We’ve gathered insight from successful cafe owners to help make your road to success a little smoother.
The process of starting or buying a café can appear pretty complex when you are just getting started.
Fortunately there are thousands of people in the UK that have made the move before you.
In this piece we’ve rounded up our favourite independent cafes owners and asked them for their top tips on successfully running a café.
Create a strong support network
Ruth Rogers – The Canvas Cafe
”I have learned the real meaning of the words Resilience and Perseverance! I’m just coming to the end of my first year of owning The Canvas Cafe, and boy it’s been tough. Far tougher than I ever imagined. I’ve learned that, when you find a good team, you should nurture and support them, as they are your biggest asset. I’ve learned that, when things are bad, you need a strong support network around you – build your team, surround yourself with friends, and they will carry you through the toughest times.”
Creating a strong support network especially in the early stages of your business is really important. Finding a business mentor can be a really valuable asset to have when experiencing tough times. They can be someone to lean on who can share relatable industry experience and you with an outsiders perspective.
The great news for small business owners is that the Government has created the Get Mentoring initiative in which thousands of volunteer business mentors in the UK can be found who are keen to pass on their business experience. To get started and find out more about this initiative visit the Mentors Me website.
The more you put in the more you get out
Kate Charles-Richards – Kitty Cafe
“The more work you put in the more you get out! Me and my husband live and breathe our business, but there always seems to be that no matter how hard you work there is always more to do!”
When you’re first starting your business, passion is absolutely vital. It’s what will drive you to make your business a success and crucially survive the early stages. You’ll work long hours, especially in the early days which will involve you running around on your feet all day. Being passionate about your business and what you are trying to achieve will always make the harder days more manageable.
Think carefully about first impressions
Lauren Pears – Lady Dinah’s
“Be careful who you work with – it usually only goes downhill from the first impression, people behave their best on day 1. If your first impression isn’t good or it’s wobbly, think carefully about them. Read the fine print. Assume the worst, and protect yourself because bad things will happen, eventually. Bad things aren’t always your fault, but not being prepared for bad day, is.
Second hand items blow up on you – you really need warranty and product support on critical machinery, so don’t scrimp on the business-critical stuff.”
Lauren’s not wrong, it takes just seconds for people to form a first impression so make sure you use those precious moments wisely. Creating successful first impressions is about understanding that it’s all about your customer.
Consider your own experiences of customer service, be courteous and attentive and it goes without saying that in a customer facing industry such as catering, being friendly, polite and accommodating goes a long way.
Find the right staff
David Sherfiled – Toppers Sandwiches
“The right staff are difficult to find. Generally it’s minimum wage levels of employment and it’s hard work requiring happy, interested staff…these people are difficult to find.”
Hiring conscientious employees with positive attitudes is key to running a successful cafe business. It’s vital that your customers feel well cared for. When creating employee rotas, be sure to overlap schedules so that there is a seamless transfer of service.
Almost as important as the product you’re providing is the quality of the service you deliver. A cafe or coffee shop business is customer facing therefore creating a team of polite and friendly staff is crucial in order for your customers to recommend your business to other and come back again.
Rachel Bentley, owner of Truffles cafe has found that “staff are unreliable” and has learned that the strategy to take when hiring staff is to “learn to ask the right questions and always, always take up references and have a probationary period.”
Be wary of promotions
Adrian Campbell-Howard – Society Cafe
“We discounted a lot of local businesses by 10% when we first opened. That was quite tricky to un-do”
Be wary of how you market any promotional offers and discounts you use to attract initial customers into your shop. Most new small businesses do this when first launching but make sure you set clear time limits as to when the offers end so your customers are aware these discounted prices are available for a limited time only.
Jake Bishop – Loungers
“Attention to detail is everything and never leave your customer perspective behind.”
Remaining focused on your customer will give you the best chance of success. The product and service you are providing is integral to seeing your customer come back. If people aren’t impressed with what you’re offering, you won’t receive returning business so you must focus on what you’re providing. A useful way to see whether people like and rate your business is to monitor review sites such as Trip Advisor. This will give you useful insight to see how you can cater to your customers better. Maintaining focused on customer and adjusting to their needs is vital as they are the ones who ultimately keep your business afloat.
Angela Collins – Collins Catering
“It always costs more than you think it will! Hygiene is really important and keeping consistent opening times, pricing structure and menu is important.”
Prepare yourself for as many hidden costs as possible because the reality is that you will have to fork out money to pay for things you hadn’t initially planned for. Things like software costs from managing your accounts, payroll and other sales tracking systems. A common rule of thumb many start up businesses go by is to double your costs and half the income you expect in your predictions.
If you’re interested in running a cafe, but aren’t sure about starting up, there are plenty of opportunities to buy a cafe. You can find our cafes for sale here.