Café ownership is a dream job for a lot of us; for many of us, it would be our first taste of business ownership. On the surface, it appears to be a fairly simple type of enterprise to own and run – just think of how effortlessly and seductively things happen at your favourite café. But deep down you just know there’s going to be more to it than that, particularly if you want to be successful (rather than just getting by). So here are just a few guidelines….
Planning and Preparation
A good place to start is to work a few shifts in a café before taking the plunge and opening your own – you need to know whether this is your type of work.
Next, put together a business plan for your café, because every good business starts with a sound business plan. Begin with a summary, which defines what the business is and what it plans to do. You need to know your business objectives, planned keys to success, mission, ownership structure, startup expenses and budget, funding and location. A business plan helps you to work all this out.
Furthermore, your business plan should identify what you intend to sell, who you’re intending to sell it to and what sort of competition you’ll face.
Coffee is at the heart of a good café. Before you do anything else, make sure that the coffee you intend to serve tastes good. Sounds pretty basic, but there’s a lot of choice when it comes to beans, roasters and suppliers; and you need to be happy with the product you choose to serve. Equally important, you’ll need to learn how to make good espresso coffee.
When it comes to the food you serve, try setting your sights higher than just pastries, cakes and biscuits. There are a lot of delicious menu items you can offer that don’t require you to hire an expensive chef, such as fresh salads, sandwiches, wraps and soups. Remember, customers will return to your café again and again if you can offer them variety and choice.
After you’ve been in business for a time, remember to rework your menu: eliminate the items that don't sell well; capitalize on the products that are winners; and offer new lines that reflect the latest trends.
For a café, atmosphere is everything. If you’re wondering what I mean by atmosphere, here’s a simple exercise that might help: visit a few of your local cafés and make a note of the things that you do and don’t like about them. What’s the furniture like? How’s the lighting and music? Do you like the cups, plates, knives and forks, etc? Do you enjoy the service?
Here are my suggestions:
1. Mix up the size of your tables and chairs even add a comfortable couch.
2. Be sure to keep you café spotless, inside and out.
3. Don't close your doors at 3pm, stay open until at least 5pm; if possible even a little later on Fridays and Saturdays.
4. Get a liquor license so you can serve wine and specialty beers in the evening.
5. Play music that will enhance the atmosphere of your café.
Finding good staff and hanging on to them is a key ingredient in your plan for a successful café. You’re looking for conscientiousness, loyalty and positive attitudes; people that make your customers feel wanted and well cared for.
Your staff also needs to be able to take direction and follow the systems and procedures that are attached to your business. If they’re making coffee or preparing menu items, it’s important they understand the need for consistent quality: the same great coffee every time, the same delicious wrap or salad, etc.
And be sure to overlap employee work schedules: this ensures a seamless transfer of staff throughout service.
Offer something extra
Admittedly it might sound like it’s everywhere, but why not offer wireless Internet? It will enable customers to check their email or conduct business during their coffee break or lunch. And if you’re concerned that some customers might potentially abuse the privilege, while sipping on the one coffee or drink, you could always consider a reasonable time limit on the access. Of course, buying another coffee might extend the usage.
You’ve probably seen it in a lot of places by now, but what about offering bonuses to loyal customers? For example, coffee cards that get punched or stamped with each purchase: after so many coffees they get one for free. You could even consider things like prepaid gift cards.
I’d love to hear you ideas and thoughts about the keys to successful café operation and if you are interested in more information.
I have over 25 years experience in running cafes and restaurants so shoot me an email if you need some guidance: email@example.com
You might also be interested in the following course:
For a great 1 day course ‘Starting Your Own Restaurant or Café’, visit Ken Burgin’s Profitable Hospitality web site: http://www.profitablehospitality.com/public/139.cfm