Jumpstart your Café in 10 Successful Steps

Starting a Café can be a complex set of steps, but having a checklist and roadmap to “Jumpstart your Café” will make you a success. These 10 Tips will put on you the right path to success before you find a location and sign a lease.
1st Determine what will make you unique in your market. What is your Brand Experience? Visit other cafes in your market. Note their menu, customer demographic, atmosphere, location, and service. Consider your customer’s point of view or the broadest range of customers. Researching industry trends will supplement your findings and substantiate your concept for investors, banks, and lenders.
2nd Describe your Customer Demographic based on your menu and brand.  Based on your research and trends, what is the ideal customer in terms of age and income ranges, interests and hobbies, knowledge of product, and level of expectation? This will help you determine the level of experience that your customer is expecting and selecting a location.
3rd  Create your identity, message, and voice. Review other café logo marks and get a feel for what brand they are trying to convey – modern, classic, or hip. Fonts, colors, and tag lines all tell the story about your brand and experience and are often the first thing people see of your brand experience. Have a good idea about your signage design and placement, as well as your menu board.
4th Creating your space layout, design, flow, and equipment will help you develop a budget, schedule, and square footage requirements when selecting a location. An interesting front of house layout with varied seating, trash and condiment areas, and flow from the door to the POS are key in a successful layout. Laying out the POS, Coffee, Tea, and Beverage prep, merchandise display, and back of the house areas for maximum flow and function are also key in moving staff and product efficiently.
5th  Create a unique physical atmosphere when visiting your café. The exterior and front of the house is the first expression of your brand. Make it count! Look at successful brands that you know and realize that every part of their brand and experience has been carefully orchestrated. How would customers describe their experience in your cafe? Do they come for the great coffee or tea, or the great experience, sense of community, and location or all of these?
6th Create a business and marketing plan that helps you verbalize your concept to others and is well researched.   These plans are used for bankers, investors, landlords, or friends looking to invest.   Having a plan shows others that you are serious and have completed the necessary research and steps for a success café. A marketing plan is a document that is based on ongoing marketing, social media, messaging, loyalty programs, and coupon offers.
7th  With your Steps 1-6 completed, you are now informed about your location, infrastructure, budget, and anticipated opening date based on design, permitting, and construction.  Review each location’s demographics with your ideal customer target. Ask brokers for pedestrian and traffic counts and compare locations.  Negotiate free rent and lease start date based on your projections. Review your lease with a broker that is working directly for you and understands cafes and restaurants.
8th Now you have signed your lease, it is time to permit your project.  We recommend that you complete steps 1-7 at least 6 months prior to signing a lease. You should have already created your design and layout plans. Now your consultant can create your permit plans. Allow at least 4 weeks for permitting including building, health, and liquor (if you have beer and wine). Other permits you may need include; signage, sidewalk patio, and design review.
9th Creating a process and plan for operations will insure you have excellent customer service. How will your staff communicate to customers about your product and process?  Why are you unique? Have your coffee and tea, beer and wine, food vendors and sources negotiated ahead of time. Review your menu to insure pricing is up to date. Remember a clean café with friendly staff and unique products, will leave a positive lasting impression.
10th It is time to build your café!  You have your permits, your contractor has ordered materials, and it is time to build! Meet once a week to insure you are up to date on any necessary changes and can provide input to the consultant (who will communicate with contractors).  If you have good design drawings and material specifications, you should be able to concentrate on your operations during this period. Have a soft opening, then a grand when all is running smoothly.
Opening a café is exciting and fun! Creating a successful plan with your consultants and these 10 Tips to Jumpstart will assure you a greater chance of success!
Melanie Corey-Ferrini is the owner and founder of The Dynamik Group. 
Developing café and restaurant concepts throughout the world since 2000.  

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