Only a few insiders know who this popular café was named after. Many people also don’t know that almost all the food served here is homemade. Even so, Sandra Kubista’s café is doing so well that things can sometimes get a little chaotic during brunch.
Babu’s is always busy, but there’s usually a bigger rush at the weekend and a long queue often forms in the entranceway. Right next to the entrance, veiled under glass bell jars, the various delicious treats on offer sell themselves – energy bars, chocolate cookies, nut bars and shortbread. At the counter, a woman manages to get her hands on the last slice of the popular Babu carrot cake. The customer behind her watches her walk away with envy. A few sun-seekers are sat at the tables outside Babu’s, tucking into quiche and salad.
So how did she fall on the name Babu? ‘Babu is my dog’s name.’
Sandra Kubista watched the film ‘It’s complicated’ on a return flight from the US to Switzerland. The film’s main character, Jane Adler (Meryl Streep), runs a café with its own bakery. ‘I lived in the US for several months and was always fascinated by these establishments,’ she explains. The film gave Sandra the final push she needed to open her own such place in 2011. And it’s true that there are some similarities between her café and the one in the film – the blackboard with the elaborate chalk writing, or the way the pastries and cakes are presented on the cake stands. The owners of the famous KaffeeKlatsch coffee shop in Davos also offered Sandra a lot of support when she was first starting out.
Before Babu’s, Sandra founded and ran the children’s furniture store ‘Bobo l’escargot’. She has now sold the shop to concentrate fully on Babu’s. Sandra toyed with the idea of naming the bakery ‘Bobo’, but she decided against it for various reasons. So how did she fall on the name Babu? ‘Babu is my dog’s name,’ explains Sandra with a smile. ‘He really doesn’t have anything to do with the business, but I liked the sound of the name.’ The dog who gave his name to this café that is known all over the city doesn’t get to try the cakes or have a clue about his fame.
The in-house bakery is the secret to the café’s success.
‘We make almost all of our food fresh in our own bakery or in the kitchen,’ explains Sandra. The in-house bakery is the secret to the café’s success. It is located underneath the premises, at the end of a tunnel system of storage and preparation rooms. Three trained bakers and pastry chefs work in the bakery. Back when Sandra took over the premises, there was only one small kitchen on the ground floor. ‘It was already very cramped back then,’ Sandra says. But the homemade baked goods were still a hit.
Babu’s on Instagram
Sandra says that although the food served in Babu’s may have a slightly more rustic touch to them, the quality and taste always need to be authentic. ‘Sometimes a cake may not taste exactly the same as it did the day before, but that is because people make them, not machines,’ she says. Sandra and her daughter come up with the ideas for recipes. Another essential for the café owner is expertly made coffee. That’s why she only lets trained baristas use the coffee machine.
‘On Saturdays I still work in the café and when I see everything running smoothly, it makes me really proud.’
Today, the business owner often works behind the scenes and focuses on organisation and managing the 33 employees. Sometimes she misses working front of house: ‘My favourite thing about the job is actually serving customers. On Saturdays I still work in the café and when I see everything running smoothly, it makes me really proud.’
‘At the weekend, around half of our customers are talking to each other English.’
Babu’s also attracts a lot of tourists and expats. ‘At the weekend, around half of our customers are talking to each other English,’ says Sandra. When the café is full to bursting at the weekends, visitors can sometimes get impatient. Sandra Kubista recommends making a reservation for brunch. Customers without a reservation have to order at the counter, which can sometimes make things look quite chaotic, but: ‘Of course we have everything in hand, even if it doesn’t always look that way. We do what we can in the space available,’ says the business owner.
Sandra’s daughter is already getting stuck in at Babu’s and is heavily involved in the conceptual development. ‘It’s certainly a possibility that my daughter will run Babu’s someday.’ Maybe one day they will even open another café. But until then, you can find the classic Babu’s carrot cake being served over the counter on Löwenstrasse.