Opening a café is something of a pipedream for many of us. There’s a romantic allure attached to the idea of opening a venue of one’s own, in part facilitated by the freedom and self-reliance that comes from such a venture. Hospitality concepts are inherently creative things too, making a café opening an outlet like no other. But how could you get from idea to opening?
No business of any kind is destined for success without some form of business plan in place. The hospitality industry is no different; you might have a killer idea for a café concept, but without a comprehensive and structured account of how you plan to achieve it; there is little chance of success.
Financial considerations are unfortunately key here and need to take priority. For now, take for granted that your ideas are excellent and that you will be developing a creative new concept. How do you intend to achieve this? Where is your initial seed funding coming from? And how profitable will your café be when open?
A heady combination of market research, competitor research and investor courting is required at this early stage, to ensure all bases are covered. At the very least, you should have a separate account for savings that you can use to fund early investments in vital equipment such as a good coffee machine.
Location and License
If you haven’t already found your ideal location, now is absolutely the time to do so. You will have already based your business plan on a location or number of locations, so you will have an idea of where to look. Urban cafés enjoy a high footfall, but also command a high price with regard to monthly rent and utilities. Suburban ventures see less footfall but can cost less upfront and in situ to run.
As well as location, you’ll need to give some time to consider licensing. If you intend to serve food, you will need to register with your local authority as a food business – and review the various regulations that govern food safety in hospitality environments. If your café will also sell alcohol, whether on- or off-premises, you will need first a Personal License, then a Premises License in order to do so legally.
Now, you get to do the fun stuff. What do you want your café to look like, and how will you achieve it? Your concept ideas can well and truly come to life here, though you may find your décor ambitions scuppered by your budget. Every detail is important, from your choice of chair and table to the paint you choose for the wall.
Menu and Suppliers
Finally, you get to populate your café with produce. Cafés work with food and drink distributors, whether regional or national, in order to streamline produce ordering and access lower prices. In striking up contracts with distributors, you can start to figure out which ingredients are available to you – and hence, what your menu will look like. With your food and drink menu finalised, you are one marketing campaign away from opening your doors!