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Taking over a Play cafe..

(64 Posts)
Charlottedanielle Thu 29-Aug-13 09:10:21

Hello. I currently work at a play cafe in Epsom. I've only been there a few months. But it's not as busy as the owner wood have liked. He is thinking about closing, but I don't want to give up just yet. Due to that, there's a chance I could take over the cafe. I have so many ideas, and a bunch of good friends behind me who have said they will help the "new set up".

The current owner isn't big on running classes, or publicising anything properly.

I would run several classes each day throughout the week: sing and sign classes, little cooks cooking classes, rhyme time, story time, face painting, arts and crafts, baby imprinting, and then maybe for holidays, have a photographer come on and take holiday themes photos for family's at a low price. Apart from the photography, everything else would be £3 per child. Do you think that's too much?

What would you want from a small play cafe?

melliebobs Thu 29-Aug-13 09:12:06

There's a 'play cafe' near me. But on Friday night/weekends they do something for teens. They do a film night with smoothies etc

ResNullius Thu 29-Aug-13 09:17:45

Attention to Mums (and GMs) as well as the little ones.
Comfort, good coffee and decent cakes....
so it becomes a really nice place for friends to visit together.

Really good interactive staff who actually like small children, not just their wage packet.

And above all else ...hygiene, hygiene & hygiene.
In that order smile

LEMisdisappointed Thu 29-Aug-13 09:19:12

If im very honest I would not want extras like the photographer this would put me off. is this like a soft play type thing? Or like a play group? If its the latter id probably just go to the local church playgroup where my £1 entry covers tea and biscuits. If I were you I'd concentrate on decent coffee and food small number of Toys and little play area. Run classes but either charge extra fir them or rent the space to story tellers etc and they can chargd per class.

Charlottedanielle Thu 29-Aug-13 09:29:31

It's not a soft play. We have slides, and see-saws, and lots of other toys. We do healthy food at the moment but I'm looking at having homemade cakes. The photographer would be set up in a separate area to the cafe, a lot of people liked the idea of having photos done for Father's Day, Mother's Day, Christmas etc. the classes would also be run in a separate area to the cafe, we have a mezzanine level, so they would be there. Parents can come and join in if they like, otherwise, they can sit and enjoy their coffee! It doesn't cost to just come and play, there's no admission fee. The only few would possibly be the classes. I really appreciate the feed back, please keep it coming! X

GwendolineMaryLacey Thu 29-Aug-13 09:30:41

Where is the cafe? I'm in Epsom.

Charlottedanielle Thu 29-Aug-13 09:30:50

And it's a play cafe. Not as big as soft play, but parents have to stay in the building and are responsible for their children. X

Charlottedanielle Thu 29-Aug-13 09:31:34

Derby square, monkey play cafe x

LEMisdisappointed Thu 29-Aug-13 09:34:51

It sounds lovely definitely has to be cake and good coffee and no melamine!! Id want it to be homely and comfy for mums clean for kids h. Have story books and colouring books with a good supply of pencils and crayons

LEMisdisappointed Thu 29-Aug-13 09:36:52

Important question how will you avoid that group of mums that buy one coffee and bring thier own food for the kids sitting there all morning?

GwendolineMaryLacey Thu 29-Aug-13 09:40:18

Feel free not to answer but is there a bloke involved whose name begins with C? A friend of mine was talking about a new play cafe he was involved in. He didn't mention it since though.

Wishfulmakeupping Thu 29-Aug-13 09:40:50

Table service?! So many cafe I go in with my baby group and they can see us all struggling with drinks/ prams Etc without offering to take it over for us- I always go back to helpful cafes.
Good clean changing area.
All soft play clean.
Sounds like some fab stuff on wish you had one near me!
Also not sure I'm allowed to say this but might be worth adding class details to netmums that's where I always look for classes/groups.

GwendolineMaryLacey Thu 29-Aug-13 09:41:43

I have heard of it btw and the only reason I haven't been in is that I don't have any mum friends with younger children, they're all at school so I'd be sitting there like Billy No Mates

ResNullius Thu 29-Aug-13 09:50:39

Lem I agree that OP needs to think about that point.

Logically, as it is a 'cafe' business at heart, then it would be the same as any other establishment which offers food, and BYO should be a no-no. However, assuming she is catering primarily catering to the under-3 market, I think it would be a little unreasonable to stop mums bringing sippy cups and Organix snacks etc.
So my input would be to make your money on really good supply to mums while letting BYO drinks and snacks slide by - but also to supply options for LOs at a very low profit margin, for those who forget/are happy to buy)

Actually think you would increase turnover doing it this way as most mums hate to be fleeced for drinks and like to bring their own bits for tinies. You will make far more on more people buying more coffee, cakes and lunches because they are staying longer with happy children.

