The woman dubbed Canberra's cafe whisperer is looking to expand in 2020 and put her stamp on more venues in the national capital.
That would be music to the ears of Canberra's cultural institutions, with Tracy Keeley making two cafes in national attractions destinations in themselves - Bookplate in the National Library and Pollen at the Botanic Gardens.
Since Ms Keeley took it on in 2014, Bookplate has seen almost 700,000 people dine beneath the glow of its stained-glass windows. The cafe now serves more than 4500 coffees to more than 9000 people a month.
At Pollen, almost 6000 people visit the cafe each month, with more than 350 cakes served each week. She has also worked on making Pollen, deep in the botanic gardens, a unique wedding venue. Her own son Nick, only last weekend wed fiance Nina at Pollen, fairylights and native blooms creating a magical atmosphere.
"It was a really, nice, relaxed day and I think it is a venue that appeals to couples who want something a little bit out of the box and more laidback, a gathering of family and friends rather than a traditional big wedding," she said.
Now Ms Keeley, who runs her Poppy and Maude hospitality business with Nick, 29, and older son, Matt, 32, with a staff of more than 100, is "actively seeking opportunities to expand and open new ventures in 2020".
Her strength lies in reinvigorating "eateries within iconic destinations in a way that sits harmoniously with the purpose of the building." That includes transforming the "cafeteria model" seen in cultural institutions and government buildings to create "vibrant cafes in their own right".
It's that collaboration with an institution that inspires her most.
"We're not seeking opportunities where we operate a cafe on a street corner," Tracy said.
"We love the partnership and being part of the stewardship of something that is bigger than us and being conscious of working in a public domain."
Born and bred in Canberra and educated at Merici College, Ms Keely was a primary school teacher, mostly at St Bede's in Red Hill. She discovered her love for hospitality when she owned her first cafe, Cafe Momo in Bruce. She then went into clubs hospitality and later ran a cafe in the John Gorton Building.
"That's where I really learned a whole lot about running a cafe and all the moving parts and 'How do you work in a commercial sense, within a public organisation?'. That's quite a tricky balance," she said.
She says more than 20 years after her start, the Canberra foodie scene is booming and the the highly-regarded local produce scene "about to explode".
"What is happening in Canberra is quite extraordinary," she said.
The Canberra Business Woman of the Year in 2018 (from Canberra Women in Business), Ms Keeley says she is encouraged by the growth of Canberra's dining scene, welcoming the competition.
"We've seen a large number of new cafes, restaurants and bars open over the last 12 months, which inspires me," she said.
"I've been part of the city's culinary framework for nearly 20 years and I'm looking forward to what the future holds - watch this space."
Part of her expansion plans include looking to provide more spaces for private occasions.
"My experience within the Canberra hospitality market indicates that people are often looking for small, private function spaces for special events and as such, I'm looking at how we can capitalise on our existing spaces and create some new and exciting ones," she said.
As part of her plans, Ms Keeley has been working with an experienced ex-Michelin star executive chef, on a consultancy basis, who has helped with menu development across all venues, including using more products from local producers. She also uses local stylists and florists to take the cafes up a notch.
She understands her cafes are for tourists but are also very much regular favourites for Canberrans.
"A large part of our customer base is local. They come to our venues sometimes every day, sometimes every week, sometimes just for special occasions to celebrate," she said.
"We're trying to be a place that not only has to serve a high volume - more than 400 customers in a three-hour block - but are also a place for the Canberra community, our loyal customers."
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