Whether large or small, successful businesses have quite a few things in common. It is these qualities that make them successful, keep customers coming back and keep the revenue stream healthy.

Many of these qualities are simple, well known ‘ingredients’ and I sometimes wonder why they seem to be secrets to so many who run standard, dull, grey businesses. They expect them to be successful simply because they invested their time, money and energy into them. When it fails, they say, “Why did it fail, I did everything by the book?”

‘By the book’ does not guarantee success. Sure, you need money to set up a business, but money does not buy a place that people will necessarily love. You need to have heart.

The café we frequent every weekend, the Pamenar in Kensington market here in Toronto, has all the ingredients and it buzzes with warmth and atmosphere. It’s not the vast investment made in it, because it was set up with no huge funding. It is the atmosphere of being almost a ‘second home’. The interior is very simple. The café is narrow, and there are two wooden slat tables and chairs at the entrance before the long, high, concrete counter. At the other end, before exiting to the back patio, there is a large, square table for ‘sharers’, and another three wooden slat tables and chairs on the simple concrete floor.

Background music can be classical or rock, pop or oldies….but it invariably seems to suit the weather. The back patio is simply heaven to sit in on a nice summers’ day. Two long, wooden picnic tables for small groups to chill and chat around are situated under yellow umbrellas, and more small, wooden slat tables to the right and on the elevated area at the end.

There is a sort of ‘organized garden chaos’ to the patio. The whole left wall is covered in full green vines with clusters of small grapes, while the apple tree is a lush green with bunches of apples hanging from the branches. At the back of the patio the aroma of wild basil fills the air while to the sides thick bushes of mint grow in the sun.

You could be forgiven for thinking for a moment that you are somewhere in Tuscany.

The coffee? Among the best in the city, and the small offering of food is also good. The Chevre scones, butter croissants and homemade sandwiches are excellent.

In the corner a couple in love are whispering to each other. A bearded gentleman is reading the weekend press, while a mother is playing with her baby in his carriage. A pair of tourists is discussing their next place to visit. Many of the others I know from my visits. We acknowledge each other courteously and go on with our business.

Pouria, the owner, is usually behind the counter organizing the Baristas and tending to the food. Like a friend, he makes small talk to the ‘returners’ as they come in. He knows their favorite coffees for they have been customers now for years, some from opening day. The baristas do too, and they fill out your order without having to ask.

Occasionally Pouria will invite you to a free coffee as a sign of thanks for frequenting his establishment; a nice thing to do.

On his tours to the back patio he will cut a few sprigs of mint for the teas and the iced lemon mint, and will offer customers some basil or mint to take home with them.

During the autumn the patio is open on the nice days, the apples falling and left on the floor to be eaten by squirrels… adds to the atmosphere. Sparrows alight around you and ask for crumbs, and some will even peck from your hand.

In winter it is a warm and inviting place to be in. The windows fog up with condensation, the bitter cold kept at bay while the patrons enjoy the coffee,music and chatter.

It is, in my opinion, the ultimate café.

Did you notice that not once did I mention the investment he made in creating the Pamenar cafe?

Why? Because that was minimal. What is in the air is the HEART Pouria put into making his café a place where people feel at ease, welcome and can enjoy a brief respite from the daily race of life.

He succeeded by not only ‘doing it by the book’, but by adding a hefty portion of heart to his recipe, miles and miles of heart.

So, when you next look at your business, whether a café, restaurant, bar or hotel, ask yourself one very simple question; does my place have heart?