IBJNews

INSIDE DISH: Saffron Cafe surges in second year

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Inside Dish

Welcome back to IBJ’s video feature “Inside Dish: The Business of Running Restaurants.”

Our subject this week is Saffron Cafe, which has filled a void for Moroccan cuisine downtown since opening in March 2009. Chef and co-owner Anass Sentissi broke off from his family's Bloomington restaurant, Casablanca Cafe, in hopes of finding more consistent business in a local economy not dependent on the September-May school schedule.



"It's not consistent business; it's dead in the summer," said Sentissi, who hails from the Moroccan city of Meknes. "Just by staying open, you are losing money."

Sentissi and his wife, Anne, staked out a locale for Saffron Cafe—so-named for the expensive and extremely potent Mediterranean spice—in the former home of the near-north favorite Canary Cafe. Left with the free-standing structure's shell, they spent three months rebuilding the interior and decorating with tile, light fixtures, pottery, photographs and other materials directly from Morocco.

Stricken with a tight budget, Sentissi and a handyman did most of the work themselves, apart from electrical wiring. They were able to open the restaurant's doors with $150,000 in startup capital from a variety of sources, including a $25,000 Small Business Administration loan, a $25,000 line of credit, and $50,000 obtained by refinancing the Sentissis' home mortgage.

In the early going, the cafe's marketing strategy relied on word-of-mouth referrals. To that end, the Sentissis staged a grand-opening night in which they comped the meals of about 120 diners, hoping to generate a critical mass of early buzz. This spring, they invited about 20 of the city's hotel concierges to the restaurant for free meals in order to stay front-of-mind with those vital links to the city's tourists.

Unlike many small, locally owned eateries that increasingly rely on cost-free social media, Saffron Cafe now also takes the more traditional route of advertising on an area radio station (for which they pay $550 per month) and in local print publications.

"At first you want to see if the product is working or not," Sentissi said. "If the product  is working and people try it and love it, they come back and generate word of mouth. We see a lot of repeat customers. But you also want to reach people [through advertising] who have not had a chance to hear about you."

Saffron's gross sales have grown markedly since the March 2009 opening—from $250,000 over 10 months in 2009 to an estimated $400,000 for 2010.

In the video above, Anass and Anne discuss their challenges in opening the restaurant, amassing financing, the cafe's cuisine, and the importance of achieving consistency in dishes based on family recipes and the chef's instincts. 
 

x
x
x
Saffron Cafe
x
621 Fort Wayne Ave.
x
(317) 917-0131
x
x
www.saffroncafe-indy.com
x
x
x
Concept: Moroccan and Mediterranean-region cuisine focusing on fresh ingredients and authentic spices.
x
Founded: March 2009
x
Owners: Anass and Anne Sentissi
x
Start-up costs: $150,000 (including a $25,000 SBA loan; a $25,000 line of credit from the same bank; $50,000 from refinancing the owners' home mortgage; personal savings; and financial support from family).
x
Gross sales: $250,000 (2009); $400,000 (projected for 2010).
x
Seating: 50 (14 tables), with enclosed and heated outdoor seating expected within several weeks.
x
Employees: 15
x
Goals: To increase catering business, and grow sales through the A La Carte Delivery service, which takes orders for and delivers food from several downtown restaurants. The Sentissis also are contemplating expansion options, such as adding rooftop dining at their current location or opening a tapas-style eatery on the far-north side.
x
Good to know: Chef Anass Sentissi is an accomplished Middle Eastern percussionist who grew up in Meknes, Morocco. He's an expert in Moroccan Andalusian classical music and in 2005 co-founded the Moroccan  Andalusian Classical Music Orchestra of Bloomington, Indiana.
x
x
x
ADVERTISEMENT

  • The BEST
    Great food!
    Love the delivery service: www.alacarteindy.com
    Bringing Chef Sentissi food to my dinning room table is priceless.
  • to clarify
    not really complaining about not being able to walk-in on the weekends--i'm very happy for the owner that saffron has become so successful. it just means i have to plan ahead!
  • one complaint
    the only complaint i have is that i can't walk-in on a friday or saturday night...can't get a table until 9:30 w/out a reservation!

