5 Sure ways to make your Cafe successful
Updated: Aug 24, 2021
Some of us dream of owning a cafe. But owning a Cafe can be a daunting task.
If you were to ask the majority of people that own a cafe, they would tell you that if they had their time over again, they would do things differently.
In today's market, owning a cafe is a tough gig. So while I am not here telling you how to run or buy a cafe, I am here to give you inspiration and ideas to help you succeed.
With the pandemic frustrating our lives and livelihoods, cafe owners are having to dig deeper into finding ways to stay afloat and survive. If you are looking to buy a cafe, you can find some bargains as people are looking to sell.
But one thing is for sure, if you can get through this tough period, there is a brighter light at the end of the tunnel.
People look forward to going back to cafes as they have always been a place to congregate, socialize, study, meet on a first date, and of course just to enjoy great food and coffee.
So what does it take to be a successful Cafe owner?
1. AMBIENCE AND AESTHETICS
One of the first points of contact for people walking into a cafe is the look and feel of the cafe. According to Silver Chef, 76% of us look for the ambience of a cafe.
We love to feel like we're welcomed but also that we're comfortable and feel like we're at home. A tidy well-presented cafe goes a long way to a customer's first recollection of their time first spent there.
Starbucks is a great example of how to provide that laid back, in-home, comfortable feeling whilst you enjoy your favourite coffee or tea socialising with friends. It's worked successfully for them in many countries and you can see that they have worked on their demographics in the areas accordingly.
I have found that today's cafes have become more like local hangouts. Murals are becoming more and more popular with diverse generations.
Murals are a great way to make your cafe stand out, make a statement and provide a pleasing aesthetic environment.
Some great websites to look at for these murals are wallmonkeys.com and blackbookink.com.au (for more inspirations visit Pinterest.com)
2. DECOR AND COMFORT
Whilst decor and comfort can be part of the overall ambience, it is important to get these right. We have all been in that cafe that we felt very uncomfortable, in fact, it's one of the main factors why we don't revisit.
Bad coffee and food is a big letdown, but so can the uncomfortable hard chair or the table that was too small or wobbly, or how you sat next to a drink machine or close to the doorway on that cold day.
That table that was too close to the kitchen or waitstaff brushing you every time they walked past. When you sat outside on a hot day and had no shelter, or maybe that dog or cat that didn't belong to you, sitting by your feet.
NOTE: I can just see the dog and cat lovers scrolling away from this subject now, but please before you go, this is not against animals. I do love cats and dogs. Peace.
So it's important to make your customers feel comfortable by offering the right seating and table inside and outside the cafe.
Offering the right amount of seating is hard to logistically achieve. Some of the more successful cafes have worked hard to set up or re-design their spaces to conform with their customers.
If you have just bought an established cafe, you might want to ask the loyal customers if they are happy with the decor and comfort, it's important to get to know them and get feedback.
If you buy an empty shell, look at how much space you have and which area you would get the least amount of space in.
When choosing your decor, ask yourself, is it going to be comfortable for the young and old? Don't forget that elderly people struggle to sit down for long periods of time and young people tend to sit longer.
In my experience, students tend to sit at a table for longer than 1 hour to study or socialize.
Have a look at other successful cafes in your area and what they offer when it comes to their furniture and decor. Decor also includes plants, shelves, paintings, wall art, lighting, or fancy colours.
Colours are believed to set the mood of your cafe and help people relax more. Do your research. It's important to know what your demographics are.
*Check out the cool ideas for your cafe decor with cafeideas.com or cafesolutions.com.au
3. COFFEE & FOOD
When it comes to FOOD most of us know what we look for when it comes to cafe-style food. Gone are the days of Ham and Cheese Croissants, Bacon and Egg rolls, and Ham, Cheese, Tomato toasties.
In the last ten years, cafes have reported that they need to stock some of the freshest and best ingredients, which include the best eggs and bacon that come with a hefty price.
Not only that, we are asking for and insisting on the best produce there is and we're happy to pay for it, as long as we're getting what we pay for.
Our love for lazy weekend breakfasts with eggs from golden chickens, who lay golden eggs, that live on luxury farms (free-range of course), Cured and Un-cured bacon, Organic and Hormone-free bacon.
The Acai Bowl which has become very popular with the younger generation, Homemade Muffins, very fancy Poke Bowls, or maybe the re-invented French Toast that looks more like an art painting than a plate of food. And the list goes on and on.
Again, try to find out what are popular sellers around your area or from a competitor.
If you are offering just standard B&E rolls and Toast, you will limit your chances of attracting a bigger amount of customers.
When it comes to COFFEE, it would be easy to say that all we look for is a good-tasting coffee. But it's more than that.
