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Ten Important Things to Consider Before Starting Your Own Coffee Shop or Lunch Bar

So you want to open and run your own coffee shop? The most important thing to devise is a good, solid business plan (yes, we know we sound like Lord Sugar, but this really is true). Having your own coffee shop business is an exciting and satisfying challenge that could bring in a lot of money providing you’re prepared to work hard in order to make it a success. Who knows, that one small business could then turn into a franchise! There’s no harm in dreaming big, but how do you start up in the first place? What kind of things should you be putting in place to make the business a success? There’s only one way to find out….

1) Choose a location
This plays a major part in your success. Choosing the right location could turn out to be the most important decision of them all. If something seems too good to be true (i.e. cheap), it’s usually because it is. Research is key. The most desirable place for a coffee shop or lunch bar is on a busy street with lots of foot traffic, as most of your custom will be from people walking past. You also need to stand out and be visible, so people know you exist.
TIP: Choose a busy area, filled with students or which consists of other shops and businesses.

2) Pick a name
First impressions are everything, so come up with a good name. This should reflect the type of image you want to portray. Not only should your coffee shop or lunch bar be a place for people to sit in and relax, but a place they remember and will visit again.
TIP: People remember names better if they can say and spell them, and if they’re made up of two syllables.

3) Devise a menu
Decide what food you want to sell – hot or cold or both – and consider the area you’re in. If it is less affluent, try making a menu more suited to the type of customer who will be visiting. The same goes for if you are located in a more affluent area – use more up-market ingredients in whatever you’re selling. Always include a special, so there is added value for money.
TIP: Try out a new item on your customers before making large quantities of it.

4) Work out pricing
Make sure there is a good profit margin on simple dishes like scrambled egg and toast. Fresh is most definitely best, so try to use up as much of these ingredients as possible, as you will find they turn quite quickly and you don’t want waste!
TIP:  Offer good food at a reasonable price.

5) Find suppliers
Once a decision has been made on what to sell, it is time to find out where these products can be sourced from. Ask other businesses for advice, as they will be more experienced. Always write a list of what you need, as more often then not you will need more than one supplier. For example:
i)  Baker – fresh bread, rolls, croissants and cakes
ii)  Greengrocer – fresh fruit and vegetables
iii)  Milkman – milk and cream
iv)  Butcher – meats
v)  General supplier – frozen foods and other necessities
TIP: Haggle. If you can obtain a product from one supplier at a cheaper price, let your normal supplier know. They’ll want to keep your custom so should reduce their price to match it.

6) Employ staff
As much as you would love to do everything yourself (after all, it is your business), you simply can’t and will need to employ staff. Remember, it is these staff who represent your brand, so it’s important to ensure they’re friendly and smiley. They will be front of house and play a vital part in keeping your customers happy and revisiting.
TIP: Advertising in the local paper will attract people who don’t need to travel far – perfect if you need them to work short notice, i.e. if another staff member has called in sick.

7) Follow health, safety and hygiene laws
You have the shop, the location, the name and the staff, but another priority you need to follow is keeping your shop spotless. Not only does a clean shop look good, it is also the law. Any shop that serves food and drink must maintain a very strict standard of cleanliness and hygiene.
TIP: Draw up a cleaning rota and use different coloured cloths for different areas.

8) Market, market, market
It is vital to advertise frequently with vouchers and flyers, even in the local paper. Always include the name of your shop and the details of the offer, plus the validity dates.
TIP: People like to be recognised, so train your staff to greet your customers warmly with ‘hello, nice to see you again.’ If you make people feel valued, they will return again.

9) Know your craft
If you are opening a coffee shop, it is wise to know what you are selling. There will be many customers who will have a regular order and know what they want, others will need some guidance and be up for trying new things. It is up to you to impart your wisdom among them.
TIP: Be friendly and approachable to customers.

10) Learn new skills
Aside from all of the above, there are a few extra skills you need to know in order to make your business a success:
i)  Have good communication skills
ii)  Be a great boss
iii)  Set a good example to your staff
iv)  Be a skillful manager
v)  Develop problem-solving skills
vi) Try to keep calm under all circumstances