Interview with Rod Morrison
© 2013 By Evan Papamichael,
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Tuesday 19 November 2013
Evan: One) What is your name and how long have you owned and worked in Sassafras Café?
Rod: My name is Rod Morrison and I have owned and worked at the Sassafras Café with my wife, Karen; for five years- from Melbourne Cup last weekend.
Evan: Two) What do you like and enjoy about working in Sassafras?
Rod: Umm, Sassafras is a nice small village-everyone knows everyone else-I know everyone here-I can’t walk down the street without bumping into someone I know. It’s just fantastic-I love that, the friendly atmosphere, here.
Evan: Three) How excellent is the lay-back village atmosphere, here?
Rod: Well. I think you come into the Hills…as soon as you come into the mountain, of Mount Dandenong…it’s a…the atmosphere changes…it sort of becomes a little bit more peaceful-the air is cleaner, it’s just lovely.
Evan: Four) How picturesque and panoramic are the views of the mountains and forest areas as you drive up Mount Dandenong?
Rod: It’s an early childhood memory of mine. When I remember -
You know coming up here with my God Mother who bought some land here in the 1960s. I remember the big tree ferns and there was water dripping off them and big mountain ashes and I will always remember how amazing and green everything was. That was one of the reasons we chose to live up here.
Evan: Five) What are the happiest and most content comments that visitors to your Café say about your: service, food, tea, coffee, cakes, meals and drinks?
Rod: I think if you look on the internet, there is a website called:
We got some lovely comments from a lot of people-in fact we do not have any negative comments.
They say the nicest things. We try and have a friendly, happy environment, up here.
Our staff is really wonderful. I think we all get on really well. They (the staff)
are all local girls. I know their parents-in fact-I know some of their grandparents...which just shows how old I am and how young they really are.
Evan: Six) What do you offer to visitors that is special to them?
Rod: What we do-we do well. Our scones, our Devonshire Teas are fantastic. My wife, Karen makes the scones and a local lady makes her own jam for us and we use proper double cream- so we are always using good quality ingredients. But I think people respect that- people like that.
Evan: Seven) Which of the best English Teas do you offer or any other Teas?
Rod: I have my own special blend of Tea which I use. It is called the Sassafras Café blend-it is an English breakfast and Earl Grey blend.
We Have a Tea shop up the road, (called Tea Leaves), we use all their tea leaves. I am totally addicted to it. It’s the only Tea I drink, now.
Evan: Eight) Which special or best coffee do you offer?
Rod: We use Map Coffee-which is an Italian Roasted Arabica Blend. It’s lovely…and I think it’s a really nice coffee.
Evan: Nine) Why do visitors feel so welcome with your: friendly and relaxed-courteous, service.
Rod: We’re a friendly place. We only employ friendly people.
The one thing I look at, when I look at our staff is that-the first thing-they must do is smile…I think that wins most arguments.
Evan: Ten) What is so friendly and cosy about your Café?
Rod: In Winter we are always warm, in here. We actually get some snow in here, occasionally.
Evan: How often do you get snow?
Rod: We used to get snow once a year-but I think now-things are warming up a bit more, now.
This year, it tried to snow, but failed. But three years ago, we had snow that lasted for about a week. We made a snowman. We get the best snow, here, because it goes away after about a week.
Evan: Eleven) As an owner of a Café, how are you friendly and helpful to your visitors?
Rod: I run a visitor’s information Centre, here. So we do have: maps-of the area; and, we have other local attractions and people leave brochures here… for Bed and Breakfast. We try to participate in the community, as well.
Evan: Twelve) How do you and your staff: approach the customers-in an old-fashioned, respectful-manner?
Rod: We are an old-fashioned respectful Café! And that’s how we run our business. The customer is the most important person. And as soon as someone walks in here, I want my staff and me to say,”Hey, hi how are you going?”
“What can I do or would you like a table?”
Evan: Thirteen) Which delicious meals do you offer and why are they so popular?
Rod: All our meals are delicious. We do not pre-prepare food. So we do not have food hanging around, in fridges.
Our Focaccias-we make up as we go. We do not have them pre-made. Our Club Sandwiches, our Burgers are to die for. People really like the fresh aspect of it all.
Evan: Any Aussie Classics?
Rod: Our Burgers are Fantastic!
Evan: Fourteen) Do your visitors come for a coffee or tea or a meal to relax; most often only on the weekend or also during the weekdays and how often do the regulars come back?
Rod: Our regulars keep us in business. We have a huge number of regulars who come: once a month, twice a month, three times a month or every three months; and, we have different bodies of people who do that. If you have enough of them you are full all the time. People attract other people so your regulars are so important.
Evan: Fifteen) What sort of tourists come to your Café; and, at what time of the year; and, is it more on weekends; or during the week; or more in Summer or Winter; or, during school holidays?
Rod: Holiday seasons are always busy. Both on weekends and on weekdays we are always busy. During the holiday season Easter is our busiest time. Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for us. We will double what we usually do on a Sunday. All weekends are pretty busy. Our busiest season is Autumn. Summer (January) during school holidays is generally busy.
Spring is a little bit more moderate. We are a little busy during Christmas.
People come here to eat and then do their Christmas shopping at some of our specialty shops here in Sassafras.
Evan: Sixteen) Do more families come to your Café or couples or people on their own or bike riders or mountain climbers or walkers or groups of tourists or groups of Melbournians or from country Victoria or from interstate from different parts of Australia or from overseas.
Rod: We get a lot of families up here and we are relatively inexpensive. We provide nice food and keep friendly. We have international tourists- a lot of people who do not speak English. The language of food is something that everyone can speak. They can buy a burger or a cappuccino. Devonshire Tea is world-famous , that’s the number one thing we do here.
Evan: Seventeen) What makes you happy about running your Café?
Rod: My staff is fun to work with and they are nice. Our customers are really nice. I love all the people who come here. I love meeting people and talking to them. We want all the customers who come here to have a good feeling and leave the Café, thinking that they have had a nice experience. I think they generally do, feel this way.
Evan: Eighteen) Why would you recommend your Café to visitors?
Rod: The number of people we have had over here in the last five years; so many of them said it was the best experience they have ever had; and, we will be back and so many of them do keep coming back.
We have one couple who keep on coming back from England. They come back to visit their grandchildren and they come here, every year.
They will come here three or four times in a three week period. They usually come here in February so that is when, the English Winter, is almost finishing. So I think they want a bit of warmer weather, too.
© Evan Papamichael 2013
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