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Opening a cafe takes a big investment in both time and money. It’s essential that you spend time now understanding what it takes to run a successful cafe. This means reaching out to coffee business owners and learning from their experience; finding out what works, and what doesn’t. And here’s the fun part — it also means visiting lots of cafés to get an insight into what you want your business to be like. Consider what you will take from other businesses and what will make you different. Learn about your customer base. Who will they be? What are their needs? What time of the day will be busiest? Knowing your customers well will assist with planning, creating a menu, price points — everything really!

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No doubt you have big plans and already have a mental image of your café up and running. Write down what you want to achieve with your café and what kind of atmosphere you want to create. Start collecting photos, menus and design ideas to provide inspiration for how your café will look, what kind of food you’ll serve, and how you’ll make your customers feel when they walk in the door. Having your vision clearly defined will help you be consistent when it comes to choosing a name, deciding on the decor, planning the food, choosing the coffee, picking the cups and defining the way you’ll interact with customers. Remember: you can’t please everybody – the secret to success is to really understand who it is you’re designing this business for.

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It’s tempting to skip the business plan. “It’s too much work”… “Who’s going to read it”…are comments we hear all the time. In reality, the real benefit in putting together a business plan is less about the final document, and more about the process. The process of writing a business plan helps you really understand your local market and take a close look at the numbers you need to make the business successful. A business plan will guide you through each stage of developing and managing your coffee shop, and will serve as a road map for how to structure, run, and grow your new business.

Your business plan should include:

  • A summary: What this business stands for, and how it’s going to stand out.

  • A local market analysis: Who are your regular customers? Who are your competitors?

  • Your team: What are you going to do yourself, what team are you hiring to do the rest.

  • A marketing plan: What is your point of difference? How are you going to communicate this?

  • How much cash you need to get started and where it’s coming from.

  • Financial projections: Projected Profit & Loss, Cash Flow

  • A location and lease strategy.

There’s a lot to think about, but taking time to plan for each of these aspects of your business will help set you up for success.

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Location is critical to the overall success of any cafe business. Before you make a decision, spend some time in the areas you’re considering. Pay close attention to how many people are moving about on foot, and how much parking is available. Is the location visible enough? Is there enough foot traffic around to sustain your café? What does the location mean in terms of demographics? What kind of things do the local community like to do? Are you near lots of other cafés or in your own little alleyway? Remember you’re going to be spending a lot of time here, so you want to make sure you really understand what makes the locals tick. It’s also vital to understand the details of the retail lease, the terms of this document will affect the profitability and the resale value of your business down the track. It’s wise to talk to a lawyer who specialises in retail leases before you sign anything.

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