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How to open your own cafe

A good start is half the battle, especially when opening your own catering business. Do you want to open a cafe, but you are not sure where to start and what exactly you need to open a coffee shop? What are the essentials that will guarantee the success of your cafe? We have compiled the ultimate list with all the things you need to consider when opening your cafe. That way, you will certainly not overlook anything.

Opening a coffee shop: the necessary steps

In this article, you will find all the necessary steps for opening your cafe. The first steps may not be the nicest – think start-up formalities – but will contribute to your business’s future success. In these how-to guides, you will discover everything you need to know about opening a cafe: from permits to your menu and from determining your target group to social media marketing.

1. The first step: set up a business plan

The first step in starting a business is also one of the most important: setting up a cafe business plan. A solid business plan includes an operational summary, market analysis, and financial forecasts. Discover in this blog how to set up a good business plan.

2. Administration, tax, and accounting

A good idea and a fun concept is the basis for a successful and profitable business. However, your company will not last long without good business management, administration, and accounting. According to a study, 50% of small businesses go bankrupt in the first five years. Therefore, make sure you have all important matters in order at once. We have compiled a starter’s guide especially for entrepreneurs, which discusses the following matters:

  • Business forms and which one best suits your company;
  • Start-up formalities, such as certificates, permits, rules, and insurance;
  • All obligations of catering entrepreneurs;
  • How your POS system can support you.

3. Permits: What requirements must a cafe meet?

To open a catering business, you have to consider permits, which differ in every municipality. These are some permits you need for your cafe:

  • Food permit
  • Environmental permit
  • The operating permit catering industry
  • Beverage and catering license
  • Environmental permit
  • Terrace permit
  • Hygiene code

4. Determine your target audience

Its location strongly determines the target group of your cafe (see the next point). Are you targeting students who are mainly looking for an affordable cup of coffee and WiFi? Or do you want to become the type of business where young families want to have a quiet coffee cup during the day and where their children can also enjoy themselves undisturbed? Or do you want to create a total experience with unique types of coffee and coffee-making methods?

The choice is yours! Of course, different types of love coffee, so you will undoubtedly attract many coffee lovers with your coffee shop. Nevertheless, it is useful to think in advance who your target group is. You can adjust various things to this, such as your marketing, menu, and look & feel.

5. The location of your coffee shop

As with any catering business, the location plays a major role in the success of your cafe. There are five types of locations to consider:

In the vicinity of office buildings: If you open a coffee shop in this area, it will be especially busy working days and during lunchtime. Convenience is paramount because your guests will choose takeaway more often. You probably don’t need to open your business over the weekend.

In the vicinity of schools and universities, you will mainly deal with students, who generally have less money to spend, but who can quickly become regular customers. During the weekend and holidays, you will have fewer people over the floor.

Near shops and city centers: These neighborhoods tend to be busier during the weekend. Here you can also deal with (day) tourists.

In residential neighborhoods: In these neighborhoods, your visitors are less rushed, and your business can more quickly be seen as a local “hangout” or meeting point for residents. You will also have to deal with families and children here, which you can respond to.

In the vicinity of train stations and bus interchanges, speed ​​is the most important factor here, as most of your customers have little time and will opt for takeaway.

Therefore, the location of your cafe determines what kind of business it will be: a relaxed coffee shop where customers like to linger or a takeaway spot where speed is important.

6. Buying materials

While opening a coffee shop may require less equipment than opening a restaurant, some things are essential and may require a substantial investment.

  • Espresso machine
  • Water filter system
  • Coffee grinder
  • Coffee beans & tea
  • Different types of milk & sugar
  • Cups & spoons
  • Takeaway cups & napkins
  • Merchandise: think of reusable takeaway cups and coffee beans
  • POS system
  • Free WIFI

7. The design and decoration of your cafe

As you could read in the 10 catering trends for 2020 blog, the customer experience is more important than ever. As a coffee shop, you can make the experience more special thanks to, for example, a styled or themed interior. Take MOOY in Antwerp, for example, where everything in the café has one theme: pink. From the receipts to the toilet paper, everything is pink here, from the lattes to the walls. 

As a starting entrepreneur, you may have little budget to invest in your interior and decoration, but it does not cost much. You can find affordable furniture at flea markets and through second-hand sites. Maybe you know someone who can make a nice mural, or you can find some nice neon letters somewhere.

8. Recruit staff

In the early stages of opening your coffee shop, you may not be thinking about recruiting staff yet. Or you have decided to open your business with a friend or business partner. Yet, at some point, you will have to recruit staff to relieve the workload. Excellent service with a smile is often what makes new customers become regular customers. In this blog, you can read how to find the best talents for your catering business.

9. The menu of your cafe

A profitable menu is a balance between different aspects, and you have to tackle this strategically. As a cafe, the “basic” items will be central to your menu: espresso, cappuccino, Americano, and so on. In addition, you will also need alternatives for guests who do not drink coffee: tea, soft drinks, or hot chocolate. Since most people drink coffee in the morning, you can offer fresh croissants or some other pastry type.

At the same time, you have to make sure that you stand out from other coffee shops. Tell the story behind the coffee beans. Where do they come from? Do you schedule them yourself? Or maybe you have a unique coffee on the menu, a wide range of milk alternatives, or the tastiest freshly made banana bread? Give your guests a reason to come back.

10. Prevent and avoid waste

As an entrepreneur in 2020, you cannot avoid thinking about sustainability and the impact that your cafe has on the environment, society, and your community. Reducing waste in terms of food and packaging helps reduce your ecological footprint and reduce costs. For example, opt for cups made from sustainable materials, offer an extra discount to customers who bring their reusable cups, or sell leftover pastries via an app such as Too Good To Go.

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