Interested in Opening Your Own Café? This is What You Need to Know

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Are you dreaming of opening your own café or coffee shop where people come to enjoy time with their friends or family, relax during breaks or even do some work while sipping delicious coffee?

Well, if that’s your dream, maybe now it’s the perfect time to make it a reality?

To make this journey easier for you, we have created this guide that explains the most important things you need to know when opening your own café.

Why opening your own café is a great business idea?

Cafés are popular!

On the high street, café culture is booming! According to British Coffee Association, 80% of people who visit coffee shops do so at least once a week and 16% of them visit daily.

You can express your creativity

You might be thinking that running a business such as a café doesn’t require much creativity as most successful cafés are those that have basic interiors and offer relatively cheap meals and drinks. But is it really true?

It depends on what kind of café you want to open. If you see it as a place where people come for a quick meal on their lunch break, you don’t need big premises or fancy meals to attract them. In this scenario, all you need to be successful is small prices, fast service and, of course, tasty food.

However, if you want your café to be a place where people socialise, celebrate special occasions or come to unwind, you will need to invest a bit more into the way things look. These days, people want to see something new – something that would make them go “wow”.

This means that you can really express your creativity both when decorating your café and creating your menu. Themed cafés not only stand out when walking past them. They also attract those who use social media and like sharing their experiences!

Here are a few examples of themed cafés:

You don’t need any qualifications or much experience

There are no qualifications legally required when opening your own café! Also, you don’t need years of experience. As long as you know how to prepare food and drinks you decide to sell, have excellent customer service skills, are passionate about what you do and are always thriving for improvement, you can open a very successful café and create a profitable career for yourself.

No days are the same

While you have your regular customers, you also get to meet new people every single day! They might be locals, visitors from nearby towns or travellers from all over the world.

If you’ve ever worked in hospitality, you know how many different personalities you see through the day. While some people can be extremely friendly and tell you some interesting stories, you can’t avoid those who are rude and love complaining. While dealing with the latter ones can be difficult, it’s important to remember that every job has its own challenges, so don’t let this discourage you from opening your own café!

Things you need to do before opening your own café

Wouldn’t it be great if opening your own café was quick and easy? Well, it can be if you do everything dismissively. But if you want to set your new business to a good start, there are some essential things you need to do.

Write a business plan

before opening your own cafe it's important to write a business plan

A business plan is an essential document that helps turn an idea into an actual business. It guides you through every stage of setting up and running as it outlines what you need to do in order to successfully launch and grow your business.

A well-written business plan can also help you secure funding, attract great employees and prepare for future scenarios.

Writing a business plan isn’t a one day job as it contains many different sections you need to complete, including market research, competitor analysis, sales forecast, your own knowledge and experience and more.

Once you have your business plan written, you will know how your business fits in the market, how many competitors you have and how you stand out from them as well as how you are going to market your new business.

To find out what exactly has to go into a business plan and how to write it yourself, read this blog post.

Do market research

Before starting a business, you need to know that it has the potential to grow and be successful.

The first thing you need to do is identify your ideal customer. It will help you come up with appropriate marketing and sales techniques, so you give your customer what they want instead of what you think they want.

When researching your target audience, you need to identify basic characteristics such as age, gender and location as well as their socioeconomic status and psychographics.

When you know your target audience, it’s time to test your idea with real people! Find a small group of people that match your ideal customer and speak to them about your business idea. You can use online surveys, focus groups or even face-to-face interviews. Find out what they like and dislike about your idea as well as their shopping habits. This will help you understand what changes you need to make and how to actually reach your audience.

Find funding

before opening your own cafe, you need to work out how much money you need and how you're going to fund your business

Opening your own café isn’t exactly cheap. You need money for premises, equipment, licences, staff and more. It’s important to work out your initial costs as well as how much you will need for the first few months before you start making a profit.

Once you know the amount needed, you can choose how you will fund your new business. There are quite a few options you can consider, including funding it with your own savings or applying for a loan.

Choose premises

This is one of the most important decisions you need to make when opening your own café. If you choose the wrong location, no matter how beautiful your interior is, how amazing your menu is or how much you invest in your marketing, your business will be doomed to fail.

So how do you choose the best location?

