Tony is a family man. His caf, The Quarter, has been thriving on Degraves Street for almost 13 years and after sitting down for a chat with Tony, we think weve figured out the secret to his success. As is the case in most successful business and brands, understanding your market and audience is key to longevity, says Tony. It is constantly reviewing yourself and your business and re-inventing to stay in touch with the ever-shifting trends without totally detracting from your core business mission. Tony believes that its a combination of tried and tested methods, family values and taking new approaches. Innovation can play a big role in this if you truly understand what it is that you are trying to achieve, explains Tony. Its this approach that has made The Quarter not only one of the longest-standing Degraves Street eateries, but also a pioneer that continually pulls away from the pack in Melbournes most famous laneway.
The Quarter began as a joint venture between Tony and his brother, Theo. As a family business, The Quarter preferred partnering with other family businesses from the beginning. So, when they sought out their first suppliers for coffee beans, produce, beer and other goods, they gravitated towards the smaller, family-run businesses that shared their values. The Quarter is still working with many of those suppliers and their relationships have grown so strong, theyve even moved toward exclusivity with some specialty products.
It is constantly reviewing yourself and your business and re-inventing to stay in touch with the ever-shifting trends without totally detracting from your core business mission.
If you scan the menu, you might spot a halloumi and roasted veggie burger with a matcha and kale brioche bun. Its a beautiful bun light and springy, slightly sweet and distinct with a vibrant green colour. This brioche bun is one of The Quarters many exclusive collaborations with local suppliers, so you wont see that bun anywhere else.
Creating exclusive offers is one ways Tony and his team keep things exciting. Having been in the industry for 20 years, Tony believes that a point of difference is key to maintaining a competitive edge and that a high level of passion is needed to run a successful venue. Tony and the team also strive towards innovation where possible and include staff in more than just the service aspect of The Quarter. Encouraging staff input and feedback allows the vision to grow and translate into positive outcomes across the many areas of the business, says Tony.
Degraves can be a chaotic stretch, but when you step off the street and into The Quarter, it feels like a safe haven or even a home. Its small and charming with a calming combination of old world decadence and modern design aesthetic. High-backed booths upholstered in light tan leather break up the dark wood and low golden light creates a cosy atmosphere.
Even at its busiest, The Quarter feels happy and relaxed. As Tony puts it, Duck on a pond! We are conscious of peoples time constraints and try to give customers an experience thats controlled and relaxed as opposed to the madness thats often going on outside on Degraves Street during peak times!
Its nice to escape the madness, but its the surrounds that give The Quarter some of its character. Tony gestures to the large front people watching window opening onto Degraves, saying, What I love about this street its very eclectic. No one takes themselves too seriously and theres always something interesting to see. You might get a Hare Krishna group dancing past with their music. Tomorrow, therell be a guy that sets up on the end of the street and dances. You never know who youre going to bump into down here; weve had some big name celebrities too! Thats the nature of the street.
Throughout the day, Degraves Street evolves. In the morning, The Quarter is a favourite spot for coffees ordered at the streetside window. Tables also fill up with colleagues having a bite before work or visitors tucking into a delicious Melbourne breakfast before a day of exploration. At lunchtime, the street swells with office workers and The Quarter offers lunchtime dining that feels luxe but still focuses on speed, affordability and quality.
“Tony says they regularly take bookings for wedding photos at the caf because the couples first date was at The Quarter.”
The menu is without a doubt one of the most exciting on the street. The Quarters kitchen is decked out with a high-tech multi-purpose oven that does amazing slow-roasted meats; the chefs roast their meats for at least six hours, resulting in a beautiful, pull-apart pork or beef that you cant get anywhere else on Degraves. They also bake their own bread in-house every day it doesnt get any better than slow-roasted pulled pork on a fresh-baked baguette.
The Quarter transitions to dinner service beautifully. Its a lovely, intimate place to dine and very convenient if youre on your way to or from a concert, sporting event, the theatre, or public event like White Night. The atmosphere is perfect for first dates and youll see that recommendation all over online review sites. Tony says they regularly take bookings for wedding photos at the caf because the couples first date was at The Quarter.
Tonys tales about the customers, staff and friends of The Quarter are endless. Theyre his second family and its obvious that he values their opinions and experiences. We believe that sort of sensibility always carries through to customer you can feel it the moment you walk into the peaceful bustle The Quarter.
OPEN Mon-Sat 7am – 9:30pm | Sun 8am – 9:30pm