Cafes are attractive to everyone from students to office workers to artists. While Starbucks may get all the attention, any mom-and-pop breakfast and lunch joint can compete with the right location, coffee, food, service and ambiance. To become a go-to spot and make money, a plan to get those elements right can be totally undone without quality accounting and a good cafe POS system. However, something as simple as a cafe checklist can go a long way.
Here is your Checklist for Opening a Cafe to get you started.
Like any business venture, you need to start with a written plan. Whether it’s to woo investors or just to help you prioritize and determine what you’re going to do, a business plan is crucial to the success of any commercial venture.
Storefronts in busy downtown areas have higher rents for a reason: Higher foot traffic equals higher turnover. Other factors to consider include whether a location is central and close to other restaurants and shops, if the space has the right electrical and plumbing infrastructure, and how affordable the rent is relative to these other factors.
Coffee and tea are the lifeblood of any cafe and Americans are increasingly discerning, so it’s important to establish a robust supply chain. Decide on the different varieties of coffee and tea you’ll sell to ensure your cafe stands out. High-quality tea and coffee beans cost more, but may draw tea and coffee enthusiasts from further afield.
A solid and welcoming floor plan is vital for a coffee shop. You want customers to have space to form a line, employees to have the materials they need within reach for quick access and a comfortable seating area. As with finding a location, it will take some time to produce a good floor plan.
Cafes typically offer light meal options, such as soups, salads, sandwiches, bagels, and sweet baked goods. Keep it simple, get feedback on all items before you open, and make sure your menu evokes your unique brand and culture.
One of the best pieces of advice Wilson says he can offer a new coffee shop owner is to turn your books over to an accountant. Aside from taking valuable time away from the business, having a numbers expert works in your favor.
“You won’t be as hard on yourself as you sometimes might need to be,” Wilson says. “Plus, you will make assumptions that an accountant wouldn’t make.”
In reality, your accountant is really your small business consultant. Make sure you find someone who believes in you and can help accomplish your business goals.
Along with local permits, which are usually fairly straightforward to obtain, a cafe requires state food and beverage licenses. State licenses can be considerably more difficult to obtain in some states than others, so start the application process as soon as you’ve registered your business.
Finding startup funds for a coffee shop can be difficult. We suggest talking with friends and family about investing in your coffee shop first. Present a solid business plan to them and ask them to invest in your business. If funding via your family isn’t an option, or if you need more cash than your family can provide, we suggest looking into local loan options. In some cases, cities offer business assistance programs to offset costs.
When identifying startup costs, don’t forget that you need to consider your own personal expenses alongside your business. All of your time and energy will be devoted to your new business, which potentially won’t be profitable for around six-months, even if you start bringing in revenue immediately.
Some of the hardware you’ll need includes:
Cafe POS system and a cash register
Drip coffee makers
Industrial coffee grinders
Refrigerators and freezers
Ovens/toasters/other cooking devices
Storage and shelving systems
Having a hot location and brewing superior coffee will only get you so far. You need to network to maintain a connection to the area and to attract more customers. Look into joining the local chamber of commerce, a business association, or partner with a local charity. Be visible in your local community and get dedicated partners long before you open your doors.
A reliable person with an outgoing personality and a positive, can-do attitude is more important than experience. Coffee-making skills can be taught—a bad attitude or taciturn personality is much harder to modify. That said, a knowledge of, and passion for coffee is a big plus. Restaurant-specific job boards and referrals are good places to find baristas and cooks.
Your marketing program should begin before the cafe opens its doors. Consider advertising your grand opening in local newspapers and magazines, issuing a press release announcing your opening date, offering buy-one-get-one-free coupons and free samples, starting a loyalty program you can run through the POS system, approaching local food bloggers and Instagram influencers, creating a social media marketing program, and hanging appropriate signage.
It’s likely that you’ll stress over every little detail of your shop, from what paintings to hang on the wall to the point of sale system (POS System) you’ll use. That being said, it can be very easy to ignore the exterior of your shop or coffee cart which directly contrasts with choosing a location with heavy foot traffic.
By creating a clean and unique exterior, you’ll begin to create a buzz in your community. People will start to wonder, who is setting up shop there? Every little thing you can do to attract attention to your coffee shop can serve as a marketing tool.
Like every business, you’ll face challenges to get your shop off the ground. We say keeping a positive attitude when things aren’t going your way is a must. Not only does it benefit your outlook, but it showcases strong leadership to your employees and a welcoming presence for customers.
It’s okay to set high standards for your employees and overall business. That’s not to say that you should micromanage your employees. You’ll want to focus on effectively training your staff at the start and building an effective workflow that encourages collaboration and high-quality work. Their ability to make good coffee drinks quickly will have an impact on customer loyalty and satisfaction.