Healthy Cairns cafe evolving into a franchise

A Cairns couple is set to spread the paleo message around Australia, franchising their business just six months after its opening.

Jai and Marlies Hobbs launched their Paleo Café and health food store in October last year, quickly building a loyal customer base of locals keen to learn about healthy eating.

“We knew it was risky, but we still thought there was a fair market for that sort of thing. Lots of people could benefit from it, like coeliacs, athletes, people trying to lose weight, and people with diabetes and other illnesses,” says Marlies.

The paleo diet is based on what our caveman ancestors used to eat, encouraging people to eat grass-fed meats, vegetables, and fruits, and exclude grains, legumes, and dairy products.

Though franchising was always in the Paleo Café business plan, neither Jai nor Marlies expected it to happen so quickly.

“We knew it wouldn’t just be a one-off café, we wanted to travel and be able to eat paleo wherever we go…but we were just getting a bit of a feel for how the concept went, and it went really well from the beginning,” says Marlies.

“From the start of the year it’s just been booming, and it was apparent to us that if we don’t franchise and expand the business and the concept, someone else will very soon.”

Jai says they received inquires from around Australia about franchising the café just weeks after its opening.

“We initially planned to open four to five company-owned stores before going down the franchising path, but with our location and us not being able to be everywhere at once, as well as the opportunities and the funding costs that come with franchising, we decided that it was a better path to take,” says Jai.

The pair began their paleo journey when their 4-month-old son was diagnosed with a dairy intolerance early last year. After putting him onto a dairy free formula, they began to learn more about paleo and the effects of different foods on the body.

With the family quickly adopting the paleo lifestyle, they soon experienced difficulty in sourcing paleo products and ingredients and decided to fix it.

“I said to Jai, wouldn’t it be great if we could find all of these products without having to skip all around town,” Marlies said.

After months of research into products, liaising with suppliers, and scouting possible locations, Marlies and Jay found they’d put in too much time, effort, and money into the idea to not go ahead with it.

Marlies left her job as an environmental lawyer to be in charge of the café’s branding, marketing, and supply, while Jai left his finance business to take on the café’s financials and the construction.

Despite Cairns being a popular tourist destination, the Paleo Café quickly found its place among locals.

“While others are suffering from a bit of a flat economy, we’ve found that we’re thriving at the moment,” Marlies says.

With business booming, franchising isn’t the only thing on the Paleo Café agenda.

The Hobbs’ have introduced cooking classes, which are already sold out until June, and are working on a paleo cookbook, which will be released through publisher The Messenger Group at the end of the year.

  • Just to clarify, Jai has continued to operate his finance business throughout this journey 😉
    Thanks so much for the article and spreading the Paleo message!!!

  • franbailey

    Need one of these on the Central Coast of NSW please!

  • Liam

    Would love to see these in Melbourne CBD

    • Ben

      Yeah, we surely need one in Melbourne . . .

  • Lyn

    We need it in Innisfail too, just one hour south of Cairns………
    There is nothing at all down here…… a couple of coffee shops, and a pizza place or so……. we are desperate – and to be healthy is fantastic…… please come!

  • Matt

    Awesome. You will definitely have my custom if you come down to Melbourne.

  • Excellent idea guys, and good job taking the plunge and actually doing it. I have been paleo for a few months now, and never been lighter or felt better. It will hopefully become mainstream sooner than later, as the more I look around and see others eating empty useless carbs, I just see future obesity and health problems. Paleo or caveman type diets are the way to go. Not actually a diet, but a healthy lifestyle easy to maintain. Well done guys and look forward to seeing your concept expand.

  • mags

    I just put “owning a paleo-cafe franchise” on my “things to do when i win lotto list… kinda like the “parkside” paleo-cafe idea!! will follow you

  • Louise

    franchising article

  • Elisa

    I look forward to one in Sydney!

  • Ben

    Paleo/primal nutrition and way of life is the solution to ‘degenerative diseases of civilization’ like obesity, heart disease and others.

  • BecW

    This is fantastic news for the Paleo community. I find buying lunch the hardest meal of the day as most cafe’s only offer up sandwiches. I look forward to seeing a franchise in Melbourne soon 🙂