Alumni Views: It’s A Small World After All

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In 2001 when Alistair Imrie, Victor Krensler, and John Small were finishing their degrees at Les Roches Marbella, there was little else in this area of Marbella but the campus. Residential developments had yet to be built, few people came here unless it was to visit the school, and only in summer did the neighborhood truly come to life when the Olivia Valeré discotheque opened its doors to Marbella’s jet set elite. But these three friends and schoolmates at Les Roches grew up in Marbella and they had a vision of this neighborhood’s future beyond what any would have imagined at the time.

Upon earning their respective Diplomas in Hotel Management, the three were already convinced that they wanted to run their own business or in the words of Victor, “create something unique”. While each had gone separate ways after finishing school, in 2004 they came together with a plan when they learned of a new commercial center that was to be built next door to the campus. Already residential developments had begun to spring up in the area, the campus had grown considerably, and there was a notable demand for service based businesses that no one was satisfying. 

At this point they focused their attention on the new commercial center and despite its slow development they had a hunch that when it was built, it would be a prime location. So, they immediately contacted the developer and reserved the best locale in the complex, no matter how long they would have to wait. Meanwhile, when four years passed and the center had yet to finish construction, some of their friends even questioned their judgment for investing in a location that may never see the light of day. But as it turned out, their hunch was correct, and in 2008 the commercial center finally opened its doors to the public. Soon after, John, Alistaire and Victor would inaugurate its first business, The Smallworld Café.

Nobody saw Smallworld’s success coming. Times had fallen hard on Marbella by 2008 and many businesses were closing their doors, unable to ride out the storm that was only beginning to manifest itself in the bursting of the local real estate bubble. Ready to take a gamble, these three Les Roches Marbella alumni knew there was only one recipe for success that rarely fails: quality service.

During their years studying hotel management at Les Roches Marbella, each had learned that service is the foundation for any successful hospitality business. They understood that quality service together with their own creative style and ingenuity would not only attract customers, but bring them back time and time again.

Perhaps Smallworld’s most noticeable success comes from the satisfaction of their repeat customers. Not only do they provide a truly relaxing dining experience in a stylish and warm setting with unbelievably awesome fresh food that is sourced locally, they also do it with a smile that attracts regular visitors from places as far away as Sotogrande, who make the 45 minute drive especially to have lunch and dinner in their café. And lest we forget the year round flow of Les Roches Marbella students, many of whom enjoy the relaxed ambience and proximity to the school to spend their free time.

In fact, it was because of our students that these three alumni conceived Smallworld Café in the first place. It wasn’t until later that they began to capitalize on local residents and even the occasional tourist. In the beginning their basic motive was to create a place for students to “chill out”, as Alistaire puts it.

Over the next couple of years, Smallworld’s reputation grew beyond the campus and caught hold with diners of all types from all over Marbella. Today, they are one of the busiest eateries in the city. People flock to enjoy their innovative dishes and impeccable service at a reasonable price while students continue to gather during their breaks for lunch or to get together in the evenings with friends.

Indeed, at Smallworld Café, there is rarely a slow day. Such is the volume of their business that they have recently purchased the adjacent locale and are adding on to the café just to ensure they can continue to offer quality service to their customers without the headaches of a long wait for a table or a loss in the richness of the food. To show their dedication to service, all of the new addition is dedicated to increasing the size of the kitchen and food prep areas while additional seating has only been added on the larger closed-in terraces that invite you to relax year-round.

What set out to be a lunch style chill out café with sandwiches, soups and salads, has now grown into a full-blown restaurant that attracts eager diners for lunch and dinner alike. But regardless of this more formal restaurant status, the Smallworld Café continues to exhibit the same relaxed environment and excellent service that gave it its successful name in the first place.

To fully grasp the spirit of this enchanting eatery, you need look no further than its owners. Forming a successful partnership in any business is not an easy task and less so in hospitality. Yet these three friends of many years knew from the outset that they each possessed the elements needed to make it happen. You can find them daily at Smallworld serving up excellent fresh food with a smile and each will tell you that they acquired this understanding of service thanks to their years spent at Les Roches Marbella.

P.S. If you are in the area and looking for a truly unique spot to eat out (their gourmet burgers bring new meaning to the term gourmet!), you can find the boys at Smallworld here

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