Opening a café takes a significant investment in both time and money.
It would be best if you spent time understanding what it takes to run a successful café. And the way to do that is by doing diligent research.
It is good if you already have a design, theme and menu in mind, but you need more information to help you make the right decisions and take the proper steps when opening your café. Research the different aspects of the coffee business to avoid undesirable (and expensive) surprises along the way.
What should you research?
Your target market
Customers equate to sales. It’s simple as that.
You need to identify who you will cater your business to. Typically if you already have an idea of what you want to serve, you have an idea of who will normally consume them. Nowadays, cafes cater to both the young and old, the hip and the traditional. It is up to you to choose who you want to target. And when you have that in place, research what your target market needs? What time will they typically go to a café? Knowing your customers well will assist with planning, creating a menu, price points — everything!
Ask yourself: will your café project have a place in this world? Okay, so maybe let’s go local, how about your town? City? State? Some sites are saturated with cafes more than others. One way is to go for those areas where similar businesses are not concentrated.
However, if you need to have it located where you have many competitors, figure out how you can make your café stand out. What are the things that do not work for your competitor? You can check out your town’s business records to find out how many cafe’s have closed in recent years? Why did they close?
Even if competitors abound, there may still be a need for the type of café you have in mind, or you may be able to create a superior option for the area’s consumers.
With your typical customer in mind, look for a location that will make your café accessible to them.
A physical location in a higher traffic area (especially on foot) attracts more customers, owing to higher visibility. If you have an eye on a busy site, think of how you can provide a sense of security for your customers. Is the area well lit? Is there a CCTV nearby? How about flooding?
You also have to factor in the perception of people in the location of your choice. If you choose to open your café where it is considered “one of the hottest spots in town”, it may influence how people perceive your café whether it is hip or laid back. Or a city location may convey ease in delivery or accessibility compared to a rural area.
The proper location of a business has a direct impact on its success. Often, it can be even crucial. Some businesses have achieved a following regardless of the area. But typically, these businesses have done their work catering to their target customers that even hole in the wall establishments still experience success. But if you are new to the business, you need to do a lot of work in nailing your business location to be visible, accessible and secure.
I have written about how location affects a business and is often a mistake that most business owners commit. Check out this previous blog post and find out what exactly about your target location you should focus on.
You should know a crucial component is staffing and scheduling, which is a challenging part for both new and established businesses. Especially during the planning stage where your cafe is practically non-existent, you will have to develop a studied target sales where you will have to work your scheduling off.
The number of staff needed in a cafe will depend on your target operating hours and how much traffic your shop receives—Cafe’s typical peak during mornings and evenings.
When you research your market competitors, you can determine their peak hours through actual visits, or you can hire someone to privately tally the number of people who go in and out of that cafe.
If you have access to information, say when you reach out to other cafe owners, ask about the morning rush and any different daily busy periods and seasonal peaks. If their location is near universities, how are the sales during breaks?
Later on, when your cafe is in operation, thoroughly evaluate your labour cost with your cafe’s gross profit. Or pay attention to the actual operation for clues. If you have people standing around, you are most likely over-hired. If your service is slow, you are most likely under-hired. Of course, they are other factors you should look into, given these clues, but it’s a fair overview.
Aside from the cost, another factor you should consider when hiring staff is your location. As per the earlier example, if your cafe is near a university, hiring and training younger staff may work for you since they can relate better with your target market.
Suppliers and commercial equipment
Good, dependable suppliers can help make your business a success. Start by making a list of all the supplies you need, being as detailed as you can. This equipment list from Lightspeed may be helpful.
It may seem overwhelming when you get down to the nitty-gritty, but being proactive and anticipating needs with both supplies and equipment will help ensure you’re prepared for anything. You may not need all these items right away, so prioritise and keep in mind what’s coming.
From there, you can begin researching suppliers who fit with your business philosophy and who will give you a good deal. Many sellers do their business online. But unless these businesses have formed legitimate and valuable reputation, you need to look for suppliers who you can personally connect with in terms of visiting their shop’s actual location. Look for a supplier with a genuine passion for coffee. Look for someone who has the relevant knowledge and experience of what type of coffee will work for you.
The internet is a precious, even indispensable source of information in this modern age for doing research. If you are bold or know someone in the same industry, reach out to them to find out the challenges they face in their everyday operations.
If you are hesitant to approach people, you can still get information by visiting various coffee shops and taking note of the features of the actual cafe.
Making this approach will give you insights into what a typical customer experience is.
- Have a taste of the actual products
- Take note of which is often ordered by other customers.
- How is the staff service from the door to the table or counter ( if self-service)
- How the staff adheres to their brand standards
- How staff handles concerns, requests and complaints
- How many staff are on duty at a specific time of a day or week (This may take more than one trip if you genuinely want to study a competitor)
- How fast you received service and if the service was satisfactory.
- Cleanliness of the cafe
- Note the grooming, hygiene of staff and how they carry their uniforms.
Your goal is to leave with insights into how your visit can help your business. Use the information to evaluate what is feasible for you and what’s not to create an objective, unbiased view of operating a cafe.
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That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!
Ciao for now,