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The Table Café

Housed inside an architect firm’s former bike shed, The Table Café is a perfect blend of canteen-chic and at-home comfort. Founder, owner and chef by training, Shaun Alpine-Crabtree, has created a Southwark success; now a fully-fledged 7 day/week restaurant serving excellent, locally-sourced food in a superb environment at great prices.

The Table opened 5 years ago and although the food and clients were carefully looked after from day 1, Shaun admits that the accounts needed more consideration. ‘In 2011, I finally accepted that I needed professional advice to run the business effectively. My confidence had taken a serious knock and everything was an uphill battle.  I enrolled in the Better Business Programme, run in partnership with Cass Business School, where Sue Higgins became my mentor.’ Sue and Shaun immediately had a good rapport and very quickly agreed that The Table needed help to ensure it survived and prospered.  When the programme ended, Shaun employed Inspira to look after the restaurant’s accounts and provide some business coaching. ‘Sue guided me and encouraged me to find the answers myself, rather than holding my hand.’  Sue wanted to ensure that Shaun took ownership of the business and the decisions involved in making it a successful venture.

Having discovered that the accounts were not providing business-critical management information, Inspira set up new systems, addressed the immediate cashflow issues and ensured the previous year-end accounts were finalised and filed. With new weekly cashflow forecasts in place, Shaun had a much clearer view of the business, enabling him to make key decisions more quickly and effectively. ‘Sue’s financial reporting is so accurate, it’s almost forensic; there’s no escape once you see that picture!  Still dreaming of a financially viable business, I couldn’t run away from the reality. Sue gave me insight into my business, helped me to focus and forced me to be honest about The Table’s financial situation.  I have a stereotypical chef’s temper and I am sure I have not been easy to work with.  However, Sue and her team have been patient and gracious and they’ve even eaten at the restaurant several times!’

Shaun’s base is a miniscule office at the back of the restaurant and this is where Sue and he meet regularly to assess the monthly figures, address the cashflow and discuss business matters. ‘Sue is exceptionally understanding of our challenging working environment and now knows that our meetings take place with us sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on a minute desk and that at any time, I might dash out to check on the kitchen or restaurant – you can’t take the chef out of the kitchen…!’

Shaun is not letting the current economic climate influence his attitude or mood. ‘Thanks to Inspira, I am now more focused than ever and we are making good progress. At The Table, our clients get great food and they aren’t ripped off.  They can switch off from the reality of their life and our live music evenings take them away from the doom and gloom.’

As any chef will tell you, food is a labour of love, but a restaurant has to make money to survive. Making good food and good profit is a tough goal, but a winning combination.  A dash of sensible and practical financial advice, a dollop of excellent business coaching and undoubtedly a delicious menu is the perfect recipe for a successful restaurant.

Thanks to Inspira, I am now more focused than ever and we are making good progress. Shaun Alpine-Crabtree, Director of The Table Café