Are you planning to open your very own cafe? Hey, that’s wonderful! After all, we Australians do love our coffees! In fact, stats will tell you that the cafes and coffee shop sector is worth $9.4 billion at the moment (the year 2022), and these numbers will only grow in the future.
How fantastic it would be that people would come together and have a great time because of you. You will make their mornings brighter and evenings a little less stressful. So, let’s not waste any time and delve straight away into the 12 main aspects of how to open a cafe business.
Follow these simple guidelines, and you’ll have a pretty good idea about everything you need to learn or take care of to run the successful cafe of your dreams.
How to Open a Cafe Step #1
Learn the Nuances of the Business
The first step you need to take to learn how to open a cafe is to gather a good amount of knowledge regarding what it takes to start, manage, and then eventually grow your cafe business. Running a cafe requires a considerable amount of investment, plus you’ll be putting a lot of your time and energy into this project. So, it’s absolutely essential that you equip yourself with the necessary knowledge beforehand.
You can visit different types of cafes in your neighbourhood and try to learn from their owners’ experiences. Observe and note down what works for these establishments and what doesn’t. What are people’s expectations, and what can you offer that nobody else is offering at the moment?
You need to study the market closely, understand your target audience, what time of the day will be the busiest and which hours tend to be on the emptier side. This knowledge will help you decide a lot of things later on, like what kind of theme you can pick, what kind of menu you’d want to create, what would be an ideal price point for the food you’ll be serving, how many employees you’ll need to hire, and so on.
How to Open a Cafe Step #2
Define Your Vision for the Cafe
One of the main reasons why so many new cafes fail within a year of their inception is due to the lack of vision one needs to possess to run a successful cafe business in a competitive market like Australia.
Before you get on the ground for real, you need to develop a strong vision for your business. So, this step on how to open a cafe includes envisioning how your cafe is going to look, what kind of vibe you want to create as its ambience, what kind of food you want to serve, how you are going to run things, how you’ll promote it on social media, to everything else you can think of that could help you run your cafe successfully.
You can even collect photos or illustrations of other cafes or write down your thoughts on a piece of paper to help you develop ideas, which you can later share with people like your interior designer or social media manager.
Developing a strong vision really helps because it keeps you focused and consistent. Whenever you need to make a decision, you have to ask yourself – “Which of these options is closer to how I have envisioned my cafe?” This will make things so much easier for you when it comes to choosing a design theme, planning the menu, or hiring people to work for you.
How to Open a Cafe Step #3
Work on a Business Plan
This step is probably the least exciting for most people, but unfortunately, it is the most crucial one as well. Trying to run a coffee shop without a business plan is like trying to sail a cruise liner without its captain!
On the other hand, a well-thought-out business plan helps you understand everything you need to know about starting, managing, and eventually grow your business in a manner specific to you and the kind of resources you have. Please understand that it’s not about all the paperwork; it’s about going through the process of analyzing and understanding your own business.
Here’s what you must include in this business plan –
- Market Research – Spend time studying both your competitors and your target audience. This also includes surveying the area where you want to open your cafe and figuring out how much rent you’ll be paying and what are some of the best spots to run a cafe.
- Marketing Strategy – This doesn’t need to be an elaborate plan, but you should know how to promote your business to attract the right kind of customers. As your business grows, you can work towards evolving a better plan.
- Finances – This should have all the details about your budget, pricing strategy, insurances, leasing and rent-related financial details, costs related to management and maintenance, salaries you’d be paying, profit & loss statements, etc.
- Operations – This section will have all your ideas and plans for how you’ll operate your cafe. This includes how many people you need to hire, how to hire them, who your suppliers are, where to find them, what equipment to get and from where, how to acquire all the licenses etc.
How to Open a Cafe Step #4
What Licences Do I Need To Open A Cafe Business?
To ensure you have all the proper permissions to construct and then open a new cafe, you’ll need to acquire several licenses. The main three licenses include:
Business Licenses – You must first apply for a business license and registration from your local council. To do so, you’d need to submit information like your food business classification, the type of food you’ll be serving, whether the food is going to be pre-packed or not, the names of your cafe’s food safety representatives, etc. You can visit the website of the Australian Business License and Information Service for more information on this process.
Council Certificates – This includes a number of different certificates to be acquired from your local council, such as – a zoning certificate, compliance certificate, fire safety certificate, construction certificate, and occupation certificate. For each of these, there’s an associated fee, and please make sure to complete all the requisite paperwork properly to avoid any complications or rejections.
Food Licenses – Getting these licenses is mandatory to ensure a certain level of food safety has been maintained before the food is served to the local community. The licensing requirements would vary depending on which state you are based in, the size of the cafe, etc. You can gather more information from sites like NSW Food Authority, Health Act, and Queensland Government.
