Life Outside of Poker: Rupert Elder – Cafe Owner

Life Outside of Poker: Rupert Elder - Cafe Owner

Lee Davy continues his Life Outside of Poker series with a look into Rupert Elder’s decision to move away from poker and focus on opening a cafe that specializes in rice pudding and bubble tea.

Life Outside of Poker: Rupert Elder - Cafe OwnerWith over $1.9m in live tournament earnings, and a nice fat online purse to boot, the former European Poker Tour champion, Rupert Elder, is a man who knows his way around a poker table.

So why has Elder decided to hang up his cards and focus his attention on opening up a cafe that specializes in rice pudding and bubble tea?

Let’s find out shall we…

Is it true that you have decided to quit poker to pursue a career in the food industry?

“Yes it is. Basically, after the World Series I was pretty tired and wanted to take a break. I had been in New York several times and loved a place called ‘Rice to Riches’ that exclusively sold varieties of rice pudding, and I thought it would be a great idea to bring the concept to Edinburgh.”

Expand on your use of the word ‘tired.’

“I don’t know what it was really. I just got a bit bored of it all. I haven’t stopped completely; I played the UKIPT in Edinburgh recently, and a few other small tourneys, and a bit of Zoom, but nothing like I used to. I guess I wasn’t very good at maintaining the poker, work-life balance.

“There came a point when poker started consuming too much of my time. I definitely enjoyed playing…I was just tired of it and wanted to do other things.”

And the inspiration came from New York?

“This place in New York just sells rice pudding and it was absolutely fantastic. We decided to something similar but we didn’t think just specializing in rice pudding would work in Edinburgh. So we are going to sell rice pudding, bubble tea and an assortment of breakfast and lunch dishes.

“The shop in New York has between 12-16 different flavors that change seasonally and also a variety of toppings. We did an outdoor market in Edinburgh, back in November, and sold a range of puddings to good effect. The New York store deals exclusively in cold rice puddings, but in our cafe we will do both cold and hot.

“In the market we sold Sticky Toffee Pudding, Tiramisu, Vanilla and Chocolate…we also did a cold Strawberry flavor, but it was freezing cold outside and nobody wanted it.”

Is this about money or passion?

“It’s a bit a both really. It’s a craving for a sense of satisfaction that comes from people really liking your product, whereas in poker if you have success some people are happy for you, and that’s great, but I didn’t find it particularly fulfilling even when I won.”

What does the process look like?

“The first thing we did was write up a business plan. We are going finance everything ourselves, but we wanted a framework to see how the business would look and to be clear on our vision. We spoke to some friends who had experience in the food industry and they suggested doing an open market to test the product and people loved it. We sold out on two of the days, which was a great result for us.

“We have been trying to find well suited premises since the turn of the year. We made an offer on one place but it didn’t have a Class 3 license so that fell through. We looked at another place this week, that already has a license, but a few different parties are interested so we will have to wait and see if we get that.

“Location is going to be very important as we are going to have to rely on drop in visitors in the beginning. People who like Bubble Tea tend to seek it out and hear about it on the net, but eventually we want reputation to draw in our crowds.”

Do you have plans to expand?

“We want to keep the equity between us so no ideas for franchises, but definitely considering expansion in the future. We could also sell our product to restaurants, or venture online selling our product in bulk. We also plan to do more open markets when we get our central kitchen established. Christmas and the Festival period are also going to be busy times for us.”

Who is your business partner?

“His name is Thomas Partridge. He’s a very good friend of mine, and has been since Uni.”

Who cooks the food?

“For the market we had a chef who we found through Gumtree and he turned out to be amazing, but unfortunately he has returned to Cyprus for family reasons. The plan is to get a shop, kit it out and start the hiring process for a chef.”

Is the licensing process complicated?

“We have just been getting advice on these sorts of things and then following it. We had a few inspections from the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) at the market and he told us about recording temperatures, having our paperwork up to date and ensuring everything was up to standard.

“It’s in everyone’s interests to make sure everything is running as smoothly as possible. We want top quality hygiene the customer does as does the EHO.”

What are your biggest fears?

“That it just all goes wrong and nobody wants our products, or we don’t develop a good reputation for what we are producing. But I really believe in what we are doing, people will like the product and it will be a lot of fun.”

What are your food inspirations?

“There is really good food in Scotland. I love a good roast dinner or sticky toffee pudding desert. I like good food wherever it comes from. The great thing about Edinburgh is there are so many different independent food places. So much variety.”

First James Akenhead leaves to open a gastro-pub, Sam Holden leaves to study philosophy and now you are leaving…what’s going on?

“I imagine what’s happening is once people have enough wealth to give them the confidence to do what they want, they see poker as not being what they want to do on a long term basis. Instead, some people need something a lot more interesting, more exciting or perhaps even just a change of scenery.”

So are your poker playing days over for good?

“I might come back to play a bit more at some point, or play for fun, but for the moment I am just focusing on getting the shop up and running and selling good food and tea.”