It’s not easy to operate a café.
It seems for every successful one, there are multiple examples of those who simply couldn’t succeed in this highly competitive market. While there are several challenges associated with opening a café, there are some successful café tips that will help you improve your opportunity for success.
While the big coffee magnates like Starbucks and others continue to pop up in small towns and metro areas, there is still a place for the locally owned, independent coffee shop. Consumers these days are attracted to intimate locations with warm and welcoming environments.
However, most of these smaller coffee shops typically focus on a unique design, fill a certain niche, and most importantly, produce high-quality and great tasting selections of coffees.
For those who are passionate about coffee or want to enter this industry by opening their own independent café, it’s crucial to understand the best practices for opening one. This checklist is likely to be large and complex, but following it, will reduce common mistakes and set you up for success.
Besides considering insurance options for cafe businesses, noted below are some tips for opening a café.
How To Start And Run A Successful Cafe
1. Financial Planning For Success
Arguably the best attribute of the best independent coffee shops is not the diversity of beverages, it’s the people who deliver the service.
However, those who stay open have the unique ability to plan financially, especially as they prepare to open. At the heart of any business is being financially responsible. This is especially crucial for a new café – as you’ll likely struggle initially to bring in the sales.
Being proactive about financial planning by analyzing your cost of goods, payroll, business operating expenses and more – before you open, gives new businesses better chances for success.
Storage and maintaining inventory levels is another area where several start-up café’s fail. They don’t consider the importance of storage space when building or buying a location, and as such, develop inventory problems as they grow.
Being smart about storage and inventory control helps you maintain ample supplies, without compromising the freshness and product quality.
2. Make A Statement
The best coffee shops make a statement in the way they look, the atmosphere they create, and the service they provide.
There is something about them that is unique, that draws new customers and keeps them coming back for more than just a cup of joe. Creating a brand and atmosphere that stands out from the competition is the best way to set your new café for success.
It is important to expand your offerings beyond coffee. Consider providing your customers with pastries, even free cookies or affordable goodies. The key is to offer something your competitors don’t – without compromising quality or budgets.
3. Reduce Wastefulness With Menu Hacks
The smart café owner understands the value of stretching their inventory.
One way to accomplish this is to create menu efficiency. While it’s important to offer your customers value and options, it’s just as critical to be efficient with the supplies you order, the inventory you keep, and items on your menu.
Consider doing a competitive shop of other café locations to see what they are selling either in your hometown or abroad.
4. Establish A Strong And Reliable Supply Chain
A café depends on efficient delivery of everyday items. Whether it’s having fresh milk, bread, pastry, or coffees and teas delivered, or the cups, napkins, sugar, and other critical items maintaining a reliable network of providers and suppliers is crucial.
It’s important to begin your search for suppliers with cost in mind. While it’s alluring to have exotic coffees and teas, when you’re starting up, this is going to be a challenge.
You also need to determine if there are ancillary tasks to complete before selling your products. For example, if you plan on buying raw coffee beans and roast them yourself, you’ll need additional lead time and supplies to accomplish this task.
5. Hire The Right People
When you open a coffee shop, your people can make or break success. It’s the people at the local café that are the ones that represent you and your brand. They need to be friendly, courteous, warm, yet hard-working and responsible individuals.
While good service can set you up for success, poor customer service will quickly end your start-up café. With that said, consider hiring employees with the following qualifications.
- Previous experience in coffee shops
- Outgoing and friendly individuals
- Passionate about coffee with excessive knowledge
- Punctual and dependable work history
It’s difficult to find the perfect people, but investing the time is worth the effort. A café survives or shuts down based on the service they provide – so go the extra mile to find the right people from the beginning.
6. Marketing And Promote For Success
The first five items listed below will set you up nicely. However, when you’re ready to open your café’s doors, it would be great if you had customers waiting. This is where marketing and promotion come into place. A few of these items below should be completed before opening and considered in the pre-opening or construction phase.
- Invest in quality signage (at your storefront and around town)
- Create a recognizable brand
- Establish a customer loyalty or rewards program
- Offer free samples to local businesses, foot traffic, and community events
- Contact local social media influencers or food bloggers for promotion
- Reach out to the media including newspapers, online forums, TV and radio stations
- Create a press release about the opening of your new location
- Network with local business owners or join the chamber of commerce
- Host free coffee education classes and workshops
The key is to network locally, during construction and development, and pre-opening. Good marketing and promotions is a continual effort, but when completed correctly, you’ll set yourself up for continued success.