A lot more people are becoming more knowledgeable. In the past 10 -15 years coffee has become one of the most important commodities in the world.
In Australia alone, there were more than 2 billion cups of coffee served in 2020.
That means that most of us wake up in the morning with our first thoughts turning to coffee.
In my travels around the world, I have found that most cafes are not as busy as they are in Australia.
Given our workdays start much earlier than other countries, pre-Covid times, most Australian cafes in the city area were selling more than 100 kilo's of coffee per week compared to 40-50 kilo's of coffee in other major cities around the world.
In Australia we have only 25 million people, coffee is a major part of people's lives and it's growing per capita per year.
It's important to get your coffee right in your cafe.
We all know that you cannot please everyone when it comes to coffee but we can try to please the majority. After all, coffee is an acquired taste.
According to statistics, the average customer is concerned about what coffee they will get rather than any other thing in a cafe. Statista reports that in 2020 alone coffee sales reach a whopping 5 Billion dollars in Australia.
I have met and seen too many people opening or acquiring an established cafe and not knowing anything about hospitality and coffee.
Their philosophy is, I will learn as I go. Most do but suffer along the way, but others default or go out of business.
It's good to be business savvy, but it's very important to know about your coffee. If you don't know much about coffee, then learn about it.
Coffee Training Courses are a great way to help you understand and respect coffee.
Take a course, preferably longer than a few hours. This will give you more knowledge and experience. It goes without saying. The more you know about it, the better your coffee will be.
Even if you hire the best professional Barista, then learn from them. If they are good at what they do, then look after them and they will look after you.
Always remember that some staff won't stay for long and at times you might find yourself without a Barista, so you have to be prepared to take over and make coffee.
There are some good training schools out there, that offer more than just coffee courses. They offer roasting and tasting courses to help you become more knowledgeable.
*Check out tobysestate.com.au or Ona.com.au for training or google for more in your area.
When it comes to coffee suppliers, there are many, so shop around and ask them what deals they offer. You can check out my post about my top 5 favourite coffee brands on the home page of this website.
I remember my first day working in hospitality. I didn't know much about service. I was thrust into the job because where I worked, they didn't have time to train me because it was so busy.
I was given an apron, pen, a little book to write my orders on, and a tray for drinks.
It came with a slap on the back and a "goodluck out there" from the manager.
My initiation into the world of restaurants and cafes was harsh, but I learned a lot from it.
I remember the one thing I was told to do was smile :) Yes, that was the number one thing. The rest would follow.
Why is a smile so important? Because that is the first point of contact with you and your customer.
A smile creates ease and allows your customer to feel welcomed and comfortable.
Philosopher William Hazlitt once said, " A gentle word, a kind look, a good-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles."
That might be so, but only if you really mean it.
We have all experienced waitstaff and management having a bad day. How do we know this? Because it's written all over their faces.
To be fair, unless you have been in that industry and experienced it, it's hard to understand that pressure. But you have to deal with it and move on. Don't be fake.
Ultimately, if the customer feels uncomfortable in any situation, they will leave or never come back.
Service is much a part of the technique, physical and mental facets. These are 3 things that are hard to multi-task. I should know. I spent part of my 30 years in this industry very much on my feet up to 12 hours a day, physically shot by the end of the day which would affect my overall performance.
Much of what I learned over the years was around 20% from management and 80% from my own experiences. Everyone is different, but looking back at it, learning more from owners and experienced staff would have helped more.
When I managed restaurants and cafes, I would take time to teach new staff as much as possible for 2 main reasons, better results, and loyalty. I did hire experienced staff, but that sometimes would bring problems as many of them came experienced in bad attitude.
In the last 10-15 years now, the biggest problem throughout the hospitality industry is staffing problems. When I first started, it was looked at as more of a profession.
These days it is used to fund a holiday or university education. Times change, that might be so, and it is a problem, but there are 2 main things that you can do.
1. Find people that want to work and put in the time to train them. Stick with it and you will reap the rewards.
2. Eventually as life does, changes come and you will find someone who is experienced and willing to work hard, and has a good attitude. Look after them. One of the worst things is to never reward your best workers.
5. SOCIAL MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY
Social Media - As the industry evolves, it is important that you change with it. I have met many people (lovely people) that have been operating for a long time, but unfortunately, they haven't evolved with the times.
They find themselves offering the same food and coffee from an era well past its use-by date. That being said, they are happy with their ways and really don't want to be told what is right and wrong and what they should change.
As I wrote in my blog "Is your cafe Instagrammable?", it is important to understand that social media is part of the new world we live in and that involves the hospitality industry.
"Social media is without a doubt the most effective way to showcase your cafe."
Here are some important statistics:
- According to backlinko.com 3.9 billion people use social media platforms daily, that's more than half the population of the world.