There is nothing quite like the cafe industry. We believe that a good cafe can transform a community. A good cafe helps people feel connected. A good cafe provides nourishment to tonnes of people. We love this biz! It’s a bustling hub of growth, but we reckon there’s plenty of room for more wonderful hospo establishments.
We’ve set up several spaces over the years, from from hole-in-the-wall espresso bars to table service cafes. So, we know what works, we also know what doesn’t work!
Here is our tried and true ultimate cafe start-up guide:
First things first. We have a few questions.
Why do you want to start a cafe?
What is your vision? What are you bringing to the industry that is unique and fresh? Are you able to articulate that to someone close to you?
All these elements are really important in starting a cafe. We all know that a cafe is more than just a cafe. A great cafe can become an establishment in a community. It creates community engagement that goes way beyond a cup of coffee. A great cafe becomes like family. It's a place people subscribe to. It’s somewhere people can be known and seen. So, what makes you special? What is your point of difference? That is a great place to start!
This element can really make or break your cafe plans. You can have a killer espresso bar with all the specs, bells and whistles, but if it's in the wrong location, it can totally bomb out. Where you set up your space is really important. Have you noticed that some business people just have a gift for being in the right place at the right time? It’s important to have your finger on the pulse of the community you are looking at. You want the right amount of enough healthy competition around you, while also fulfilling a distinct gap in the market.
Some simple things to take into consideration are:
- Parking. Can someone pull in and grab their order easily en route to work? Or do they need to cross treacherous highways, walk 300m through a dark alley, only to end up with a parking ticket on their car for the privilege of showing up?
- Ease of access. Do you have options for those with additional needs? Are there bathrooms available nearby?
- Cost of rent. Certain locations will have more reasonable rental fees, while some make you pay exorbitantly for the location.
- Neighbours. Is your area residential or more commercial? It might be worth sussing out the other local vendors to get a picture of the vibe of the neighbourhood.
- Demographic. What is the community like? Do you have an ideal customer in mind? Is it young families, is it single professionals, is it coffee snobs? If you can articulate your ideal customer is it will help you to frame up the rest of your plans.
Staff can be both your greatest joy and your deepest woe. Good staff can be hard to find! But they are out there, and when you find them make sure you do all that you can to hold onto them. Good staff translate your vision to others. Good staff care for your customers. Good staff carry the load when life gets busy. Not every individual has to be good at everything, but the team has to be good at everything! So maybe you've got the more detail-oriented people in the kitchen or doing admin. Maybe you've got your people-people out the front on POS. You can cover all your bases as a team by putting your staff into their areas of strength.
A couple of things to look for in a staff member.
- Trustworthiness - always check references! Even if you get a great vibe in the interview. It pays to double check!
- Quality work - Sloppiness is a slippery sloppy slope. Do they have passion for the product? How is the care-factor? Can they work quickly under pressure?
- Friendliness - We all know a smile makes a huge difference in any human interaction. People may come for the coffee, but often times, they stay for the conversation!
- Teachability - most things can be taught! Maybe you’ve got someone who is inexperienced, but they’re hungry to learn! Some of our best staff have been people who didn’t know much about coffee but were super keen and very teachable. This ends up being pretty special.
Keep it simple. It’s better to do a few things really well than to do lots of mediocre things! So, figure out what is simple and sustainable for you long-term. Offer an adaptable, seasonal menu that ebbs and flows across the year. This helps you make the most of seasonal produce and helps keep your costs down. Use ingredients that can be translated across the entire menu to prevent wastage. Seasonal menu changes also keep you fresh and help your customers to be flexible. #pivot anyone? On coffee, we love to offer the signature blend as well as a rotating single origin for people to try. Batch brew is also a great option for single origin coffees, and very cost effective.
This is something we have always been passionate about since we kicked off this biz. From commercial factory bays to trendy heritage buildings, atmosphere is King. Our cafes do more than just provide people with their daily caffeine fix. Our cafes become a home away from home. Smiling staff, natural light, heating and cooling, beautiful fit-outs, are all elements that help to create the right environment for our staff and customers. Our boss man Benny is so passionate about atmosphere that he’s been known to build curated playlists to span the work day. From energetic happy vibes in the morning, through to chilled arvo tunes, he knows that when the tunes are right, the warehouse is buzzing. How do you want people to feel when they walk into your place? Atmosphere is the answer.
Gear and machinery
If you want to make good coffee, you need good equipment. Any decent coffee roaster will be able to supply you with the right gear to pull off your coffee dreams. You can choose the right gear by starting small and predicting your weekly coffee volume. Owning your own machinery in general is also a great financial goal, as it enables you to have more options and independence when dealing with suppliers.