Meet The Mountain Café

Meet The Mountain Café

The Mountain Café

Open since 2004, the Mountain Café in Aviemore has earned a fantastic reputation for its food, friendly service and an amazing view of the Cairngorm Mountains.  At the Scottish Food Awards in 2017 they picked up Best Café in Scotland.

Owner Kirsten Gilmour is an award-winning chef from New Zealand who prides herself in delivering locally sourced, fresh, home cooked food with a Kiwi twist.  The café offers seating on a first come first served basis and to help manage customer demand, a new buzzer system has been introduced.

Kirsten told us that she wanted to create a little piece of New Zealand in Scotland: that means high quality food and coffee in a laid back, friendly environment.  For Kirsten and her team “food should be tasty, healthy and fresh, but should also have an element of luxury at the same time.”

The buzzer system has a good signal-range – and customers are buzzed 10 minutes before their table is ready.  This means the café retains a relaxed atmosphere, and the customers are happier.  The surrounding retailers also benefit as this process encourages Mountain Café customers to become their customers too and Kirsten believes this has added to more money being spent locally.

Mountain Café's Journey to Accreditation

Kirsten felt it was the right time to adjust the business model and decided to implement the real Living Wage in January 2019 as part of a drive on recruitment.  Bookkeeper, Lisa McInnes, explained that it can be difficult to recruit in hospitality and there is a lack of available and affordable accommodation in Aviemore.  In February 2019, a month after implementing the higher rate, the café decided to join the growing number of accredited hospitality employers in seeking Living Wage accreditation to receive recognition of their commitment and to attract new talent.

The management team have worked hard to ensure that the outcome of their decisions work to the benefit of the customer.  While they understood that offering the real Living Wage would result in a higher wage bill, they managed this by making adjustments without reducing the quality of the café.

The Benefits of Accreditation

Front of House Manager, Claire, told us “we noticed a boost in morale amongst the staff team when we became an accredited Living Wage employer.  It’s also helped us get off on the right foot with the new staff that have joined: they expect us to treat them fairly, and in return, we expect them to deliver the high standards our customers expect.”

Mountain Café team members who have benefited from their employer's decision to implement the real Living Wage were keen to voice their approval and explain just how important the real Living Wage is and what a difference is makes to them.

Head Pastry Chef, Kieran says “it makes a difference because I am able to save towards my wedding when I have never been able to save in the past on a hospitality income.”

Megan Hughes is a Front of House Server who had been working at the café for 6 months at the time of this profile. Megan was happy to tell us how being paid the real Living Wage had made a difference to her. “I feel appreciated and my hard work is worth it and I can start to save up for the possibility of getting my own place to live."

Final word goes to Kirsten who told us “I feel our prices are fair and our customers are willing to pay a little more, knowing that we offer good service, source from local suppliers, choose the best ingredients for our recipes, cook and bake everything in-house and that our staff are rewarded with a fair wage.”

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