Cafe Plenty aspires to be more than just your cute little coffee stop in the am, but also your destination for dinner too. Part and parcel of the new “post”-pandemic is this intuitive new concept. The crunch is real, we all NEED coffee, we all EAT lunch and come dinner, we’re all scrambling to create a meal that is both healthy and convenient.
After ten years at Dundas and University, The PATH, The Danforth and now on Yonge near Davisville, Cafe Plenty has lots to celebrate. I caught up with co-owners Melissa and Jennifer Patterson about the evolution of their brand. And what it’s like keeping it in the family.
SISTERS ARE DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES
A self-taught cook with a panache for entertaining, Melissa began the company in 2011 after searching for two years for a location. “I didn’t have an established business concept. Landlords didn’t want to sign with me out of the gate,” shares Melissa. A common refrain for food entrepreneurs, Melissa may have had the recipes, but without the business chops, it was an uphill battle.
Relying on her family as support, her father often joined meetings and used his own business experience to encourage the concept. Signing the first lease on the tidy space was a risk. At only 800 sq ft, the storefront would eat up the entire space, with an adjacent storage space acting as the kitchen.
Energizing that pocket of town with baked goods, coffees and smart lunches evolved into more locations. The Yonge and King outpost was a pandemic casualty. But with her sister Jennifer jumping on board, it wasn’t long before the focus shifted. “We have very different skill sets. I have a business background with stints at Google and TD, most recently as a CMO and I was just done. Melissa had been hit so hard as all other businesses and I just knew it felt right,” offers Jennifer.
Launching the pantry concept, with a hyper-focus on local products was Jennifer’s charge. Betting on the local food market was a smart decision. Sauces, snacks and sweets made by local heroes, with a specific tilt towards BIPOC make for an inclusive environment.
PLENTY OF REWARDS IF YOU CAN HANDLE THE RISK
Between running four locations and on the hunt for a few more, Cafe Plenty has some big aspirations. “It started off as a cafe, very traditional. Coffees, baked goods, platters of salads and sandwiches. Come in, eat with your eyes. Ramping up on grab and go was born out of necessity”, says Melissa.
Equally both self-described salad addicts, Jennifer describes herself affectionately as Melissa’s ‘HypeWoman‘. Secondary to cheering her sister on, her day-to-day revolves around championing small businesses. Locally sourced foods pair brilliantly with fair-trade coffee and heat and eat meals. “It’s the type of food you want to bring home and feed to your family and friends,” shares Jennifer.
Interview may be edited for length/clarity. All images by Libby Roach.