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Inverness BID Small Business Focus Q&A: A perfect blend of innovation with a dash of nostalgia

By Features Reporter

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Benny Karoci-Hadar, owner of unique vintage cinema cafe, Rendezvous. Picture: James Mackenzie
Benny Karoci-Hadar, owner of unique vintage cinema cafe, Rendezvous. Picture: James Mackenzie

Small Business Focus in association with Inverness BID

Q How would you describe your business to a stranger?

A We are the "sugar pushers" of coffee, tea, brunch and lunch; a whimsical eatery that offers a tantalising fusion of Scottish tradition and cosmopolitan flavours to satisfy your cravings all day long. In addition to our culinary offerings, we are proud to offer a unique experience that sets us apart. Step into our vintage cinema, where we screen classic 40s slapstick comedies all day long. As you enjoy your meal or sip on your coffee, you'll be surrounded by cinema portraits of beloved heroes adorning our walls. But that's not all – our cinema is adorned with original projection wheels from the former Playhouse and La Scala of Inverness, adding a touch of nostalgia and history to your visit. Immerse yourself in the golden era of cinema as you indulge in our delectable treats.

As well as cinematic history, Rendezvous cafe also showcases music history. Previously the site was home to The Northern Meeting Rooms venue, a major part of the fabric of the city’s nightlife hosting ballroom dancing and music gigs. In 1960, a certain Liverpool-based band came to Inverness, The Silver Beetles, as they were known then, saw John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Tommy Moore perform on May 21 as the backing group for Johnny Gentle. A few short weeks later, they changed their name, tweaked their line-up and became The Beatles!

After the Northern Meeting Rooms were demolished another iconic venue was born – Record Rendezvous, a treasure-trove of vinyl and cassette music.

Rendezvous cafe is an experience you won't find anywhere else, making us truly one-of-a-kind in Inverness.

Q What inspired you to start the business?

A I'm a firm believer in the power of coffee shop connections and the stories they create. To me, an urban coffee shop is like an umbilical cord of light, fostering casual and unpretentious encounters. It's a place where you can come, sip, munch, and engage in meaningful conversations, all while enjoying quality time, taking a breather, or simply killing time. This is why we do not offer wi-fi! Our diners can pretend it’s 1995 and can try to speak to each other.

Interestingly, my stint as a canteen officer for a battalion during my military service left an indelible mark on me. It became a "profession for life" that I always kept up my sleeve. Prior to that, I had a career as a production manager in a TV and cinema theatre, and spent countless years as a commercial trainer for retail companies and more. But eventually, I made a conscious decision to slow down the pace of my life, earn less, and focus more on connecting with people. Here at our coffee shop, we have an incredible team that not only manages itself but also takes ownership of the restaurant. It's a collective effort driven by passion and a shared vision.

Q How has your business developed?

A The business has evolved naturally, gradually, and consistently over the years. We have always strived to be innovative and pioneers in creating an immediate atmosphere of warmth and personalised service for our customers. The nature of our establishment demands this approach – with an open kitchen situated close to the tables, guests can witness the bustling activity of food preparation, enjoy the enticing aromas, and soak in the vibrant, cosmopolitan ambiance. We take pride in being the first in the area to introduce a gluten-free menu a decade ago, catering to the diverse dietary needs of our patrons. In addition to our traditional offerings, we have expanded our menu to include a full vegetarian Scottish meal, providing a delightful culinary experience for all. Furthermore, we have incorporated tea and coffee drinks infused with hemp, offering unique options for our guests. Our commitment to excellence has been recognized by our customers, as evidenced by our steady reputation of 4.5 out of 5 ratings on TripAdvisor for over a decade. We have become a beloved destination among locals and a must-visit spot for tourists seeking an unforgettable dining experience.

Q What are your plans to develop your business in the future?

A In addition to our accolades, we love to share and see that The Sunday Times has rated us among the top five coffee shops in Inverness. This recognition further solidifies our position as a premier destination for coffee enthusiasts seeking a remarkable brew. We are honoured to be included in such esteemed company and will continue to uphold our commitment to delivering exceptional coffee, tea, and dining experiences to our valued customers.

Q What lessons have you learnt from your time in business?

A My natural motto is: Do not panic, it's all organic! Relationships are formed not only in workplaces but also over meals. Embrace change and never settle for a comfort zone. Contrary to popular belief, the customer isn't always right. However, serving others is a noble endeavour. To successfully run an eatery, one must prioritise consistency in quality flavours and provide exceptionally warm service.

Q What’s your vision for Inverness city centre?

A There is a need for a more diverse and vibrant gastronomic culture, as well as a rich fashion scene, nightlife, and more.

Q Can you tell us something interesting about yourself?

A I am an artist of change, both in body and mind. Entrepreneurship runs through my veins, and I thrive on connecting with others. I have a direct and pragmatic approach, tempered with a touch of romanticism. My passions encompass cinema, theatre, music, sports, art, and pets. My achievements are primarily gauged by the satisfaction of individuals as they relish the ambiance I create through food, drink, and quality time. Over the course of nearly 16 years, I have actively engaged in coaching and training individuals, groups, and businesses, which has provided me with profound insights into life.

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