Our slogan is “Eat Life” and we wish for our clients to socialize around food for many more years to come!!