Cheeky Chewies, or “Cheeky’s” as the owners affectionately call it, is a café restaurant that opened in Laverton, Victoria, in January 2017. The business helps to solve the Sustainable Development Goals of Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-Being, Decent Work and Economic Growth, and Reduced Inequalities through employing local youth in its provision of affordable and nutritious food in a low-income community.
Cheeky’s is revolutionary in the way it selects its employees. “We believe in training up young people... we want to help young adults. We want to help them feel that there is a purpose,” Ms. Chew said. This is exemplary of the way that Cheeky’s fits into and adapts itself to the Laverton community, which has a much younger adult profile than most other areas in the municipality (Hobsons Bay City Council, 2009). This focus on the youth takes the form of Cheeky’s strong emphasis on hiring young, inexperienced people from the local area and giving them the tools to upskill.
Cheeky’s is innovative not only in the sense of the product it delivers, but the way in which its people deliver it. Ms. Chew says, “We want to be different from a lot of other franchises,” as she refers to the fast-food conglomerates that dominate the affordable dining scene. The aforementioned focus on family is reflected in the design of Cheeky's space, which incorporates a cleverly enclosed children’s play area that contains noise. It is rare to see such an interactive and spacious play-space in a full-fledged restaurant such as this, and Cheeky’s manages to accomplish this without compromising the aesthetics and feel of an authentic dining experience.
Cheeky Chewies is the brainchild of John and Celine Chew, a brother-sister duo who saw a need in the local market for affordable, community-focused family dining that does not compromise on quality, taste, or nutrition. The partnership is driven by a desire to serve the community, and in doing so, John Chew brings to the venture industry experience and practical know-how, while Celine Chew delivers administrative support and financial management.
Cheeky’s recognizes that customers and the wider community are one and the same. “We realized that in this suburb, we need to create a variety of different pricing for different families in the area... What Cheeky’s wants to achieve is something really affordable to help the community,” Ms. Chew told me. The business operates in light of the demographics of the suburb, of which a significant proportion can be classified as earning below the poverty line for a single working person (Hobsons Bay City Council, 2009).
Ms. Chew also conveyed Cheeky’s philosophy towards caring for its community. “Here we are so different because we create a friendship with customers," she said, and proceeded to relay the heartwarming story of a regular customer who initially appeared unhappy and consumed a significant amount of alcohol at the restaurant on a regular basis. Ms. Chew quickly realized that there was a deeper issue at play here and encouraged the staff to develop a friendship with the customer. Over time, Ms. Chew saw a positive change in the customer’s demeanor that she described as “rewarding.” “Having a business here does not mean that we are just feeding their tummies. It is more of feeding them spiritually as well,” she said, referencing Cheeky's place in the local community.
Cheeky Chewies is a business operating in the highly competitive hospitality sector. In addition to its aim to impact the community and local youth in a positive way, the Chews have an interest in maintaining profitability.
A business of Cheeky Chewie’s size has been reported by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (2011) to have a lower survival rate than medium and large businesses. It is therefore paramount that the Chews keep bottom lines healthy to ensure the life of the Cheeky Chewies venture as a going concern. Cheeky’s has far exceeded this and has managed to remain profitable despite keeping its products extremely affordable and is currently a flourishing part of its community.
Cheeky’s unique design is a far cry from the harried and worn-out feel that many family dining options present, yet local families remain at the forefront regardless. This is carefully replicated even in the pricing, as demonstrated by Ms. Chew: “Different pricing for the different families in the area is needed because we know that people in this area just want a nice meal that tastes good.”
However, Ms. Chew is careful to note that affordable does not necessarily mean unhealthy: “Healthy food does not mean food that is plain and tasteless... for Cheeky’s it means eating right with a balance of different nutrients. It’s not so much as not using processed ingredients, but instead using raw ingredients and turning it into a good dish.”
Cheeky’s take on environmental sustainability is not unlike that of many other food and beverage ventures. The restaurant uses eco-conscious LED lighting, is mindful of recyclables, sources primarily from local suppliers, and has perfected its stock-take so that the business has achieved its aim of eliminating food wastage. Furthermore, all coffee grounds are given to a local mushroom farm to be used as fertilizer, and it has even considered solar-paneling the premises.
Celine Chew, Owner
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Melbourne, Victoria, AU
Business Website: http://cheekychewiescafe.com.au/
Year Founded: 2017
Number of Employees: 11 to 50