Before you start planning your menu and deciding upon layout, you need to chose an appropriate location for your new cafe or coffee shop.
A good location is vital for your coffee shop or cafe to be successful. You ideally need your premises to be centrally located within a community with a good passing trade of potential customers.
Location was essential for The Canvas Cafe owner, Ruth Rogers “I wanted to be in a location that was creative, with a vibrant and diverse community. I also wanted to be in a location that was well-served by transport links, so that our events could be available to people living all over London.” Similarly, Lauren Pears, owner of the popular cat cafe, Lady Dinah’s, explained the importance of footfall for her location “The area of East London where we are is roughly where 3 of the top 5 most densely populated boroughs of London intersect. It’s also a tourist area of interest. This is a great spot to attract locals who are living in domiciles too small for pets, as well as tourists coming into town for a holiday.”
Urban or rural?
Two thirds of customers buy coffee when they’re out as well as three in four 16-24 year olds. It could therefore be worth considering busy urban areas with a lot of footfall traffic. Kate Charles-Richards, owner of Kitty Cafe, knew that an area with a large amount of footfall would be crucial for her Cat cafe “We knew we wanted to be city centre and so we spent a lot of time considering the correct place and the way in which the frontage would work for us. As you can imagine we get a lot of people stopping to stare in (I am sure we are the only business in Nottingham with a problem with forehead marks on the window) and so we wanted to maximise this. When we found the building it was a shell but it felt right and we went with it.”
As you can imagine, these properties are highly sought after for catering businesses so the prices of these popular outlets tend to be expensive. It is also worth considering that the amount of square foot you get for your money will be considerably less than if you chose a more rural location for your shop. If you envision your cafe to be an environment that is spacious, airy with large furniture you are likely to be restricted to kind of location you can afford.
Don’t despair though if you really can’t afford one of these prime location properties. Research has shown that two thirds of customers consider the coffee quality to be the most important factor when choosing a coffee shop to go to. It could be worth considering that you might benefit more from investing more money in your coffee beans and save slightly on your location.
Most importantly, be flexible and open minded when it comes to choosing your premises. Adrian Campbell-Howard, owner of Society Cafe explained how seeing the potential his location had paid off for his cafe business “It was in an area has a lot of character. Our landlord was investing heavily in the square and we could see its huge potential. Some serious players have now joined us – including Starbucks and The Stable Pizza & Pie”
Do your research
As the size of the premises you buy is essentially linked to its location, you should carefully consider the size and square footage you require to help you when evaluating property advertisements. Make sure you have a clear idea about the size your seating area needs to be, the size of your kitchen and serving area.
Creating an effective floor plan is essential when considering premises and location. You should ensure customers have space to form a queue, employees have the necessary materials within appropriate reach and you have a comfortable seating area. Ideally you should walk yourself through every different scenario you can think of. For example, if you’re the customer, what would you want to be in the seating area? If you are making the drinks, what equipment do you need to be near you? Try and visualise every practical aspect of your cafe and make a note of these.
One final point to take into consideration prior to negotiating leases or purchases of a property, is to check what commercial classification it falls under currently. You will need to get planning permission for the local authority if the property doesn’t already have the correct classification for a cafe or coffee shop.
Become a spy
Have you scoped out the building properly before you buy or lease it? Visit the property at different times of the day and on different days to get a clear idea of who your prospective customers could be. Ask yourself, is it a convenient place for people to stop a grab a quick coffee on the way to work? Are there traffic lights near the building? Is there enough parking for you cafe or coffee shop to become a destination spot. Do your research into that property. If another coffee shop closed in that space, find out why
Have faith in your ability
Plan ahead about your success and how much space you will therefore need. Sites that have room for growth, expansion and storage are ideal. It can be costly to relocate is your current space if doesn’t provide adequate room for growth so choosing a premises which allows for expansion are the best.
Request for consent for more than you initially might need
Think about future licensing requirements you might require. It is likely that the first few months will be a quieter period so if there is a trial period for consent, with your council, you are better off doing it using this time. You should make sure however that you balance seeking more than you initially needs against terms that are unlikely to be considered at all.
Get to know the locals
Treat your the locals in your areas as neighbours not enemies. You are more likely to succeed this way and remember neighbours vote in council elections. Communication is key and you should understand any concerns they might have and respond to them. Local councils tend to have the resources to check compliance and respond to complaints. Reducing the amount of likely complaints is therefore wise. Locals are most likely to become to your regular customers so make friends early.
Understand the controls of your council
Do your research and find out the experiences of similar businesses in your area. It is likely that you will have a trial period for consent so prepare yourself for that.
Have a great management plan
This will help you when requesting late trading and licensed premises. Demonstrating that you have efficient management practices in place is likely to reduce the reduction in hours and other condition from the council. Having procedures manuals and systems in place will put you in good stead proving that this will be a well-run part of the community.