It would be a novel policy for a cafe ...but one which will buy you a lot of goodwill.
Note: there should be NO option to come in and sit at a table without buying anything. And a lot of gentle pressure to move on if cups are empty for too long. As per normal catering establishments.

Charlottedanielle Thu 29-Aug-13 09:51:52

People can bring in baby food, for tiny people..haven't thought about that though, thank you! I can now have a think..maybe a sign/notice? what would you think is the best way and being polite about it?

It's not run by someone beginning with C lol. I'm a C, but I'm pretty sure I'm not a man ;) lol

I will ALWAYS help mums take things to their table, if I see they have their hands full, I will tell them to take a seat and that I'd bring everything over. I'm also not one for going crazy if a child makes mess, or is loud. It's what this place is about..the children. If they spill a drink, or drop some crisps..we can clean it up! As for the noise..noise is good, it means they are having fun!

There is good coffee, tea, hot chocolates, baby chinos , toasties, and I'm looking at getting cakes! We currently have dairy free shortbread and gingerbread men..and I'm looking at doing something gluten free too. X

Charlottedanielle Thu 29-Aug-13 09:54:06

We have a kids menu and a adults menu x

plantsitter Thu 29-Aug-13 09:54:55

Walk in the door pretending you are pushing a push chair and have toddler walking. (Perhaps you have those things yourself! ).

Is there somewhere to put the pushchair (preferably near the table)?
Is it easy to get everyone sat at a table?
Do you have to leave the kids alone to then get food/drink? Or worse still, take everyone to get food and then carry it to the table while pushing buggy and wrestling toddler?
Is the food easy and straightforward to eat for kids? In a café I am less bothered about it being healthy and more about if they will eat it given I've paid for it.
Are the tables cleaned quickly between people?

ResNullius Thu 29-Aug-13 10:02:35

Get your act together, and then talk to your local newspaper.
Most are looking for new stories.
Hold an opening event. Invite local play leaders, health visitors etc for a free coffee & cakes evening event. They can publicise for you very effectively, and cost of the freebie will be much cheaper than some other forms of advertising.

Talk to whoever covers the story about 'your' spin, and ask if they will highlight the novel approach which is designed to really cater to mums

A sign is a very smart move. Gently worded is better than 'Rules'

Charlottedanielle Thu 29-Aug-13 10:02:39

There is an area for pushchairs if parents don't want it by their table. It's easy to get around with a pushchair ( we had a twin buggy in the other day with no problems) tables sit 4, but staff can easily push tables together for people. We also have high chairs available. Most people automatically come to the counter to order once their children are playing, we are happy to take orders from the table, and take things too and from the table to help. Food is very straight forward and easy to eat. I always ask how they want me to cut sandwiches (half, square, fingers) and then we have mini pizza, carrot sticks and pitta with hummus. I'm looking at changing the menus slightly if I take over. Add a little bit more variety. Tables are cleaned as soon as people leave. I normally clear plates etc once they have finished eating so they have space on the table. Then everything gets wiped down, table, chair, high chairs etc

ResNullius Thu 29-Aug-13 10:04:34

Final thought.
You may have one already, but please include a safe playspace for the babies who can't yet crawl but still need entertaining.

ResNullius Thu 29-Aug-13 10:06:46

Invest in a Karcher (or similar) steam cleaner for use at the end of each day. Used in nurseries, and really does the job on hygiene for highchairs etc.

<<running off, before I get any more into this lovely concept..

Charlottedanielle Thu 29-Aug-13 10:09:25

There will be a separate area for little people who can crawl yet smile and great idea about the steam cleaner..I've been wanting to get one for ages! Thank you for all your feed back smile x

SavoyCabbage Thu 29-Aug-13 10:21:56

For me, I just want somewhere to go where the food is not crap and the dc can play. It's nice if you don't feel like you are sitting in a warehouse. Here is a link to the naicest one I have been to.

Do parties that have games and are run by a member of staff. Don't do more than one at a time like a package wedding in the West Indies. When you have a party, you want to know it's a party and your child needs to feel special.

The one I used to go to had magazines for if you were by yourself, which was lovely.

LEMisdisappointed Thu 29-Aug-13 10:29:45

savoy - i love that madhatters afternoon tea idea smile Thats one to take on! We don't have anything like this around here..........yes there is soft play hell but no play cafes Cannot move in the cafes for mothers meetings! As a mother of a school age child i notice these things now smile So there clearly is a demand, thing is, i have no money to start such a thing..............sigh <daydreams>

Charlottedanielle Thu 29-Aug-13 10:31:20

Magazines! Great idea! I will deff get some in! We do birthday parties on the weekend, and have different packages. Staff run games, and face painting so it is as stress free for parents as possible!

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