Dreaming of opening up a cafe - what first steps should I take?

(16 Posts)
Elizabeth1984 Sat 12-Jul-14 13:31:18

I've been fantasising for a while about running my own cafe, and I wondered if you could point to resources for me to look at to start making my idea a bit more realistic.

The dream is to run a smart cafe that appeals to glamorous mums, rich old ladies and what i call 'self-actualised' wifi-using men. there'd be good quality fenced-off space for children (keep them out the way and let parents eat in peace), discreet staff, and I'd serve alcohol. I'd also use the space to run workshops that I teach, and as a 'physical presence' for my lifestyle blog. I'd look to open a few more branches eventually, once I'd established I was making money.

I'm good on the money side of things, eg working out what I need to sell to cover my costs and make money. The key factor would be finding the right location for my business, with the kind of customers I'd be targeting.

Another consideration is I'm a (soon to be) single mum of young children and I don't have any money to put into it. I'd be relying on a business loan.

I've got hold of a few entrepreneur books, but I'm just wondering what my first steps should be to take this from dream to reality?

BreeVDKamp Sat 12-Jul-14 13:40:55

Fun! I've just helped open a cafe (I'm a staff member, was assisting my boss, the owner), been open 3 weeks and it's going well.

Does your council run a business start up course? Really helpful for learning the basics and you'll probably find out about other great resources and network with people. And it will probably be free.

Write a simple, comprehensive, legible business plan with figures and forecasts and take it to various banks for a loan.

Be very organised with stock to minimise waste, cannot bear throwing produce out.

Get chairs that sit nicely upturned on tables - makes cleaning the floor so much easier!

Get a floor that isn't a bitch to clean.

I'd start with a small range of really good quality good and drink. Great coffee!

You don't need to have EVERYTHING ready to go - if you're like me you'll want to have absolutely everything you'll ever need ready to go before you open, but you'll never open if that's the case.

Put together a processes manual so your staff know exactly how to do everything - make coffee and how it should look; how to store tomatoes (wash produce when it comes in, or before use? For example); how the counter should be set out; how you present napkins and cutlery to the customers. This way you shouldn't be bothered so much with little questions and more initiative will be used!

Sorry none of this is probably very useful! Resources..... I can't think!!! I've got a couple of good start up books (I'm a sole trader in another field). Lots of like 'start your business in 6 weeks' books about.

BreeVDKamp Sat 12-Jul-14 13:42:22

I'd also deffo get staff working before you open - it helps so much knowing where supplies are kept and the boss' thinking behind doing various things. Don't just throw them into it on opening day!

BreeVDKamp Sat 12-Jul-14 13:44:47

Sorry not very 'first steps'-y blush hopefully someone more helpful will be along soon!

Elizabeth1984 Sat 12-Jul-14 14:18:31

That's great! Thanks for your quick reply. Yes I'll start looking into council start your own business courses. I need to get a bit of a local network going, and I'm not in a position to open immediately, that will buy me a little time, but get me going in the right direction.

Thanks again!

BreeVDKamp Sat 12-Jul-14 17:24:36

smile no problem. Have you worked in a cafe or professional kitchen before? If so you'll know about regs etc, if not make sure to check them out and get a food hygiene certificate smile

Elizabeth1984 Sat 12-Jul-14 21:28:26

Yes I spent about 6 years working in a small restaurant kitchen. I also spent 4 yrs working on an industry magazine. I don't quite know about regulations, but I can find out about them. But from my time in the professional kitchen I am obsessive about cleanliness - that would be one of my no- compromise areas.

Think about opening hours. Do you want to sell takeaway coffees to commuters? Appeal to an evening audience too? Find out times of local baby groups and have staff in for just after those groups finish?

twentyten Sat 12-Jul-14 21:31:16

Could you work in a coffee shop just to refresh your experience?

Elizabeth1984 Sat 12-Jul-14 21:36:45

I just found this link which is interesting startups.co.uk/how-to-start-a-cafe-or-coffee-shop/3/ and might help others.

Yes I probably should work in a coffee shop just to get a good feel for them. I go to them enough!! But I might try and get a Saturday job in one.

nannynick Sat 12-Jul-14 21:44:34

Location - you want passing trade, repeat customers. Look into premises that would get approval for cafe use.

Gfplux Sun 13-Jul-14 13:19:48

Elizabeth. Don't just think about getting a job in a cafè.... Do it. There is no better experience BEFORE opening your own cafè. Then with your eyes open to the business opportunities look and watch how it is done. Try to recognise what they are doing right and (more difficult if it is still open after two or more years) the things they are doing wrong. Don't think for one moment that drinking coffee in a cafè tells you ALL you need to know.

Most mistakes when opening a new business happen in the months BEFORE opening and in the two or three months after opening.
Good luck.
Let us know how you get on. Step by step.

BreeVDKamp Sun 13-Jul-14 16:09:51

After each shift I go home and write notes in what I've discovered NOT to do when I have my own cafe haha grin

Elizabeth1984 Sun 13-Jul-14 18:47:54

Hmm thanks gfplux your advice might just be the big kick I need, I've been hedging my bets not giving up my full time job, I'm now very close to quitting as the commute is not working out with young children. I have a few job opportunities to pursue when I quit but I might put that coffe shop job higher on the list now.

Thanks for the encouragement , I'll keep you updated on my baby steps!

scottishmummy Sun 13-Jul-14 19:05:33

Get a job I catering,in cafe.learn from doing.your description dream cafe sounds naive
Catering is hard,the coshh regulations,how to make profit margin,turnover vs margins
Honestly your description isn't catering,it's mixed up yoga,mindfulness and woo

scottishmummy Sun 13-Jul-14 19:16:30

1st steps
Get experience in trade.learn by doing.talk to other caterers
Business plan with costings,and finances.
Do the necessary training coshh,food hygiene,basic kitchen prep skills etc
Where are your kids whilst your working?how will new role impact family
Be less specific about dream client base.follow the money,business is about profit
IMO,you're trying to do too many things from a cafe. It's catering not the Tavistock

Good luck
Entrepreneurship is a wonderful thing

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