Running a café in one of Sydney’s busiest beachside spots is no mean feat, but Vik at Market Lane Café takes pride in running a café for the locals, tucked off the busy Corso.

We had a chance to chat with Vik about coming to Australia as a student and eventually becoming a successful café owner. Challenges of a global pandemic aside, it’s been a hugely rewarding experience.

Can you tell us what the café culture was like when you first moved here and how it has progressed over the years?

I came to Australia to study but fell in love with coffee culture and didn't want to leave. The café culture in Sydney has evolved so much over the past decade. I remember it being very old-school when I first started; standard coffees, not vegan or vegetarian friendly. 

It's been wonderful to see coffee culture become integral to how Sydneysiders socialise. Good breakfast and coffee are what bring families and friends together.

What was it like transitioning from a student to full-time barista and eventually becoming a café owner? Outside of the obvious, what are the biggest challenges? 

I arrived in Australia as a seventeen-year-old international student thirteen years ago; it’s been such a journey. Looking back, my advice for someone opening a small café: 

  • Watch the cash flow — keep on top of your business financials. Café businesses run on very thin margins

  • Look after your mental and physical health

  • Work with people you trust

  • Build and nurture relationships in the industry. 

What, according to you, makes a good café? What would your advice be for someone who is considering opening a café in Sydney?

What makes a café good is the consistency of the coffee, food and service over time. A good café is a"third space" for the community; a space to bring our family, friends and pets to socialise over good coffee. 

What drives you now that you've been in the industry? Who do you look to for inspiration? 

I measure success in terms of regulars. It's built over time and a successful café will nurture and strengthen it. 

Finally, what does hospitality mean to you?

In society, our living spaces are getting smaller, people are lonelier even with all the digital connectivity. After more than two years with COVID upheaval, lockdowns and all, it's shown how vital small local hospitality venues are to the well-being of their community.