Its been a whole year since we first opened that glass café door to lines of people waiting to taste our Dutch food and experience the ‘gezelligheid’ (warm hospitality) that we’ve become known for.
And what a year it’s been! I keep telling people it's like having a baby – everyone says ‘how gorgeous’, ‘amazing’, ‘fantastic’ but as the mum, you’re just feeling exhausted! There’s been so much to learn! If you’ve had a baby, you’ll know the feeling I mean. So, it’s good to sit back, celebrate our first year with a bit of reflection, and look forward to the coming growth.
We were just overwhelmed with the initial response when we opened our door this time last year, our staff were worked off their feet – a real baptism of fire as they learnt the ropes on the job. We learnt too, that people didn’t just want nice café food in a Dutch building, they wanted nice DUTCH food in a Dutch building. So, we listened to our customers and quickly revamped our menu to go from 80% kiwi/20% Dutch, to the other way ‘round. Kroketten, bitterballen, pancakes, appeltaart and speculaas are now standards on our menu every day. While we can’t make it like everybody’s Oma, we give a pretty good taste of European food and hospitality!
We’ve planted trees, thousands of tulips, built and painted fences, sown & mown grass, washed windows and made thousands of decisions about procedures, processes, and put in place ‘how-to’ manuals for EVERYTHING! Our liquor license also finally came through in March, so we now enjoy Good George beer and cider or a nice glass of Villa Maria wine with our lunch.
A big part of our business is holding functions in either the Zaal or the Orange room and Board room. We’ve enjoyed weddings; significant birthdays (even a 90th and 100th); important wedding anniversaries; high-end corporate dinners complete with live telecasts throughout NZ and Australia; awards nights; Quiz nights; board meetings; corporate workshops; conferences, including one with Nigel Latta and Rob Wardell as guest speakers; and also helped families gather to remember and farewell a loved one. Every event is like a special occasion to us - we love functions and have a very high customer satisfaction rate, thanks to an awesome team who know how to look after our guests, just like we would at home, really living the ‘come to our place, make it your place’ value we hold dear.
But most of all, we’ve built up a great team. Our kitchen staff rock away to their work, producing a variety of café items, cooking up the Dutch stuff and making amazing meals for whatever functions are on. Their brownie has become legendary! The salads are so hard to choose from, I usually just have a combination of all of them for my lunch! The café staff have built up a real rapport too, becoming friends and flatmates as well as workmates along the way.
But Zenders is just such a nice place to be. Showing up for ‘work’ feels like checking in with your family every day, seeing how they all are, doing a few jobs, chatting to customers, perhaps showing someone around the building and making a booking, and that’s how going to work should be. I think it’s because we live our values, we are a family business and that caring through food and hospitality is what makes it so successful.
We hope you’ve enjoyed coming to ‘our place’ sometime this year – come and make it ‘your place’ again soon, and see how far we’ve come!