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Things you only know if you’re a London café owner

Rachael Dalton-Loveland, owner of Isla Ray café
Photograph: Andy Parsons

…according to Rachael Dalton-Loveland, 29.

Cafés are where London comes together

‘Running a café puts you at the centre of the community. Deptford has a very diverse population and at Isla Ray we have a mixed customer base, which is really nice. The age of our regulars differs significantly, but they all have things in common: they’re friendly and have a great sense of humour.’

Margins are incredibly slim

‘It costs a ridiculous amount of money to run a business like this. To break even, we need to take about £4,500 per week. When you’re selling coffees for £2 or £3 and meals for about £6, it’s pretty tough! Sales are something you can never predict – it can depend on the weather, the day of the month, or even sporting fixtures.’

Living above the shop helps a lot

‘One of the benefits of owning the café is living upstairs. I love it. Initially I thought it would be too claustrophobic, but it actually allows me to keep on top of those little household jobs that keep you sane and make you feel like your life’s still in order. I think I would have lost the plot by now if I was stuck in the café every day and also had to commute.’

Regulars really start to make themselves at home

‘You build a relationship with customers, and you can’t help but picture their lives based on very little information. A lovely regular of ours used to come in and order the same thing every day, including two lattes. When his first latte was delivered, we noticed he was watching hardcore porn. He was still watching it when the second one came an hour later!’

Interview by Hannah Lovell

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