How to Open a Cafe Step #5
How Do I Choose a Location For My Cafe
The next step in learning the art of how to open a cafe is to learn how to pick a perfect location. By finalising an awesome location for your cafe, half your problems are already solved! Picking the right location plays a huge part in the overall success of your cafe. Before making a final call, closely observe what kind of footfall it receives daily, how much parking space is available in the vicinity, and how easy or difficult it is to find this location without the help of a GPS device. Is it easily visible or not?
It’s also important that the neighbourhood generally has many people which you intend to target as your key demographics. Also, observe how many cafes are currently operational in this area, how well they’re doing, and why. Once you find an ideal location, start preparing the retail lease documents under the supervision of a competent lawyer or a broker who is trustworthy and experienced. We put together a separate blog all about how to find the best commercial site for your business; you can read it here – Choosing the Right Commercial Space for Your Business | 8 Most Important Considerations
How to Open a Cafe Step #6
Do I Need To Hire an Interior Designer or a Fitout Expert
How well you design your cafe decides how easy or ‘not so easy it will be to attract new customers. For this to happen, you need to pick a theme and then you need to stick to this theme for every aspect of your design. Even the design of your social media platforms should be in-sync with this core theme to create a seamless branding image for your cafe.
We strongly recommend hiring an interior designer, or better, a fitout expert who could provide a comprehensive package deal that includes designing every aspect of your cafe professionally and appealingly.
Depending on your audience, you can pick a theme like a rustic coffee shop, an indoor garden, an industrial-style cafe, vintage themed cafe, an artistic cafe, etc. Make sure once you’ve finalised a theme, everything, including – the cafe’s storefront, signage, lighting, decor, furniture, and even the design on the packaging for takeouts, have this theme displayed in some form or the other.
How to Open a Cafe Step #7
What Furniture and Commercial Equipment Do I Need
Now that you have a theme for your cafe, it’s time to buy furniture and commercial equipment. For furniture, keep in mind pointers like what floor plan you have and how spacious your layout is. Also, make sure your customers and staff members can move around comfortably.
As we mentioned before, pick furniture that matches the theme of your cafe. At the same time, it should be perfectly functional. So, choose something that could work around the year, is easy to clean and move around, and is durable enough. We’d also advise not to spend much money on the furniture immediately. As your business grows, you can start with something simple and affordable and keep adding more furniture over the next few months or years.
For equipment, you have the option of either buying your own or renting everything out. You need to invest in good quality commercial espresso machine, coffee grinder, blender, refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave. Make a list of everything you need, and then start looking for suppliers. You can visit trade shows and speak to multiple vendors before making a final call. You’d also need a quality POS system to help you organize your finances and operations.
How to Open a Cafe Step #8
Look for Suppliers
Finding quality, reliable suppliers is an absolute must! You’d need to find suppliers for ingredients like coffee, bread, milk, groceries, gourmet ingredients, and fresh produce. Other things you’d need suppliers for include – take away utensils like sustainably produced cups, plates, boxes, napkins, stirrers, etc.
Make a detailed list of all the things you need fixed suppliers for, and start your search. Don’t reject suppliers just because more affordable ones are available. You need to look for quality, too, so don’t just pick those who are the cheapest of the lot. That would be a huge mistake.
It’s ideal to look for people who understand your business or, more importantly, the theme of your cafe. Like-minded people can help you in ways you can’t imagine yourself.
Besides finding suppliers, you also need to decide when to buy the produce – weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. To get a better price, buying a bigger volume is ideal, so decide accordingly.
How to Open a Cafe Step #9
How Do I Create an Awesome Menu
The next step in learning how to open a cafe is to understand how to create an awesome menu, which includes three main aspects –
- Deciding what food to serve – This largely depends on your customers and their preferences, but it also depends on your speciality as a cafe owner. Do you have a cuisine or a specific kind of menu in mind right from the beginning? If yes, then go with it. If that’s not the case, you need to figure out what your customers want. It’s important to understand at this stage that you can’t make everyone happy. So, don’t try to include too many items. Keep the menu simple but effective. Maybe 10-12 unbeatable dishes which you know you can serve well and are everybody’s favourite. Also, try to include at least a few vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.
- Designing the menu – This aspect includes the design of the menu and how it’ll look and feel in the hands of your customers. For this, you need to follow the theme of your cafe. Ideally, your interior design, the design of your menu, and the design you follow for all promotional activities are very similar. For example, if the theme of your cafe is a ‘floral garden’, you need to use a lot of fresh flowers and plants in your interior design. Even the colours you pick for the walls and furniture of your cafe should represent this theme. Similarly, your menu should also have floral patterns or flower illustrations on it. What font you also use matters. It would be great to use the same font you’ve used at your storefront or maybe something similar.
