Owning a small business is not only the foundation of American capitalism, but the dream of many independent and entrepreneurial people around the world. To have your own space in which to dwell, socialize, and make money honestly is the epitome of freedom for many. While many will fail at realizing their dreams to create their own space, others will succeed and provide the template and examples to start again. If there is a will to own and operate a small business, there truly is a way no matter if you’re a hair salon or offering lawn care services. If your business is a success, you can even upgrade your business to provide more value than ever before in your area. People need goods and services at an affordable price from someone they can trust to do a good job.
The type of creativity and work that is allowed within your own business is almost limitless, and as long as you comply with basic regulations from your governing area you have a high degree of freedom. While many people can get lost in the weeds of how complicated their business should be, it doesn’t have to be so. You can always upgrade your business without upgrading your debt or draining your bank account. Things can be streamlined, orderly, and efficient from day one if you’d like them to be. What helps right off the bat is to focus yourself on a specific business that you’d enjoy and think people would benefit from, rather than going after money alone.
In this article, we’re going to focus on the cafe business. That is, we’re going to discuss how to take a retail food space that serves beverages and food and tell you how to optimize it and upgrade your business. This can run the gamut of everything from aesthetics to proper legal representation, but you should try to tailor it to your specific needs. Regardless of location, your cafe can succeed and thrive if you are willing to put in the effort and attract people to your space. If you’re in an urban area, you might have to hire parking garage experts to police or section off spaces for your customers, but if you’re in a rural area you might have to provide incentives for people to drive all the way out to you. As we’ve said before: in small business, if there’s a will there truly is a way.
Why a Cafe?
If you’ve never thought about owning and operating a cafe, consider this fact: each year the average American drinks approximately 11 pounds of coffee beans. Does that seem like a small amount or a worthwhile amount to serve and make money from? If you chose the latter, then you’re well on your way to understanding why a cafe can be a worthwhile business to get into. From serving a variety of beverages to capitalizing on all sorts of sandwich creations, never despair that owning a cafe is “too small” or “unimportant.”
Owning and operating a cafe can be an incredibly interesting and worthwhile business, because you have so much flexibility in what you serve. You don’t have to serve coffee or tea if you don’t want to, you can serve bubble tea and Italian sodas. Regular sandwiches that have become standard fare for cafe cuisine can also be nixed if you don’t like them. In fact, you can upgrade your business in the most original way by creating your own drinks and edible items that are all your own. No longer do you have to be held hostage by the past, tradition, or nostalgia. Having your own cafe can truly mean being an original entrepreneur.
Of course, there is also a time and place for “old favorites” that are practiced well. A quality made espresso next to a cucumber sandwich with chips can fetch a higher-than-market price if the atmosphere and ingredients are worth it to the customer. Putting original creations next to standards (like a new panini and a latte) can also tantalize customer’s taste buds in a way that isn’t seen in the corporate chain restaurants. Owning your own business means that the decisions and creations are up to you, and that’s a wonderful thing at the end of the day.
Improvements, Improvements, Improvements
Once you’ve got the retail space for your cafe, a top consideration has to be: is it up to code and standards? And by this, we don’t just mean legal codes or health codes. Is the space up to date with what will be profitable and attract customers? For example, it’s great if the space comes with shag carpeting from the 1970s, but this will not be conducive to a cafe space for long. Eventually, you will either call a wholesale laminate flooring company to provide something more adept for a cafe space or give in to the eclectic nature of your business and appeal to a different type of customer. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this approach, as long as you realize that you may be limiting your potential market in the long run.
In a more practical vein, before you plug anything into an outlet you are going to want to make sure that your cafe space is safe for electric devices and more. This probably means contracting with a company that specializes in electrical services for restaurants and cafes, so that you can know immediately what to replace and what to keep. It can also be helpful to modernize things like plugs, outlets, lamps, and more that are in your space so that they’re more attractive to your customers. It’s an easy way to upgrade your business without having to break the bank or bash your head against the wall.
If you’re serving food at your cafe, you’re eventually going to want to call a kitchen remodeler in to establish whether the space will work for you or not. Even if it’s just for an estimate, the information will be useful for knowing whether you need to upgrade your business with new furnishings or not. Some cafes get away with only having a panini grill and a microwave, but if you want to make gourmet soups, salads, or sandwiches you will eventually need some sort of kitchen space. And if you’re going to do something like install granite counter tops in the front of the restaurant, you might also be able to get a discount if you’re buying enough to install some in the back.
