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Has anyone ever opened a cafe?

(13 Posts)
Zippety Thu 13-Mar-14 13:36:16

So it's a lifelong ambition of mine (ever since playing tea shop manager on the BBC computer in primary school!) and I've been busy saving forever to cover the start-up costs. Keep finding myself back in my original career - office based/retail but dream that one day I'll have a big enough pot of cash to make it happen. Just interested to see if anyone has tried and been successful/failed but got some insights etc. Also quite interested if anyone did make a huge career U-turn at some point and made the dream a reality in whatever it might have been?

I have spreadsheets, P&Ls (!) costs for dishwasher rentals, menu plans - the lot blush - just need a fair wind and a pot of cash and I'm away...

Quinteszilla Thu 13-Mar-14 13:42:41

There is a poster named MadameDefarge, she did this.

I recently wrote a business plan to turn around a struggling cafe, and they are doing much better now. (This is not what I do for a living, but it was part of my MBA coursework, I had to find a "live" business and work with them on a business/marketing plan)

But, this cafe was in a small village community of only 4000 people, so quite possibly different to your situation.

Zippety Thu 13-Mar-14 13:47:05

I am going to look her up now - thanks Quinteszilla

So do you mind sharing what the headline changes were in your business plan and how it helped the business - I am very interested to hear more by the way!

Quinteszilla Thu 13-Mar-14 14:08:03

It is hard to say what will work for you, but we based our recommendations on a study of what was currently on offer, and what customer wanted, so we did some customer research with questionnaires. Bare in mind, this was a small community without many competitors, so our recommendations were mostly focused around spreading people out throughout the week, and stock management, proper menu planning, and getting more people through the doors within the opening hours.

We had to carefully balance out expenses such as heating, rent and rates, salaries, insurance and of course food and drink, which meant we had to calculate to what extent having longer opening hours would be profitable.

Focus opening hours on when people wanted to go to a cafe (This cafe was a bar with live music three times a week, and most of the takings were from alcohol in the evenings, and hot food in the day. It was the only place for "going out" in the village)

Do a proper segmentation of the user groups targeted
For example, monday mornings were always slow, so try get mother and babies in, and target the menu to children especially.
Tuesdays were also slow, so target elderly people on a tuesday with events they would be interested in. Freshly made waffles on both days.

On the food side, careful stock management to ensure nothing went out of date, and have a mix of ready made baguettes that people could eat and take away, as well as hot food. Focus on popular dishes such as tapas, nachos, filled pita breads. Very important not to waste food.
Fresh lovely cakes. Specialty teas, and good quality coffee.

Be prepared for the lunch time rush on a Friday!

Also, what has been very important for this cafe, has been the social media aspect. When we got involved they had only 32 "Likes". Every respondent to The questionnaire was entered into a prize draw where they won coffee and cake for two people, and they were asked to check Facebook to see the winner announced. This resulted in 200 "likes" within the week the questionnaire was out. So, using peer to peer marketing they announce changes to the menu, introduce new dishes with pictures of delicious food, events like "knitting evening" or "crocheting club", along with music and karaoke. People share this because they want to take their friends with them, and they now have a very active FB page where their customers are chatting to them, and help spreading what is on. The aim for the cafe is to have a minimum of one new dish, or event, or news to share per month of the year.
They are also building links with local tourist attractions, with links from their websites, and posters on the wall.

Zippety Thu 13-Mar-14 14:45:09

I am feeling very much encouraged by your post - lots of these things are in my business plan like the mother and babies (making friends with local NCT groups etc) as well as using FB and Twitter for marketing.

Also have thought about local sourcing etc. Have also considered possibility of evening trade with nice acoustic guitarist etc.

I am a foodie and so I really want to bring lovely, simple foods to the masses!

Thanks so much for sharing but if anything this has made me even more frustrated because I know that I could make this work and I want to do it now!!!

