Opening your own café is a huge endeavor. It takes patience, planning, and of course, money. But what do you do if you’re opening a café with a small budget? Is your dream of café ownership dashed?
In a word, no. Most experts agree that you can open a cafe with limited funds. It just takes planning, perseverance, and the desire to succeed. Before you begin, it is important to first familiarize yourself with the steps involved in opening a café. You need a clear vision for your operations, and you need a game plan to help you accomplish your goals.
Where to begin
You should first decide what goals you hope to achieve by opening a café. Outline specifics about your business, such as strategies for enticing customers and encouraging them to come back and enjoy your products. Have a unique sales strategy in mind. You may want to offer discounts on beverages or have events, like a “bring a friend” night.
When creating your vision, outline your goals. Do you have a specific timeline to follow? How do you see your café five or 10 years into the future? These are all valid questions you must answer before jumping headfirst into café ownership on a budget.
Remember that a café is different from a coffee shop, because it offers more than just coffee, dessert, and pastries. You must create a carefully crafted menu and incorporate a multitude of items. You may want to offer sandwiches, salads, soup, pastries and desserts, as well as breakfast foods.
Consider what ambiance you want your café to have, and decide what type of audience you want to attract. Decide whether you want your cafe to be a place where you can grab a quick bite or a place for sports fans to watch a game. The more planning you put into creating a café, the better your outcome will be.
Targeting and marketing
Identify your target audience. Once you do this, you can decide how to set up your café to appeal to your target audience. Decide what you are looking to eat if you were a customer. Be the leader of your café, and put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Determine how you can make the café enticing to customers.
Create a business plan. As with any food service establishment, you must know what makes your customers tick. People like aesthetically pleasing menus. Consider highlighting special food items for the day.
You may want to consider creating a loyalty program. Loyalty programs help you fulfill a number of goals. Loyalty programs help you retain customers and encourage them to keep coming back. Loyalty programs are especially helpful, because they help customers remember you.
If you are starting a café on a low budget, you already have some funds with which to get started. Because you only have a certain amount of money, spend it wisely. Do not spend it frivolously, getting the most up-to-date computer system. Stick to the necessities when you’re starting out. As you make a profit, you can make improvements and add new additions to your establishment.
You can create a loyalty program that uses a QR code you can swipe. You can scan a QR code using your cell phone’s camera app. If you’re on a limited budget but want to advertise your café, you can rely on free marketing tactics, such as word of mouth. Find some people, and tell them about your aspirations of opening a café.
Ask them to tell people about your dream café, and you may find that people start asking about what you plan to serve. People may ask what types of food you are going to sell, so have a list of foods in mind.
You should be passionate about what you plan to do. Get excited about your dream café, and people will sense your enthusiasm when you talk about it. This creates an expectation in your potential customers’ minds. Soon, they will anticipate your business. It may help to have some meals in mind. People will want to know more, and knowing what you plan to offer will likely generate interest.
Although you’re on a limited budget, purchase the equipment you need to efficiently run a café. Purchase coffee machines and glassware to suit your café’s theme. You will also need to buy coffee grinders, espresso machines, and industrial blenders. Again, these don’t need to be the most expensive equipment. However, they must be efficient and help you get the job done.
Get the equipment you need.
Although you may not need top-of-the-line equipment, buy equipment that will help you make the most profit from your business. If your customers like your food and beverages, they are likely to turn into return customers. It is also important to put in place an effective Point of Sale or POS system.
Cash registers aren’t enough to make money and keep your cafe running smoothly. Today, you need a system that lets you conduct business efficiently. A POS system is a “digital system” that is made of software and hardware. The hardware and software work together to facilitate transactions between customers and a café. POS systems can cost as much as $2,000, but they typically average between $50 and $1,700.
Find the right employees. No one can run a café alone. To successfully run a café, you will need to recruit top talent. You will need to hire a number of employees. Cafes typically need servers to serve customers. You will also need to hire baristas, chefs, kitchen staff, and potentially, an accountant to manage and keep track of your finances.
You need to find staff who work well under pressure and have the ability to multitask. Cafes are fast-paced, and you often have to juggle multiple duties at once. Although you have hired what you believe is a competent team, you also need to monitor your employees and make sure they are meeting your expectations.
In the long run, you will thank yourself for hiring the right people. However, it is also essential to create the right atmosphere with attractive furniture, wall art, and lighting. You can purchase relatively inexpensive furniture from outlet stores. This is a good way to save money and still create a nice-looking café. Keep furniture uniform, and make sure all tables match.
It also helps to have an attractive café exterior. Pick a color scheme that aligns with the theme of your business. Perhaps you could brew coffee in the background. This creates the feeling of a bustling café and may make customers remember you, because you stand out from your competition.
Have attractive room accents. It may help to have a floor to ceiling mirror in your café. This can make the room look bigger. You could also bring visual elements of your café to the front door. If you have specially-designed logos inside your café, you could put these logos on the front of your café to create uniformity.
These accents don’t have to be expensive. Some craft stores will frame paintings for a relatively low cost. You could put an inexpensive painting in a frame. This typically is cheap and can be done within a matter of days.
While aesthetics is important, it is essential to obtain the proper permits for your café. Not having the right licenses and permits can lead to fines. If you plan to offer halal food, you will need to obtain a license for this, experts say. If you plan to offer alcoholic beverages, you will also need to obtain a liquor license.
Select a delivery service.
You should also get set up with a food delivery system. Bear in mind that different delivery services have their own guidelines, and some services charge to deliver your food. If you’re looking to save money, you may want to pick a low-cost delivery service. Uber Eats takes 15 to 30 percent of your sales profit. This ultimately depends on the type of order.
Uber Eats also charges an activation fee of $350. DoorDash, on the other hand, offers a 30-day free trial for its merchants. The cost of delivery is an important consideration, especially when you need a delivery service to be marketable. If you don’t have a delivery service, you are missing out on considerable profits that your competitors enjoy.
GrubHub/Seamless takes a 10 percent commission off of each delivery and an extra 20 percent or more fee for orders placed on their website or app.
Experts estimate that by 2024, global online food delivery will yield roughly $136,431 million in profits. Since you’re on a limited budget, spending hundreds on activation fees may not be an option. It may be wise to shop around for a delivery service that fits your budget. You don’t want to spend more than you’re making to get food to your customers.
Before your café has been established, relying on word of mouth may be your best bet. Once you are up and running, your business will sell itself. Having satisfied customers means more revenue may come your way.