Crumbs & Whiskers officially opened in Georgetown last week on June 20. But D.C. had been abuzz with anticipation ever since plans for the city's first cat cafe were announced last year. It's no surprise, then, that it was completely booked during opening weekend. Eater recently spoke with founder Kanchan Singh to get details on Crumbs & Whiskers' first week in business.
Were there any major surprises during the opening week or did everything go as you expected?
I wasn’t prepared for the volume of people we had...We had a huge turnout on our opening weekend and had to turn away a lot of people as a result.
Can you explain your reservation system a little bit?
Yes, so you make reservation online on our website, and that's basically how it works. That gives you an hour at the cat cafe.
Can guests walk-in at all or are reservations required?
We’ve had to turn away a lot of people at the door because they didn’t realize they needed reservations and came on weeknights or on weekends. We’re normally completely booked for every hour at those times because we’re at full capacity. But on weekday mornings we’ve been able to take walk-ins.
How far in advance should guests book for peak times?
Um, last weekend was completely booked, but I haven’t looked at this weekend yet.
What kind of food and drinks are you serving right now?
We have your typical hot beverages like tea, lattes, cappuccinos and coffee. There's also smoothies for vegans and milkshakes and cookies.
Are guests required to purchase something from the menu to hang out with the cats?
No, you’re not required to because when you make a reservation you pay a cover charge. It's 10 dollars on the weekdays and 12 dollars on weekends. If you want to purchase something, that's your call. You’re not required to purchase anything.
You decided to prepare food and drinks off-site. How have the logistics worked for that?
We do the food across the street with a place called Georgetown Bites, and it's going well. It’s been going mostly smoothly with a few bumps where we've lost a few orders. We’re still working out the kinks right now, so I'm sure in a couple of weeks it will all be worked out.
Eater's photo tour showed a list of rules on the wall. Can you explain the cat cafe's rules and why you have them in place?
They're kind of just meant to make the place not feel like a zoo. We don’t recommend people pick up cats. We work with them if they want to do that, but some cats just don’t like being picked up. But some are shoulder cats. We ask customers to keep lids on cups because cats are jerks and love to knock things over. There's also no flash photography because we don’t want the cats blinded by the flash all the time.
Describe some of the guests' reactions to the cats. Did anything particularly memorable or funny happen?
Oh my gosh, yeah, there have been a few funny things. Just cats being cats. Like a cat sleeping on a shelf that decides to stretch and underestimates the space and falls on a customer's head. And a cat literally walking up to a customer, looking at his drink and then knocks it right over.
Can you describe the average customer so far? Are they mostly people without pets who want to get their cat fix, or are they just crazy cat lovers?
Honestly, it seems like they just enjoy cats and being around cats. I think animal people are the ones coming in. They're both people who have cats at home and don’t have cats. They just like being around cats. It makes them happy.
Most Americans first heard about cat cafes when they started opening in Japan a few years ago. How is Crumbs & Whiskers different?
I've never been to the cat cafes in Japan, but I’ve been to one in Thailand. That's where the idea was born...It’s a more authentic cafe experience there because they’re allowed to have a kitchen and then the menu selection can be wider. It's just somewhere you go to have fun and see something weird. Here, we get a lot of potential adopters and think that the concept is great for animal welfare. So there’s that piece that wasn’t there in the Thai cafe.
So there was already one cat adoption according to Twitter. Can you talk about that?
Yeah there was one adoption that week and there were five this week...We’ve been open six days and have had six adoptions in those six days.
Do you get new cats after that happens?
Yeah, we do. It’s fun, and then the whole process starts all over again when the cats adjust to the space. For the first 24 hours it's all cat fights and angry cats.
So are you going to implement any changes now that the first week is over?
So we started off taking 35 customers at a time, but we’re actually dropping that to 30 or 28...With 35 it’s a bit much, so moving forward we'll probably allow only 28 to 30. Just because with 35, the place was pretty crowded. Even though the capacity of the building is higher than that, we didn’t realize with 35 people with floor seating each person occupies more square footage.
Eater Video: The rise of the Cat Café