Photo by Paul Arps

Photo by Paul Arps

“There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.”

-Lord Byron

On the east coast of Australia, in the state of New South Wales, there’s a little slice of paradise that was once known by the Arakwal Aboriginal people as Cavvanbah, which means “meeting place.” Later, it was renamed to Cape Byron, which had nothing to do with the English poet Lord Byron.  It was, in fact, named for his grandfather, Royal Navy Vice-Admiral John Byron, who never set foot there.  The gentleman who named it was Captain James Cook, another Royal Navy officer, who was not a cook.  These days, there are plenty of streets named after english poets in the town of Byron Bay, because that’s what happens when you leave creative tasks to bureaucrats.  There is also a new wave of cooks descending upon the area, and none of them have anything to do with old Captain James.  Long known as a laid back community of hippies, surfers, millionaires, and tourists alike, the influx of these cooks means Byron Bay restaurants are fast becoming part of Australia’s premiere dining scene.  The man responsible for this growth?  His name is Lord Byron.

That’s not true at all, actually, but I needed some kind of circular denouement to justify the build up.  Admit it, for a second there you were all, “Whoa, dude.”

In any case, Byron Bay is experiencing a bit of a food renaissance these days, and—you had to know this was coming—Kounta is very much a part of the machinery that’s running some of the best dining experiences the area has to offer.  There’s a burst of culinary creativity happening there, and while we wouldn’t presume to take credit for that, it is worth noting that many of these out-of-the-box restaurateurs  rely on Kounta to serve the Bay’s 5,000 permanent residents.  Oh, and the 1.7 million tourists that pass through annually.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here: let’s start at the top.

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“Alas! How deeply painful is all payment!”
-Lord Byron

By the top, I’m talking about the Top Shop, Andy Gordon’s much loved breakfast and lunch hangout in the heart of Byron Bay.  Known as much for their burgers as they are for their yogurt bowls (served with chia and flax, of course), the Top Shop also doubles as a lab and test facility for the Tech Pantry—Andy Gordon’s other business—which provides cloud software implementation and support services to hospitality businesses in the area.  At the center of their offerings is Kounta, which the Top Shop team puts through its paces daily.  As a Kounta partner, Gordon and his pantry dwellers build out full solutions in Top Shop, giving them a real life test lab they can easily point to for prospective clients.  Top Shop’s setup includes a Beat the Q integration to help drive their take-out business, and judging by the happy faces sitting out on their lawn, resting in the shade and enjoying their food, all is going smoothly.  Tech Pantry’s growing list of clients, in and out of Byron Bay, is another sign that Gordon’s “pressure tested” solutions (as he calls them) are earning some serious street cred amongst this new breed of restaurateurs, and he’s been removing that deep pain of payment for them over the last few years.  What’s more, Kounta is proving itself in a diverse array of establishments, from tiny coffee kiosk to the type of fancy dining place that pairs organ meats with the perfect wine.

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Just a short ride south on the A1 from Byron Bay, the Harvest Cafe is one of those satisfied customers.  Harvest supplies the bread for many of the eateries in the Bay, and recently supplied a new cafe to the area, as well.  The Sparrow Cafe, Harvest’s offshoot in Byron Bay and Bangalow, uses Kounta and Beat the Q to turn tiny storefronts into a simple no-wait, yet high quality, coffee experience (complete with Harvest bread, pastries, and other quick turnaround eats).  This is one of those instances where the technology really improves the experience.  If you’ve ever been on an early morning line of people who’ve not yet had their coffee and need to get to work, you know what hell looks like.  At the Sparrow, though, with its muted but cheery colors fostering a vibe of serenity, the synergy between counter service and Kounta’s service helps to keep customers focused on the quality of the coffee and food.

 

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The Bayleaf Cafe

If it’s a more substantial breakfast you’re looking for—or if you want a healthy lunch—the Bayleaf Cafe is a quick three minute walk from Sparrow up Fletcher Street.  With a bunch of five star reviews from Yelpers and Googlers alike, the Bayleaf offers up some seriously creative and good-for-you food: you don’t have to be a vegan to salivate over coconut and quinoa Porridge, served with a poached pear and cashew cream.  Likewise for their blue corn tamale stuffed with mesoamerican spiced vegetables, whatever that means.  A lot of these rave reviews single out the service here, as well, which is an accomplishment, given that the place is always packed.  But it’s not a surprise to us; with Kounta as the backbone of operations there, Bayleaf is already a step ahead in terms of being a well organized machine.  Food orders go to the kitchen, specialty coffee orders to the espresso station, and the Tables add-on for Kounta keeps the dining area well under control.

And then there’s Fleet: the kind of restaurant that’s so upscale and trendy it’s in danger of being a parody of itself.  With a small but selective list of top notch wines and no set menu other than what’s available at the market that day, Fleet could very well have been one of those places that rests on its creative laurels and doesn’t think so much about the mechanics of actually serving the food in a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.  The restaurant doesn’t even have a coolroom for storing ingredients, so every day is an exercise in managing the unexpected.  This, of course, presents a unique problem for the restaurant’s ability to attract new customers through word of mouth: you may have had the most delicious pickled oysters at Fleet, but there’s no guarantee future diners will get to sample them.  It becomes imperative, then, that the experience of the place shines above all else.  It can’t just be about the food, or the wine, or the cocktails, or the service.  All of that has to be spot-on: the chef and staff need to be laser-focused on providing their diners with a memorable meal, from start to finish. If all the customers are saying is, “The oysters were amazing!” then Fleet’s a step behind.  The praise needs to be lavished on the restaurant itself—the ambience, the wait staff, the timing of the plates, the availability of the wine.  In short, everything.  With Kounta behind the scenes, Fleet is making this work.  Information flows freely between chef and staff and customer, needs are anticipated, the wine list is always current, and the menu never disappoints.

Image Courtesy of Gourmet Traveller

Image Courtesy of Gourmet Traveller

The “experience” of these restaurants—from the tiny little Sparrow to the very impressively regal Fleet—is the common thread here.  It’s not that Kounta lets restaurateurs go on autopilot with their operations, but it does free them up to focus on what they wanted to do to begin with: serve great food and drink to people while maintaining the casual and relaxed atmosphere of a beachside resort town.  These restaurants need to extend the experience of Byron Bay as a whole.  I don’t care how great your breakkie is; anything that jars a customer out of her idyllic surroundings and reminds her of the world outside this paradise has failed.  Sure, the customers aren’t going to notice that the POS is having any impact on their experience, and that’s a good thing.  Technology ought to augment human experience, not dominate it.  As Lord Byron himself used to say, “Can I pay with my phone?”