We’ve spoken to 5 successful cafe owners to find out what key challenges new cafe owners can expect to be faced with and how to overcome them!
Customers will come into your cafe or coffee business just as much for the service you provide as the food and drink you serve. If your employees aren’t motivated to perform during work, this will be noticed by your customers and your sales will fall.
Rachel Bentlely, owner of Truffles cafe expresses her challenges when it comes to motivating her staff:
“We always wanted to invest in staff and have been prepared to pay bonuses and offer greater responsibility and ongoing training. In our experience staff simply want to do the minimum required and aren’t really interested in developing their roles. We may have just been unlucky.”
Creating daily competitions, monthly sales goals, team-building exercises and acknowledgement in the form of an employee of the month for example will all encourage your employees to perform to their maximum.
Letting Go of Responsibilities
Many business owners struggle to let go of certain responsibilities. Letting go of control can be difficult but the reality is that employees normally like the extra responsibility and are happy to take on the extra work. When you include and acknowledge your employees, you propel your business to greater success.
It’s important that your business works as a team and try to make sure that your cafe can run efficiently when you’re not there too. Don’t underestimate the importance of teamwork in your cafe or coffee shop. Rachel Bentley, owner of Truffles cafe in Exeter found that the reality of owning a cafe has been very different from the theory, “We believed we could recruit the right staff and take a back seat after our first year. That has not proved to be the case.”
Your employees must work together in the hospitality business. Tasks become completed more efficiently and productivity is dramatically increased. Team members motivate and support one another and knowing that you have built a team that can support each other means that you can trust your business is in safe hands when you’re not there.
Lauren Pears, owner of popular cat café Lady Dinah’s told us “Our biggest challenge has always been, and still is, keeping up with demand and keeping everyone happy. We never expected things to take off quite as much as they have and we’re constantly striving to improve the systems we use and keep things running smoothly for our guests. Our team work very hard and we couldn’t be what we are without them.”
Growing the Business
The time it takes to keep the day to day running of your business going often leaves little room to actually spend time working on the growth of your business. Adrian Campbell-Howard, owner of Society Cafe in Bath explained that “Expansion and how best to manage that without losing ourselves!” was one of their biggest challenges. Hiring more staff or delegating more daily tasks to your employees can therefore free up your time to concentrate on the expansion and development of your business.
Increasing Average Spend
Increasing average spend is another challenge cafe owners face. For customers who spend longer amounts of time in the shop, ensuring that they buy more than one drink in that time period is something many cafe and coffee shop owners talk about. The average spend in a coffee shop is still not above £4 and this is something that all cafe owners work hard to increase. This obviously depends on whether you offer table or counter service. The service you run can greatly impact your average spend and in return make a huge difference to your profit and loss accounts. If you offer table service, you’re encouraging customers to spend longer amounts of time in your cafe or coffee shop which often encourages the purchase of food or multiple drinks.
The big brands are growing quickly so you must make sure you stand out as an independent. Look for what makes you different and get your passion across. Make sure you offer a personalised service and keep your service and quality to high standards.
Keeping yourself motivated can also sometimes be a challenge. When you start a business you have to motivate yourself and your employees so make sure you find ways to keep it interesting and exciting. Don’t lose sight of why you wanted to start your business in the first place and make sure you listen to your customer's needs and please them as much as you can to sustain a successful business.
The Business Side
Some cafe and coffee shop owners can also find hitting their targets a struggle so it’s vital that you understand the figures right from the beginning. David Sherfield, owner of Toppers Sandwiches in Suffolk finds that margins can be difficult to manage in the running of his cafe, “It’s very difficult to charge the “right” amount for a sandwich when there is so much competition.”
Many owners fail to treat the cafe like an actual business. Although running a cafe or coffee shop is fun and rewarding, it soon becomes less fun when your business isn’t making any money because you’re not on top of your finances. You must see it as a business. It might be the lifestyle business you’ve dreamed of owning but don’t forget it’s a business all the same and with that comes the less fun aspects of paying tax, hiring and firing staff, managing cash flow and much more.
For those who have little business or cafe experience, the learning curve of running a cafe business can be the biggest challenge. This is true of the experience of Ruth Rogers, owner of The Canvas Cafe “Aside from the financial struggles that face a new business in a competitive market with high outgoings and slowly growing sales, I would say it’s been my own learning curve – I’m an actor originally, and I didn’t know anything about running a business when I opened The Canvas Cafe. I’ve felt completely adrift at times, unsure if I’m doing the right thing or behaving the right way. The biggest challenge has been feeling the fear, and doing it anyway.”
To try and mitigate the challenges of running a cafe or coffee shop, some people buy into an existing business rather than starting their own. Whilst for some the challenge of starting up is something to be relished, the uncertainty that comes with it can put others off. For those looking to run their own business but not wanting to face the additional challenge of starting up, we have cafes for sale and coffee shops for sale on our website.