Hello SAHMRI – CityMag
Hi, Sarnie’s slow takeover of the city’s lunch scene has seen it join a decade-old icon of the West End’s health and medical district.
It’s been ten years since the Cheese Grater (or SAHMRI, officially) opened in the then-burgeoning health and medical district of the West End.
Since its launch, the building has been a hub of highly intelligent minds working to solve complex health problems.
Collaboration is an inherent part of the building’s design, with intermingled spaces, such as the cafe on level four, set up as a place for the minds above to meet – either by chance or on purpose.
However, there were a few issues with the cafe’s location.
The first was that while staff levels in the building were limited during the pandemic, tracking where people were moving became difficult.
“The general public, hospital staff, hospital patients, visitors, and they came to level four, and once they were in the building, we found it difficult to control where they were going,” SAHMRI’s general manager, says John Ranaldo.
Another problem was an unintended consequence of the space’s popularity.
“It was [set up] to facilitate collaboration and to have people doing research in the building work together over lunch, a cup of coffee, or a morning tea,” says John.
“We found that the way the building on level four is designed, the atrium runs up to the building, so if there were a rather noisy day, that sound would reverberate all the way through.
“We got a few complaints now and then that if you’re knee-deep in research, sitting at your desk and doing high-level data analysis, having a noisy cafe is sometimes harmful.”
The solution was to move the hospitality activation to ground level, which the SAHMRI management team seized as an opportunity to refresh the food offering and tender the lease.
In June last year, they began discussions with Hello Sarnie’s team about bringing the growing takeout lunch business to the health hub.
“We wanted something that would promote health as we do health and medical research, so the fact that it was made daily, fast, friendly, fresh, and vibrant was appealing,” says John.
“When I spoke to Andy (Pearce co-founder, Hello Sarnie), from their value proposition, we felt it would align with what SAHMRI’s core principles were. It was important to us to have an organization that could work and promote our core health translation.”
The opportunity came at a perfect time for Hello Sarnie, who had recently expanded their Gawler Place kitchen to prepare to scale up their corporate catering. This also enabled the expansion of SAHMRI, their fourth store.
Hello, Sarnie first opened at SAHMRI on level four as a pop-up while the ground floor rental was being built to get to know the clientele in the building.
The company’s freshly made MO wasn’t the only point that convinced the SAHMRI team; Hello Sarnie’s application of time-saving technology also helped them win the position in the building.
“One thing that impressed John and his team was our app, which gives our customers their time back – whether during a lunch break or between meetings, or the ability to pre-order your coffee – order your lunch,” says Andrew Pearce.
“It was really exciting, the technology aspect,” says John, “because [with the previous tenant] I regularly got pictures of the queue, people who ordered their coffee and waited 20 minutes to get it, and people getting frustrated.
“Just being able to walk by, grab your coffee and go appealed to many people I spoke to.”
The community of people working in the SAHMRI building totals about 1,300, and John says the organization currently averages about 400-450 people a day. This has proven to be a lucrative market for Andrew, with the SAHMRI Hello Sarnie now the group’s “number one store”, he says.
For Andrew and his co-founder, Mike Kendall-Smith, the arrival of this fourth Hello Sarnie store and their investment to expand their capacity demonstrates the value of focusing on the long game, even in the worst times.
“Honestly, if we had been sitting two years ago, we would have said: [the business is] about survival. It’s that simple,” says Andrew.
“Mike and I still had the dream of one day expanding the kitchen and one day having a fourth store, maybe a fifth, and increasing the marketing and presence from a corporate catering standpoint, but the daily business was just the grind and getting the company into survival mode.
“Luckily, we got through that, and here we are today.”