At Café Krieghoff in Québec City, every single cup of coffee is the proprietor’s signature. “The quality, amount, water, temperature and style all have to be consistent for that specific type of coffee,” says Kathy Rioux, who has owned the iconic neighbourhood café on Cartier Avenue with her silent partner Vincent Drouin since 2009.
By Julie Gedeon
Photography by Francis Vachon
“Our regular customers – and we have many people who come here daily – expect their coffee to always be the same.”
Rioux personally trains every barista at the café. “To become a good barista takes at least a month of training,” she says. “And I want to make sure that every one of our baristas knows how to convey my passion for coffee.”
That passion began 35 years ago when the original proprietors collaborated with a local coffee supplier to create a blend incorporating five different types of top-quality beans. The secret recipe is the reason so many locals frequent Café Krieghoff and why Fodor and other travel guides recommend the quaint brick edifice punctuated by red awnings and a sidewalk terrace.
Rioux started as “the pizza girl” in 1991 and within a few years became the chef. Enamoured with the coffee and seeking more customer interaction, she trained in 1993 to be the next barista – a position she held for six years.
She was already the manager when the opportunity arose to buy Café Krieghoff. “While there are some things we never want to change – namely the coffee and favourites like our croque monsieur – I knew we could take the café to the next level by introducing dishes such as our Toulouse sausages and Angus steaks.
Despite the skyrocketing price of coffee, a café allongé (espresso mellowed with additional water) remains at the $2.95 price established a decade ago. “It’s a challenge to keep the price the same, but our customers are looking for quality they can afford and the café allongé is like our trademark,” Rioux says. “In return, customers are extremely loyal to our business – regularly ordering breakfast and bringing friends and clients for lunch or dinner.”
Tips to brew up business
- Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s easy to run a café. The competition is fierce with new cafés opening all the time. You must be consistent and creative to remain successful.
- Learn the business first. Rioux had 22 years’ experience before she purchased Café Krieghoff.
- Be disciplined. Rioux spends all of her time on the floor backing up her staff as required.
- Personally oversee all training to ensure your staff are consistently presenting the products and service you want.
- Be kind to your workers. Rioux encourages her staff to work a four-day week so they have time for their children or studies and are well rested when they return to work.