Coffee is the new tea and is now part of our national culture. It’s embedded completely in our social lives and there has never been a better time to take advantage of an increasing appetite for good coffee.

If recent times have taught us anything, it is that we are incredibly resilient as a nation. Not only did we overcome adversity and come out the other side, we identified areas of optimism and opportunity. More people than ever before have decided to give up the rat race to go it alone to start their own business. You could be one of them.

Opening a café combines an opportunity to make your own way in life while providing a service we have all come to rely on. Serving delicious coffee in comfortable surroundings.

If you’re considering opening your own café, here’s how to go about it.

Planning and research

The more planning you do and the more research you undertake, the higher the chances of success. It’s the boring part of starting a business but it’s also the more important part.

Plan your USP (Unique Selling Point) and come up with something that makes you stand out. Your USP can be anything you like, just make sure it’s something people want and cannot get anywhere else. The rest is up to you!

Research your local market, drinking habits, local competition, council plans for development in your area and whether there is room for another café.

The concept

Use your planning and research to devise a concept for your café. Will you go French bistro? Modern industrial? Laid back and relaxed? Will you have seating? Will it be grab and go? Will you serve food? Will you sell cakes and bakes?

All these decisions feed into the overall concept and will inform the premises, the décor, the fixtures and fittings and every aspect of your new business. Putting thought into these things early on should prevent any expensive reworking later!

The premises

Now you can look for premises. You should know how much space you’ll need, what type of customer you want to attract and the type of area that provides for both those things.

Now it’s time to identify suitable premises. Look at footfall, average age and wealth of local residents, look at the shops and restaurants around the premises. Do they fit your ideal customer? Is there sufficient footfall for passing trade? Is rent reasonable? Are there offices and other premises around to provide regular trade?

Setting up the business

You’ll need to set up a formal company, a limited company, partnership or whatever you like. Secure the domain name, set up a website, set up a business bank account, get an accountant, sort commercial insurance, work with the landlord and work with the council on any specific requirements they might have.

Don’t forget food hygiene, health and safety, fire and other requirements for commercial premises either!

Find suppliers

One core requirement for any successful café is the quality of the coffee. Find a good quality, reliable wholesale coffee supplier, someone like The Specialty Coffee Company offers a best price guarantee which is the kind of feature you want to look out for. Decide whether to make your own cakes or buy them in if you’re providing them, work out where you’re going to buy crockery, cups, coffee machines and all the myriad equipment you’ll need.

There will be an element of guesswork and optimism when talking volumes and coffee machine capacities but be cautiously optimistic. You can always scale back if you need to.

Systems for everything

Running your own café may look like a lot of work, and it is, but as a customer you only see the half of it. You may have to start early baking but you also need systems for managing stock and inventory, staff rotas, bookkeeping, ordering, reporting, people management and a lot of other tasks a small business owner needs to take care of.

Having as many systems in place as early as possible should make the entire process a lot easier.

Marketing your café

‘Build it and they will come’ may have worked for the Romans but it doesn’t work now. You need to market heavily in order to generate sufficient interest. Marketing is one part of running a business that starts before you even open your doors and never stops.

Use social media, press releases, your website, flyers, posters and every channel at your disposal to get the word out. The more work you put into marketing, the more people should know you’re there.

Opening the doors

Finally, after what seems like forever, long days and nights, lots and lots of paperwork and no little stress, it’s time to open the doors. Hopefully you have generated enough interest to begin seeing a regular trickle of customers.

Don’t expect hordes to begin with but if you got your premises right, the coffee right and you provide efficient service with a smile, everything else should fall into place!


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