BYRON BEACH CAFE: Champion Cafe at Small Business awards.
BYRON BEACH CAFE: Champion Cafe at Small Business awards. The Northern Star

Champion cafe owner takes Virgin boss's advice and ‘listens’

DINNER with Richard Branson confirmed what Australian Small Business Champion Cafe winner Ben Kirkwood always knew - listening to customers leads to business success.

Mr Kirkwood and his wife Belinda co-own the Byron Beach Cafe, which scooped up the prestigious Champion Cafe award at the 2014 Australian Small Business Champion Awards, held on Saturday at The West in Sydney.

But Mr Kirkwood refused to soak up any of the limelight, instead praising his 50-strong team of staff and his supportive customers, who he cited as the real champions.

"I've had dinner with Richard Branson and he said to me it's about listening to your customers," he said. "The reason we won this award was because of our great staff and customer support, so a big thank you to them all.

"Having good staff and making them feel part of the team and the business processes was a huge part of us getting the award I think.

"It was such a great accolade for the team, because we've won many awards, but this one was about our business model, our principles and our contribution to the community. I guess you could say it was a bit less superficial."

Mr Kirkwood, who has been in the hospitality industry for 20 years, also said "we weren't really expecting it".

"When we found out we won, it was a bit of a pinch yourself moment, you just go 'wow'," he said. "Since the win we've had a huge response from the customers, especially on Facebook."

An exceptional commitment to building a prosperous and successful business and outstanding contributions to the local Byron Bay community were reasons why the cafe won the award.

A panel of experts decided the winner and Mr Kirkwood was presented with an award statuette, certificate and he gained official national recognition as an industry leader.

The Byron Beach Cafe, Lawson St, Byron Bay, offers catering, meals, hosts weddings and also services events in the area.


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