Words by Renae Spinks
If the words ‘chocolate menu’ cause a Pavlovian response, San Churro Chocolateria is the place for you. This chocolate-and-churros dessert destination is a home away from home, following the Spanish tradition of the chocolateria as a place to gather and socialise with family and friends.
Inspired by a night out in Madrid by founders Giro Mauricio and his wife Kelly, what began as a tiny store 10 years ago has grown into a 51-store franchising operation with more than 1,200 staff across Australia.
Picture: San Churro/Facebook
Chief financial officer Lise Stothart says: “They opened this little boutique, a tiny little shop in Fitzroy in Melbourne and grew the business from there. It was very, very popular, with very unique little truffles, and the churros and chocolate were very unique to Melbourne at the time.”
It’s a fair call to say that most of the staff are living the sweet life. “I don’t know any of us who don’t love chocolate,” Ms Stothart says. “We get chocolate samples, and cakes and ice creams coming through our office. Everyone is also very fitness minded, so you eat and you run.”
San Churro was named after a Spanish monk who believed that chocolate had healing powers. Monks were reputedly the first to add sugar and milk to the ground cacao bean after conquistador Hernan Cortes brought the Aztec tradition of chocolate to Spain in 1528.
These days, San Churro’s couverture chocolate is imported from Spain and the company has made a commitment to using fair trade cocoa – so every time you indulge, you’re helping to improve a cocoa farmer’s life.
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Now about that chocolate menu – you’ll find churros (a kind of Spanish doughnut) filled with hazelnut chocolate or ready to dip into melted chocolate; dark chocolate bombas with hot raspberry sauce; chocolate shakes, chocolate truffles, hot chocolate and more.
And that’s not all. “We have a lot of product development happening and more frequent product drops, with limited time offers,” Ms Stothart says. “We have new innovations in churros, the funnel cake is a new product that’s come out, and new sundaes coming out.”
Picture: San Churro/Facebook
That means a lot of people doing a lot of travel. San Churro has been working with Flight Centre Business Travel for about two years. As chief financial officer, the relationship has been a real time-saver for Ms Stothart.
“We were doing all of our own travel bookings and I was finding I couldn’t really manage and control how our guys were spending,” she says.
“I was chasing receipts all the time. There’s still a lot of flexibility in how they travel – it’s just managed and controlled a lot better through one central place. And it has given us a hell of a lot more time.
“For example, now we’ve got 10 people flying around the country doing our national roadshow – we do that once a year. And once a year we do a conference with all our franchisees. Then we’ve got business development managers in the air all the time. Then we do product trips. We go to the biggest chocolate fair in the world, which is in Germany. We’ve got our guys constantly sourcing packaging and crockery; and we go across and get a lot of equipment from Europe.”
She says Flight Centre is excellent at accommodating the travel needs of staff. “They’re very good at that – they’ve got a little list of things for our frequent flyers of what they like and don’t like. They know the little idiosyncracies of each of our travellers.”