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What Are the Best Tips for Starting a Cafe?

By Tess C. Taylor
Updated May 17, 2024
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Starting a cafe can be a rewarding venture for anyone who enjoys the food service or restaurant industries. Before starting a cafe, it is important to have a solid business plan. The best tips for starting a small coffee shop are to come up with a theme for the cafe, choose a great location, decide on the menu, create a marketing campaign, and obtain venture capital to help it grow.

Successful coffee shops generally have a theme. This theme can be a pop culture reference, a literary allusion, for instance. The theme will typically define the shop's decor, menus, marketing, and other business choices. A shop may have an earth-friendly theme, giving patrons a chance to try organic coffees and foods. When starting a cafe, try to think of a theme that will be fun and easy for customers to grasp.

When it comes to starting a cafe, location is everything. Successful cafes have established small stores in close proximity to college campuses and workplaces, making them convenient for consumers to access. Others have taken up space in heavily trafficked book stores and shopping malls to attract many patrons throughout the day. When starting a cafe, keep the location in mind and choose a spot that will be easy to find, with plenty of parking space and adequate street lighting for late night guests.

A coffeehouse should also have a great menu. Brainstorm a menu that will go along with the theme of the cafe, select the top ten foods and beverages, and then focus on perfecting the quality of a simple menu. Encourage guests to give feedback and if more menu items are requested, consider adding menu items.

Starting a cafe also requires a clever marketing campaign. Marketing campaigns can be as simple as creating flyers and handing them out at events and public places. Additionally, the cafe owners can set up a simple website, use social media to attract a steady following of patrons, and design a rewards program for customers who frequent the coffee shop. Marketing is an important aspect of any start up, so build this into the business plan from the beginning.

To help the cafe to flourish, seek out small business funding and venture capital from investors and small business loans. Getting others involved helps to increase the chances that the coffeehouse will succeed. Several partners can work together in starting the cafe, handling the daily operations, and maintaining the equipment and inventory needed to make it run smoothly.

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Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On May 12, 2014

@Pippinwhite -- Yeah, on all the TV shows about helping restaurants in trouble, the hosts are always talking about doing a few things really well, rather than doing a lot of things moderately well. It makes sense.

I'd like to open a coffee shop that focuses mostly on breakfast. There's this awesome place in Truckee, California called Coffee & that has great food. They do mostly breakfast, and have great coffee, too.

Breakfast is hard to mess up, and it's cheaper to cook than a lot of other meals.

By Pippinwhite — On May 11, 2014

I think one big thing some people ignore when starting a cafe is to keep the menu fairly narrow and focused. It seems like the places that do best have a smaller menu, or one that is based on the same kinds of food.

A cafe across the street from my office focuses mostly on sandwiches and salads. They do have a hot entree special of the day, but they serve mainly different salads, like garden, pasta, chicken, etc., and sandwiches. I think that helps keep their costs down, and also means they can get the food together more quickly. A huge menu tends to make it difficult for the cooks to get into a rhythm during a busy time of day.

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