- Deciding the price point – Now, the next part is to decide how to price everything on your menu. Obviously, you want to make a good amount of profit, but before making a call, keep in mind your customer base and how much money they are comfortable spending in cafes. To justify the price point, price your signature dishes on the higher side, and add enticing descriptions for these dishes on the menu. The rule of thumb for all the other dishes is that the ingredient costs shouldn’t be more than 35% of the retail price.
How to Open a Cafe Step #10
Hire Your Staff
As a cafe owner, one quality you need to possess or develop as quickly as possible is the ability to hire the right people and then retain them for as long as possible. It would be ideal if you could find experienced staff members who are dedicated and sincere, but that’s not always possible, especially for a new cafe with a limited budget to work with.
If that’s not an option, the next best thing is looking for people with the right attitude. If they have the right attitude, they’ll learn the required skills in no time. So, hire 2-3 staff members with some experience in the cafe business, and for the rest, hire people who are eager to learn, are disciplined, and have a positive, happy attitude in general. Also, please understand that your job isn’t just to hire the staff members, it is also your duty to cultivate a healthy team culture to keep everyone inspired and motivated.
How to Open a Cafe Step #11
How Should I Market My Cafe?
Learning how to market your cafe right is an important part of opening a cafe and turning it into a truly profitable business. It is an elaborate topic, but we’ll cover all the basics of it in this section. Here are a few quick tips –
- Start building your social media presence months before you actually inaugurate the cafe. Try to create buzz on platforms like Instagram, Tik Tok, and Twitter.
- Invest in creating an appealing website for your cafe. A YouTube channel would also be great if you could post content regularly.
- Take many good pictures for social media and make innovative Insta Reels or Tik Tok videos of your cafe. Try to capture the ambience you’ve created, the decor, the food, and the good time people are having there. You can use these pictures and videos in paid ad campaigns to attract new customers.
- Claim your Google Maps listing and keep an eye on the reviews you receive there. Claim your page on Tripadvisor and other similar platforms as well. Respond to feedback quickly to build a loyal customer base.
- Make sure you are listed on popular restaurant apps and review websites like Open Table; Uber Eats, Zomato, Door Dash, The Fork, Yelp, etc.
- You can have a loyalty program in place. Regularly offer discounts and free goodies on special occasions like festivals, birthdays, and anniversaries.
How to Open a Cafe Step #12
Nurture a Growth Mindset
Like any other business, the cafe business requires a growth mindset, too, if you want to sustain it and grow steadily. You need to be patient and calm to face the everyday challenges of this business. Initially, there’s a possibility that you’ll have to incur a few losses in the first few months (anywhere between 6 to 18 months) of operations. That’s absolutely normal. Do not lose hope or give up on your dream during this time.
Just steadily and wholeheartedly do your best to serve good food, maintain a high level of service quality, and keep promoting your cafe using as many mediums as possible. Slowly the popularity of your cafe will rise, and profits will start coming in. Once that happens, make sure there’s room for growth. It’s good to envision how you’ll facilitate growth, whether it’s in terms of adding more tables or serving more people during peak hours. The key is always looking for solutions and being ready to learn new things daily.
Learning how to open a cafe business sounds like a piece of cake, but it can be pretty daunting if you’ve invested your life savings into it and your time and energy. So, don’t make any decisions in a hurry. Give yourself plenty of time to plan everything properly.
Whether it’s managing your finances, choosing a location, hiring a fitout expert, applying for licenses, or learning how to market your cafe on various social media platforms, you need to make sure you’re doing your best to handle all these different aspects of running a cafe business successfully.
If at any stage, you feel overwhelmed, ask for help. That might sound like an unnecessary expense at that moment, but trust me, these small investments can transform your experience completely.
How Can We Help You Learn How to Open a Cafe Business
Since designing and decorating a new cafe space requires additional planning and creative thinking, hiring an experienced fitout professional would certainly make things easier and quicker. Call Us On: 1300 LETS BUILD or send us an email on: [email protected] to know more about how ImpeccaBuild can help you in this process.
You Might Also like:
If you enjoyed reading “How to Open a Cafe Business”, you may also be interested in:
- An Impeccable Office Layout Design Guide
- Office Layout Ideas – An Impeccable Guide
- Office Plants – An Impeccable Guide
- Office Renovation – An Impeccable Guide
- Open Plan Office Guide – 4 Proven Advantages Guaranteed To Increase Your Productivity
- 5 Small Work Office Design Ideas, Guaranteed To Increase Productivity
- Office Fit Out Company – 6 Essential Tips For Choosing The Right Builder
- Office Fit Out Costs Sydney – A Free & Simple 3 Part Guide