Wednesday, 27 February 2013

"Sniff Sniff"

We are now working hard on our marketing plan and apart from coming up with strategies to get Cuca known, we are also looking at developing a strong and consistent overall brand experience.

It is not a secret that we use all five of our senses to make a buying decision, whether consciously or unconsciously and thus a complete brand experience must tackle each of them: what the customer sees, hears, feels, smells and touches. Today we are sharing with you our dedication to our guests’ nose…
You may have noticed that when walking in a cinema the smell of popcorn awakens your taste buds or that the aroma of coffee makes you crave for one. But it is not only the smell of food that makes you hungry… A 2006 study found that customers who ate at a restaurant that used the scent of lavender generally stayed 15 minutes longer and spent 20% more.

Reflecting on this underused sense in marketing, we decided to develop a scent that captures the essence of Cuca. We are looking for something casual but still sophisticated, uplifting, that pulls you out of your worries and into Cuca’s mood to taste and enjoy. Something you notice when you walk in, that you will remember when you walk out and that comforts you while you are with us.

We won’t release Cuca signature aroma yet. It is still in our head and in the hands of our aroma guru.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Lacking Noah's ark...

Back in December we were so immersed in all the planning for Cuca that we hardly realized that the weather in Bali was gradually changing. Summer had been amazing; the cold wind from Australia’s winter brought perfect temperatures and the driest months of the year. The raining season started gently in November but by mid-December was unstoppable. One of those first rainy mornings we happened to pass by the restaurant site and were shocked by the horror scene: our beloved garden lounge to-be was flooded and this was only the beginning of the monsoon season!!!

Frantic calls and emails followed: we had to address this problem before starting construction!!!! During the next few days we found out that the situation was even more critical. Bali infrastructure leaves much to be desired and there isn’t a proper system to get rid of any excess water even if we managed to collect it within our land. We had to come up with a clever solution and our contractor was the only person we knew who understands about pipes, water and geology. This is his master plan, right now being implemented:

The idea is to let the rain water infiltrate easily into the soil to reach the “water table” (natural water level in the soil) instead of just running-off on the surface that is what creates puddling and floods on the garden.

To facilitate this, infiltration wells are dug by removing the soil within. A “geotextile layer” is then applied to filter the water and prevent the sand from going through into the well together with the rain water, what would cause landslides.

The well is then filled with rock piles kept in place with a steel string cage. The rocks let the water go through to reach the “water table” and are covered with stones and soil to grow back the grass.

This system is supposed to be highly effective but have limitations in case of extreme rainfall as it would not work when the water tables are full and the water has no place to go…

Anyway and as you can guess, our contractor is now our hero. He has rescued Cuca from the floods and we will be forever grateful.

Wells being dug in our garden

Infiltration well

Rocks to fill the wells

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A meeting of the minds

Kevin is desperate for jumping into a professional kitchen and all of us around him can feel (and suffer) his urge to get going, so we all decided to prioritize the kitchen. The idea is that although construction will be still in progress at the dining room area, Kevin will be able to start cooking.

The meeting you see in this photos is between the contractors and the kitchen designers and suppliers. We had to review every detail of the drawings made by the designers to make sure the contractors understood it and found it feasible. We also had to identify potential conflicts between the structure of the building and Kevin’s dream kitchen.

It was really interesting for us to see how engineers analyze drawings and what issues are critical when approving final designs: gas pipes, gutters, air ducts, electricity outlets... Our kitchen is especially tricky because apart from being open and thus very visible, we came out with the idea of playing with different elevations and that turned out to be very difficult to implement. You need to understand and coordinate multiple heights: the kitchen equipment, the cooks, the bar counter, the stools, the customers… A headache that we hope will be worth it when you see the end result.  

Despite the several complex issues derived from design, the team managed to find the way around them and make sure our original ideas were respected when planning for their implementation. What a relief!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Gas VS Electricity

Kevin’s master plan for his kitchen before moving to Bali was to get all electrical equipment. After years facing open fires, he was convinced that gas is messy and electric stoves and equipment are the way to go especially for open kitchens. During numerous meetings with our designers the focus was electricity but sometime down this long road of finalizing the kitchen the engineer uttered: “Well, with all this equipment you are going to require as much electricity as a Balinese village…” This comment sounded off an alarm… We have heard a few people say that electricity is quite expensive in Bali and if our consumption was that high… oopps… But before changing our entire concept we had to gather more information and getting actual numbers was really difficult. Nobody in the island was using this type of equipment in its electrical version so we could only guess.

Our contractor, Pak Didik, discussing structure details with the gas supplier.

Time passed by and Kevin was quieter than usual (something rather unusual) until one sunny morning he dropped the bomb: “Virginia, I think we better switch all the equipment to gas”. Surprisingly for him, I couldn’t agree more: to settle now for an option that would forever carry a high monthly cost was not the way to start our project. So determinedly we met the kitchen suppliers and with the best of our smiles we asked them to change all the equipment. Together we found ways to adapt it to an open kitchen and we kept a couple of appliances electric as they would not be consuming too much power.

This week we met a supplier for the gas piping equipment and after showing us the most shocking sales video we have ever seen (happy customers using their services and national news of a huge fire at a restaurant using the competitor’s services), we learned that the installation is quite expensive but the consumption cost is really low (especially when you compare it with the very high electricity cost on the island). Unfortunately there are more cons: we found out that the ugly gas pipes must come from the ceiling and cannot be hidden beneath the floor. Given our open kitchen concept, if we cannot find a good way to hide them, you will be first-hand witnesses to our clever cost effective strategy :)

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Let there be light

If there is something that contributes to create a great atmosphere in a restaurant, it is lighting. This is something that restaurateurs either entirely overlook or become obsessed with as the possibilities seem endless.

Cuca will enjoy natural light during the day with its unique open space design, but how to create a magical intimate environment in the evenings? We had an idea of what type of atmosphere we want in each space of the restaurant but we had no clue on how to achieve that result. We needed our interior designers to help us with the type of lighting required and they will also need the support of a lighting consultant to determine the specifications of each lighting device. A long chain of people that need to trust each other and agree despite all having different opinions and interests in mind.

For the bar our interior designers chose a set of fashionable and gorgeous lights from overseas that look great but cost a small fortune. We, who are responsible for the budgets, started to think of options available on the island to find more affordable prices and save the additional shipping cost. The designers showed their concern for local quality and we thought of the potential problems related to servicing overseas products. As you see, everyone is right.

For the dining room our designers proposed a concept completely based on lighting. We were very happy to agree this time with them as we loved their vision but our partner expressed his concern for the electricity cost in Bali. Once again, everyone is right.

We are still facing this dilemma and are trying to find a solution that addresses everyone’s concerns. Not easy, but we like to be surrounded by professionals who care and have principles. And anyway, balance between cost, look and long term feasibility are factors that we would need to take into consideration no matter who is involved, so better to have passionate professionals who know what they are talking about. At the end of the day, we are sure there will be light.