Minifingers Thu 13-Mar-14 14:50:21

Zippety, the NCT are often looking for evening venues for their courses, which tend to run from 8 - 10. It's a great way to bring local parents into your venue. tends to be people with a bob or two as well

Zippety Thu 13-Mar-14 15:21:57

Exactly what I was thinking Minifingers (having been part of that crowd myself not too long ago - but I sadly was not one who had a bob or two as it were otherwise I would now be running a café!).

Quinteszilla Thu 13-Mar-14 16:55:20

Very often mum and baby groups are happy to sit for a very long time drinking one cup of coffee...It is a nice idea to provide a venue, but it has to make a profit. If you have 10 mums, taking up 3-5 tables for an hour or two, (and more space for buggies), drinking one cup of coffee each, you need to either have very expensive coffee or bank on them buying more than coffee, for it to be worth it.

Remember you are not just selling food and drinks, but table space, and if all the tables are taken by customer spending very little, then you have a problem. £20 income from this group (if a cup of tea or coffee is £2), could equal 40-60 other guests in this time period, buying lunch, cold drink, hot drink and perhaps a cake. This is why "our" cafe encourage mums on the slowest day of the week.

Your most important lesson as your own business owner is your Ultimate goal. What is it?

Is it to "provide a nice environment for people to eat good quality food?"


It is to "make a good profit from running a cafe" Keep your profit at the forefront of your mind, and the rest will fall into place.

Minifingers Thu 13-Mar-14 23:19:27

Quintz - I have a friend who created a thriving and profitable cafe in a run down part of London by reaching out to mothers groups, midwives etc. she has now sold it on.

SimLondon Wed 19-Mar-14 21:01:34

Having been to the nct type coffee mornings - yes it may be that most will only buy a coffee and maybe some toast for the little ones - however being made to feel welcome means we'll come back at the weekends with partners and spent a lot more on meals/drinks. So it's a bit short-sighted to not be interested in that custom because- on a sat/sun we might be spending £50-£60 on lunch, but if we don't feel welcome for a coffee on wednesday morning then we aren't going to be coming back on the weekend or recommending the place.

mrsbucketxx Wed 09-Apr-14 16:14:48

were are you based there is a cafe for let right next door to my shop in Malvern Worcestershire.

WilsonFrickett Wed 09-Apr-14 17:09:52

Don't start from the pov of 'I'm a foodie'. Start from your customer - what do they want, what are they willing to spend. If the average price of a cup of coffee in your area is £1.80, the question is what is the best cup of coffee you can offer at that price point, not what is the best cup of coffee you can offer. I'm not saying make it cheap and nasty, but be sure you know what your market can bear.

FurryDogMother Tue 15-Apr-14 00:37:29

I worked with a friend who set up 3 cafés over a number of years (serially, not all at the same time), and tbh I would say it is a very depressing thing to do if you're a foodie. OK - you can provide the best quality whatever, go for it, but don't expect the masses to care much. In my experience, buying better quality ingredients does not result in greater profits, because the vast majority of people come in for plain, basic food - burgers and chips, chicken and chips, maybe even chilli, a baked potato (and chips!), breakfasts -and they won't give a flying one whether the burger is ethically sourced from a local cow, or out of a multi catering pack.

Home made soup (veggiies in veggie stock) and a roll is very profitable!

What customers DO care about is cleanliness, friendliness, facilities for, and tolerance of, children. Good loos. Straightforward menus. Fast service. Recognisable sauces on the table - tomato, mayo, mustard and vinegar. Flexibility (can I have beans instead of grilled tomatoes?). Also think about the early morning workpeople - they were usually our best customers for a 'Full Irish' (think English breakfast) - of eggs (however they wanted them), sausage, bacon, beans, toast on the side with marmalade available, and unlimited tea and/or coffee.

If you're into food, consider a réstaurant/bistro rather than a café. Café life is the antithesis of foodiness, but there is money to be made there!

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