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A Coffee With: Geoff Lenehan, Co-Owner of Bibi’s Cafe – Sponsored by Toast

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Nestled in the heart of Portobello, Bibi’s Café has been winning over Dublin’s food lovers since opening its doors in 2010. Co-owners Geoff Lenehan and his sister Maisha have cultivated a cosy space where locals and visitors alike will happily queue for delicious brunch fare and exceptional coffee, and Bibi’s is widely considered an institution in the Dublin food scene.

We caught up with Geoff to find out what makes Bibi’s so enduringly popular, get his insights into successfully running one of Dublin’s favourite spots, and more.

Geoff reminisces about the cafe’s humble beginnings, “Maisha started with a 15-seater in Portobello serving a daily menu inspired by the freshest seasonal produce.” Fast forward to today, having expanded the premises in Portobello and with a second location thriving in Dun Laoghaire, Bibi’s growth and success is no mean feat in the current climate.

For Geoff, the magic of running Bibi’s lies in the everyday interactions.” The day-to-day buzz and energy from our lovely staff, suppliers and customers! You can’t beat it!” he smiles. This sense of community extends beyond the cafe’s walls, with a strong emphasis on local sourcing and cultivating strong relationships within the Irish food industry.

A typical day at Bibi’s starts early, with Geoff overseeing kitchen preparations from 7am. Mornings are filled with admin and team meetings, while afternoons are all about serving delicious food to flocking customers. The signature Squash Eggs dish has become a beloved staple, a testament to the cafe’s commitment to “use the best ingredients with a focus on sourcing locally as much as possible.” Its cult status is such that “we could nearly have a café just serving that one dish!” Geoff laughs.

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As one of the city’s most popular cafes, with people from far and wide willing to queue to get their fix, Bibi’s has been quick to embrace technology to enhance the customer experience. Geoff explains, “with the introduction of the Toast handheld units and kitchen screens, we are now able to speed up our operation which makes the customer experience far more efficient.” Geoff also emphasises the positive impact Toast’s technology has on Bibi’s ever-busy environment, stating, “the way the Toast system communicates from server to barista to chef is the most positive aspect for our fast-paced venue.”

When asked about the secret to Bibi’s long-standing success, Geoff simply states, “treating people like they are in your own home!”. He values the advice to build a strong team, as “a cafe or a restaurant can only be as strong as it’s team.” 

However, running a busy cafe is not without its challenges, especially in the current economic climate. Geoff admits, “At this moment in time it is making sure the figures all add up.” He praises Toast, saying, “Toast has been a great addition to our business. Not only has it improved our service levels but also from an administration side. The data you can pull from their system is very helpful for future planning and budgeting.”

Pressed on his best advice for aspirant café owners, Geoff advocates for “having a rock-solid business plan in place first and run that plan by as many informed people as you can. You can’t beat advice from those who have been there and done it.” When asked about the secret to Bibi’s long-standing success, Geoff is quick to answer that the key genuinely is “treating people like they are in your own home!” 

Despite the challenges, Geoff’s passion for the Irish food industry shines through as he shares, “I just love the camaraderie it brings, be it with fellow café folk or with suppliers. There is a genuine push out there to improve standards and build on an already rich food culture,” he notes, naming Chapter One and Osteria Lucio’s Ross Lewis as the person he admires most in the industry. When it comes to local Irish produce, Geoff loves McNally Farm vegetables, used in both cafes and at home.

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Geoff reveals his go-to drink is a good pint of Guinness, his local pub is the Horse & Hound in Delgany, and he enjoys cooking simple Italian cuisine at home while Indian is his staple cuisine when dining out. It makes sense then that the one place he will never get sick of visiting is 3 Leaves in Blackrock. “Millie and Santosh have a very special place” he tells us, adding that his hangover cure will always be “Butter Chicken, Naan, and Fries.” 

While Bibi’s would undoubtedly make many a “Best Coffee Spot” in Dublin list, Clement & Pekoe ranks highly as Geoff’s go-to coffee spot, and if he could only eat one dish forever, he would keep it simple with the best ingredients, much like the philosophy behind Bibi’s own menu, with “ripe tomatoes, olive oil and salt.”

When it comes to travel, Geoff loves sojourns in Sicily, but reminisces about holiday gastronomic adventure gone wrong, revealing the worst thing he’s ever eaten was bird’s colostrum in Sweden’s two Michelin star Fäviken many years ago. 

Geoff tells us his most cherished food memory is of his mother’s scones, the very same recipe used at Bibi’s today, a comforting treat putting a smile on customer’s faces for 14 years. He finds inspiration in “The Pastry Chef’s Guide” by Ravneet Gill. If he could cook for anyone, he’d invite his wife Leah, daughter Beth, his mom Emily, and Nigel Slater, “because they all love him!”

With a strong foundation built on quality, community, and innovation, Bibi’s Café is poised for continued success, with plans to “continue to grow and improve our standard in both Portobello and our relatively new location in Dun Laoghaire.”

As Geoff aptly puts it, “A café or a restaurant can only be as strong as it’s team,” and the team at Bibi’s is clearly a winning one. Whether you’re a local or just visiting Dublin, a trip to Bibi’s is a must for anyone who appreciates good food, great coffee, and a warm, welcoming atmosphere, and a perfect example of Irish hospitality done right.

Written by Darina Coffey

A Coffee With: Geoff Lenehan, Co-Owner of Bibi’s Cafe – Sponsored by Toast

Bibi’s Cafe – 14A Emorville Ave, Portobello, Dublin, D08 YY66

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Toast is not just a POS. Toast is the all-in-one POS platform that’s built for restaurants and designed to make your life easier by bringing many disconnected technologies under one roof and seamlessly integrating with the rest — out of the box. Toast is on a mission to connect your entire business, from front of house to back of house, with handhelds, kitchen display systems, integrated payments and deep partner integrations. Powerful reporting and restaurant-grade hardware come standard, all designed to help streamline your operations, grow revenue and improve your bottom line. 

Easy to learn, and even easier to use, Toast aims to keep your staff happy, so you can keep your staff. Plus we offer best-in-class onboarding and 24/7/365 award-winning customer support that’s there when you need it most. Say goodbye POS. Say hello Toast.

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