Christine Downes, owner of Cabovino Wine Bar and Tapas in New Brighton, Wirral, gave us the benefit of her experience.
Cabovino is a wine bar and tapas restaurant on New Brighton’s Victoria Road. In just three years since it was opened by Christine and her husband, it has established itself as a firm favourite with locals, and a fixture of a high street that is coming back to life.
Speaking about the area, Christine said: “Nearby New Brighton Promenade has seen heavy invested, but the real home of the independents has always been Victoria Road and that has benefited too. While plenty of chains have moved in on the prom, Victoria Road has seen new bars and restaurants open and the road is a real up and coming area. It’s got a bit of a buzz now and is becoming a focal point for the community. We’re really happy to be part of that and, of course, it has been good for business.”
Deciding to go into the hospitality business in the first place was something of a leap for Christine. With a background in finance, she had no direct experience in the sector, though her step father had catering experience from his time in military service.
“I’ve always had a love for food and drink and felt the area was lacking a good quality wine bar, so we decided to give it a go,” She explained. “We’d picked up lots of ideas and recipes from travelling in Europe so a cosy, traditional tapas bar was the vision. My step dad has always been on hand to help too. It’s been a real family effort.”
Today the restaurant is thriving, with a host of loyal customers and steady flow of new trade driven largely by word of mouth. According to Christine, growing that repeat customer base has been the most rewarding aspect of the last three years or so.
“That’s what I love most,” she said. “Financial success is the goal of course, but getting to know customers and regulars, getting good feedback, and watching the business grow has been fantastic.
“It makes all the long hours worthwhile because delivering a great customer experience is fundamental to success. It’s what brings people back and creates a buzz about the restaurant, and at the end of the day it’s your business, so you want to make it work.”
At the same time, Christine is proud to be part of the independent high street, and believes it too is part of Cabovino’s success.
“I think a lot of people really value the unique experience you get from going to an independent,” she pointed out. “As an independent you’re more likely to get to know people and their needs and tastes than you are in a chain. It’s just more personal and something a bit different that you just don’t get anywhere else.”
She’s bullish too about the future of the high street: “If you look at the big shopping centres, there are lots of empty properties. But our high street is thriving. Independents are what people are looking for a bit more now, and that encourages people to visit the high street.
Naturally, the last three and a half years have been a real learning curve as Christine and the team have got to grips with every aspect of running a successful independent business. Along the way, having the right insurance in place has been a source of comfort.
“Insurance feels much more important when it’s your business, your livelihood that could be affected by something unforeseen,” she pointed out. “Having the right cover in place is a big help. The knowledge that everything is covered if something goes wrong helps us to get on with making sure every customer has a great experience, leaves happy, and wants to come back.”
Like any successful business owner, Christine has one eye on the future, though she is content to build Cabovino’s reputation for now: “Right now the product is good, customers are happy, and financially it’s doing well so we’re happy where we are. But if the opportunity came along and it felt right, we might look to expand.”
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