    great food, very nice chef/owner who wanders the dining room to meet the patrons, and GREAT FOOD! if you haven't been, it's a must try (but make a reservation for the weekend.)
    • Love it
      Our Masonic lodge group dined there several months ago. Anne and Anass Sentissi made every minute of the evening entertaining, and a completely unique, memorable and personal experience. The food is wonderful. Go. Eat.
    • Great food!
      The only place I have found that is better in Moroccan food is El Yacout, in Fez, Morocco. It is a great place to stay while in Fez, too. (Meknes is not far from Fez--we have been there).
    • Worth A VISIT
      amazing flavors and service not surpassed. A true class act to downtown.

    Post a comment to this story

    COMMENTS POLICY
    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
     
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
     
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
     
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
     
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
     

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by
    ADVERTISEMENT

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
     
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. Socialized medicine works great for white people in Scandanavia. It works well in Costa Rica for a population that is partly white and partly mestizo. I don't really see Obamacare as something aimed against whites. I think that is a Republican canard designed to elicit support from white people for republican candidates who don't care about them any more than democrats care about the non-whites they pander to with their phony maneuvers. But what is different between Costa Rica nd the Scandanavian nations on one hand and the US on the other? SIZE. Maybe the US is just too damn big. Maybe it just needs to be divided into smaller self governing pieces like when the old Holy Roman Empire was dismantled. Maybe we are always trying the same set of solutions for different kinds of people as if we were all the same. Oh-- I know-- that is liberal dogma, that we are all the same. Which is the most idiotic American notion going right back to the propaganda of 1776. All men are different and their differences are myriad and that which is different is not equal. The state which pretends men are all the same is going to force men to be the same. That is what America does here, that is what we do in our stupid overseas wars, that is how we destroy true diversity and true difference, and we are all as different groups of folks, feeling the pains of how capitalism is grinding us down into equally insignificant proletarian microconsumers with no other identity whether we like it or not. And the Marxists had this much right about the War of Independence: it was fundamentally a war of capitalist against feudal systems. America has been about big money since day one and whatever gets in the way is crushed. Health care is just another market and Obamacare, to the extent that it Rationalizes and makes more uniform a market which should actually be really different in nature and delivery from place to place-- well that will serve the interests of the biggest capitalist stakeholders in health care which is not Walmart for Gosh Sakes it is the INSURANCE INDUSTRY. CUI BONO Obamacare? The insurance industry. So republicans drop the delusion pro capitalist scales from your eyes this has almost nothing to do with race or "socialism" it has to do mostly with what the INSURANCE INDUSTRY wants to have happen in order to make their lives and profits easier.

    2. Read the article - the reason they can't justify staying is they have too many medicare/medicaid patients and the re-imbursements for transporting these patient is so low.

    3. I would not vote for Bayh if he did run. I also wouldn't vote for Pence. My guess is that Bayh does not have the stomach to oppose persons on the far left or far right. Also, outside of capitalizing on his time as U. S. Senator (and his wife's time as a board member to several companies) I don't know if he is willing to fight for anything. If people who claim to be in the middle walk away from fights with the right and left wing, what are we left with? Extremes. It's probably best for Bayh if he does not have the stomach for the fight but the result is no middle ground.

    4. JK - I meant that the results don't ring true. I also questioned the 10-year-old study because so much in the "health care system" has changed since the study was made. Moreover, it was hard to get to any overall conclusion or observation with the article. But....don't be defensive given my comments; I still think you do the best job of any journalist in the area shedding light and insight on important health care issues.

    5. Probably a good idea he doesn't run. I for one do not want someone who lives in VIRGINIA to be the governor. He gave it some thought, but he likes Virginia too much. What a name I cannot say on this site! The way these people think and operate amuses me.

    ADVERTISEMENT