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How to open a small cafe

Updated April 17, 2017

The decision to open a small cafe can end up being a fun and profitable venture for a new business owner. A cafe is a destination place for business acquaintances, couples, family and friends to enjoy baked goods, a light lunch or a hot or cold drink. Your success depends on hard work, sound business principles and following some very important steps.

Learn every aspect of running a cafe before you get started. Work at a cafe in different positions in order to gain a complete understanding of the entire business. Contact other cafe owners you won't be competing against and ask them to share their expertise.

Create a business plan, or have one created for you by a marketing agency that has experience writing business plans. Your plan will act as a blueprint for every aspect of your business, from the company profile, to the financing, to the competition, to the marketing plan.

Choose a location for your cafe. Look for a spot that has a good deal of foot traffic. If that isn't possible, at least make sure it is visible from a main road and can be reached easily. Also check with the city or town government about any licenses or permits you will need. Be sure your building is up to fire code.

Buy the equipment necessary to operate your cafe. Your location will need a small kitchen with a proper exhaust hood, burners, and at least one standard oven. You will need assorted coffee makers, tea pots, a dishwasher and other small appliances. If room permits, some tables will have to be added for customer seating. Also consider adding couches, comfortable chairs and a counter with stools.

Seek out suppliers for food, coffee and items you will need on an ongoing basis. Contact non-competing cafes in other areas and ask which suppliers they have had success using.

Create a menu and hire staff. Consider hiring a manager to oversee the staff. Try to find staff with at least some experience to minimise training times, and create a small menu that is easy to prepare when you are busy or away.

Market your new cafe. Create business cards and flyers with "grand opening" specials to encourage new customers. Try to get your exterior sign up before you open to generate a buzz in the neighbourhood. Have contests to name new drinks. Consider having a grand opening event and invite the press and a local politician. Create a website to showcase your menu and start an online newsletter to send to customers listing specials and events.

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About the Author

Ken McCarron has been a freelance writer for five years. He has written online articles too numerous to mention. He has also written copy for websites, direct mail, sales letters, new releases, brochures and ads.