The last thing that you will want to concern yourself with is the plumbing/restrooms and water supply in your space. Cafes need good water to make the beverages they’re known for, and a quality plumbing system to keep guests comfortable. Keeping your bathrooms clean, tidy, and updated will go a long way to people returning to your cafe. If the water supply in your area is less than adequate, then an easy way to upgrade your business would be to have a water filtration system installed by a qualified professional to make your water as pure as possible. That way, there will be no complaints or problems in trying to make the amazing beverages you aspire to.
Legality and Security: Keeping Your Business Safe
If your business is coming together as an overall organized structure, that’s wonderful. But have you thought about what it takes to maintain that structure from harm? You’ve taken all these steps to upgrade your business, but it can all come crashing down without certain large steps to protect it. Plumbing leaks and electrical failures can be fixed in a matter of days. But what about a lawsuit, or computer system crash? These seemingly insignificant actions can wipe out all the hard work you’ve done and make it seem all for naught.
When you’re installing a computer network in your business, you might think that it’s a simple Point of Sale system and a computer for the manager. In previous eras, this was mostly true, but now most customers expect some sort of WiFi experience in the cafes that they visit. If you have private WiFi in your cafe, it can be difficult to know what’s going on in your network and who’s doing what. When you’re setting up the digital space for your cafe, you should inquire with managed it security experts who specialize in setting up small networks for cafe spaces. They will be able to tell you the do’s and don’ts of the business while also specifying what equipment you’ll need.
On the legal side, nobody ever expects to be sued. Whether it is because we think of people as good-natured or because we’d rather not dwell on the potential negatives that can happen in life, lawsuits happen. For this reason, you should keep in contact with either a small business administrative attorney or one that specializes in the food service industry. While you don’t have to keep them on retainer or make outrageous payments, it is worth making the introductions and perhaps offering them some sandwiches and coffee whenever they walk in the door. One legitimate lawsuit can destroy a business that you’ve worked hard to build, and you only have to imagine what many frivolous ones can do.
Marketing: Digital and Analog
Another easy way to upgrade your business is to contact your local (or regional) digital marketing company, of which there are many today. These types of companies are filled with people that can help you in all sorts of relevant digital areas now: from making and managing a website to spreading the gospel of your business on various social media channels, you’ll be so far into cyberspace that you’ll consider serving coffee there! While they will start off recommending the basics (such as Facebook and Twitter), always know that you can branch out into other areas of the digital space to connect with people.
It should also be known that analog marketing isn’t dead at all, and it’s a worthwhile way to upgrade your business in several ways. Have you ever noticed on the back of grocery store receipts that there are advertisements and coupons? If not, then you’re in for a treat the next time you stop and shop. Consider inquiring with your local grocery stores, churches, and other common areas in your community to place low-cost ads and coupons to help alert people of your business. While it may seem superfluous in the digital era, nothing could be farther from the truth. All it takes is one free coffee and excellent service to keep a customer for life.
Going Green and More
Another way to be a savvy marketer while making a difference in the world is to engage in green marketing with your waste products and encourage customers to do so. Specifically for a cafe, you can invite consultants to help you manage and promote that coffee grounds and tea leaves are a type of natural fertilizer that can’t be bought in stores. After all, coffee grounds and tea leaves are organic material that can be beneficial to the healthy growth of plants (such as tomatoes and peppers). Perhaps you even have one of these consultants host a class semi-annually at your shop where they learn about all the benefits to composting coffee grounds and other organic material. The sky really is the limit here, and it a different way to upgrade your business in the minds of consumers rather than the contents of your cash flow.
If you recycle your wastewater or use low flow appliances, promote to the public that you do so. If you buy ingredients with Fair Trade components or pay a higher than average wage, make it known to your customer base. You never need to think about these things as bragging or boasting, but they are positives to your business that don’t exist elsewhere in the world. Positive marketing via upselling your attributes is a way to upgrade your business to the minds of your customers so that they patronize your establishment instead of the many chain stores available. You may even find new high-quality ethical employees this way.
Keep the Passion Alive (Before It Becomes a Job)
If you’ve managed to get this far in the article, you’ve either started your own cafe or are now well aware of the risks and loves of doing so. While there are many things that can go wrong when starting or operating a small business, there are also many things that can go right. Never let a little negativity shut out the optimism of believing in yourself and following your passions in business or life. In fact, you can upgrade your business daily by simply having a positive attitude and treating each customer like they’re your best one. Establishing a rapport with regular customers can even mean far more than money in the register, it can mean future opportunities and help during dire times. So while owning and operating a cafe may seem like glorified coffee pouring, it’s actually much more than that. It is a form of passion that allows two people to make a voluntary upgrade to their lives. It is the purest form of interaction in a capitalist society.