Originally from the European resort town of Biarritz in the South of France, Francois and his then girlfriend (now wife), Emilie, decided they needed a change. So they packed up and came to New Zealand on a working holiday visa. “We fell in love, and got the chance to stay”.
Francois had a background in sales and marketing, so took easily to hospitality and working every day with customers. He climbed the ladder, and eventually decided to open his own café.
“I learned to make coffees, and loved making food”. The café started out in a 1970s style caravan, converted to a mobile café on the beach three years ago. It quickly grew and re-located to a shop on the main road of Oakura last year.
Fonterra Brands representative Steve Butland lives in Oakura and comes in to the café to get his coffees on the way to work. When asked whether that was a good way to get any issues addressed quickly, Francois replied “one of the great things is that I never have to complain. Steve also brings me samples of new things to try in my recipes, it’s great!”
Francois says that the interaction with customers is what he likes most about his job. “There is something special about the place. Eighty to ninety percent of our customers are regulars who come in every day, or every second day”.
This means he needs to be on top of his game, but also affords him the opportunity to get to know them really well. “I am part of their lives, and know a lot about what is going on here. There is always something great happening”. “We listen to what our customers have to say, and do the best we can to please them with our products”.
Taranaki has a strong dairy industry, so farmers make up a lot of the customers that come on a daily basis to the café. “It’s nice to be using their products”. “They tease me about what I am doing right and wrong, but that’s what I like about it. I get to know them, hear about and understand the cycles, the ups and downs”.
When asked how life in Taranaki compares to Biarritz, Francois says that it is peoples’ attitude to life that makes living here different to France. “You still have to work hard to make a difference, but it’s not all about money, it is about enjoying life as well”.
High Tide café is open from every day from 7am, but Francois shuts the doors at 2pm so that he and his staff can have some time for themselves in the afternoon. “Our customers understand and support this”.
Francois can pick up his two-year old daughter from preschool, and likes to get outdoors. “We stayed for the quality surf and horse riding, but there is always something to do here”. “You can go to the beach, go fishing, or climb the mountain. We work to enjoy the lifestyle”.