Opening a café is a huge investment, and will take a lot of your time and money, that’s why it’s important that you nail it from the get-go so that every dollar and minute spent pays off. Keep reading for 5 important steps you should consider before opening a café of your own.

1. Define your vision

You should do a lot of research to find out what works and what doesn’t in a café. The best way to do this is to visit lots of cafés to get an idea for what you want your business to look like. You could talk to business owners and café veterans to get a sense of which of their ideas you’ll take on and in which ways your café will be different. Going to lots of other cafés will help you learn more about your own customer base and how to meet their needs. Think about things like pricing, what time of the day is busiest and which menu items are popular.

With all your research done, it’s time to define your vision. You should have a mental image of what your café is like. Write down what you want to achieve with your café, including your desired atmosphere, food and design ideas. Customers should get a sense of your vision as soon as they’ve walked through the door. Having a clearly defined vision will also help you come up with things like a name for your café, the décor and the type of experience you want your customers to have.

2. Create a business plan

Writing a business plan is for you to figure out the logistics of opening your café. This will help you through the stages of developing and managing your business.

Your business plan should include

  • A summary: the vision for your business and how it will stand out from the competition.
  • A local market analysis: Who do you want your customers to be? Which businesses are you competing with?
  • Your team: How much of the work will you do yourself, and who will you hire to do the rest?
  • A marketing plan: How are you going to brand your business, and how will you communicate with prospective customers?
  • Financial projections: This includes statements about your projected profit & loss and your cash flow. You should also include how much money you will need to get started and where this money is coming from.
  • Location and lease information

3. Choose your location, suppliers and equipment

Location is critical to the success of your café. Ensure that you’ve researched the areas you’re considering, paying attention to things like amount of foot traffic, parking availabilities, visibility of the location and proximity to other cafes.

Café owners need to find the right café wholesalers. You should spend considerable time finding good and reliable suppliers, for staples like coffee, milk, bread, fresh produce and groceries. Decide where you will source things like cups, napkins and teapots. Make a detailed list of all the supplies you’ll need, so that you don’t end up underestimating the amount of money you will be spending on these items. You also need to find commercial equipment. You can either buy what you need outright or lease equipment. Sometimes you can lease coffee equipment such as machines from your coffee roaster. Other things you should think about include commercial refrigerators, dishwashers, blenders and cash registers.

4. Design your café and hire the right people

Often customers are drawn in by the aesthetic of your café, and this often influences whether they’ll return. Think about your targeted customer base and think about what sort of atmosphere and décor they will like. Are you after a more sophisticated design? Or perhaps a rustic interior? Choose one theme and stick to it, trying to match things like plates, cups and menus to the atmosphere you desire. Ensure that your space is not only visually appealing, but also practical for your staff. Does your barista have enough room to work efficiently? Will your waiters be able to walk through the space easily?

After designing your café and your menu, you’ll need to find staff. You may choose your staff based on skills and experience, but one of the most important things to consider is their attitude. A great attitude and positive outlook will ensure a friendly and efficient team culture that should hopefully translate to low staff turnover rates and high customer satisfaction.

5. Open & market your café

Building up a customer base will be easier if you use social media and rely on other advertising techniques apart from word of mouth. Create Facebook and Instagram pages for your café, and post photos of your café, menu items and customers regularly. Ensure you claim your listing on Google Maps and Tripadvisor and engage with all your reviews. Doing this well help your customers feel part of a community, and will ensure they’re happy and keep returning for more!