Again, this depends on the café you’re planning on opening and your target audience. If your ideal customer is someone who works in the office and is looking for a place to have quick lunch, then you might want to consider premises somewhere near business parks. If you are targeting younger audiences that want to spend time with their friends or relax after work or busy day shopping, it may be worth looking for a busy urban area. And if you’re looking to create a place for the elderly, where they can socialise, a quieter, more suburban or rural location could be the best choice for you.

Another thing you need to consider when choosing premises is the size. Remember, the bigger the café, the more customers you can welcome. But at the same time, you will need to hire more staff!

Register your food business

No matter what type of business you start, you must register it to be legally recognised. To make this process easier, we have created a guide with a checklist.

Also, all business premises where food supplies are stored, prepared or served must be registered with the environmental health department of the local authority.

You need to do it at least 28 days before you begin trading. As part of the registration process, you’ll have to present a written food safety management system that has to be based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles.

After submitting the application, a local authority environmental health officer will inspect your café and any statutory documentation on a regular basis.

Choose your prices

menu in a cafe

The amount you charge for food and drinks depends on many different factors, however, it always has to cover all the expenses as well as make you a profit.

When choosing your prices, it’s always a great idea to check how much your competitors charge for similar products. If even those cafés with the highest prices are always busy, there is no reason why you should charge less! Well, unless the quality of your products is low. And we really hope it’s not!

Legal issues you need to know about when opening your own café

Food safety and hygiene

Anyone starting up a food business must have up-to-date knowledge of food safety and hygiene legislation. Even though the qualification is not required, getting a certificate in food safety is a good way to demonstrate this knowledge both to your customers and local authorities.

High Speed Training offers a Level 2 Food Hygiene & Safety for Retail online course. This course costs £20 and covers topics such as handling food, customer safety, personal hygiene and more. Visit their website for more information.

Another option is The Level 2 HACCP Training for Catering & Retail course from High Speed Training. This course costs £30 and is also delivered online. It explains Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point principles, which are important for creating a food safety management system at the business premises. You can learn more here.

Alcohol licencing

Most cafés don’t sell alcohol, however, if you’re planning to serve a small selection of beers or house wine, you’ll need a special licence, which might require you to gain a qualification.

In England and Wales, cafés must have a designated premises supervisor, who is responsible for authorising the sale of alcohol to consumers. This can be the owner or any other staff member. The supervisor must hold a Personal Licence. It will be issued after completing the Level 2 Award for Personal Licence Holders.

In Scotland, cafés must have an appointed premises manager that needs to complete the Scottish Certificate for Personal Licence Holders to hold a Personal Licence.

To complete any of these qualifications, it takes between eight and then hours to study with an hour exam in the end. There are a number of accredited providers that offer these qualifications. They cost around £100 and you can find the list here.

In Northern Ireland, you need to hold a Liquor Licence, which is issued by county courts. Even though you don’t need any qualifications, you must prove that you’re fit to hold a licence and your qualifications and experience will be taken into account.

Apart from a personal licence, you will also need a premises licence which is issued by the local authority.

The application fee for a premises licence is based on the rateable value of the premises. In England and Wales, it can be from £100 to £1,905, and in Scotland, it ranges from £200 to £2,000. An annual fee is also payable, ranging from £70 to £1,050 in England and Wales and from £180 to £900 in Scotland.

Food hygiene ratings

when opening your own cafe, you need to be familiar with food hygiene rating scheme

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is run by the Food Safety Agency together with local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

After the inspection, you receive a rating from 0 to 5. It’s mandatory to display this rating in Wales and Northern Ireland and voluntary in England. The inspection includes checking how the food is handled, stored and prepared and the cleanliness of the premises and how food safety is managed. You can learn more about it here.

Music licensing

If you want to play background music in your café, you must hold TheMusicLicence, granted by PPL PRS Ltd. The fee you’ll have to pay depends on the size of the café and the devices you play music on. For more information, click here.

Employing staff

when opening your own cafe you need to understand how to employ new staff

If you open a café, it’s very unlikely that you’ll work there by yourself.

When employing staff, you must check whether your potential employees have a right to work in the UK.

If you want to employ children, they must be 13 or over, can only do some light work, can’t work before 7 am and are only allowed to work no more than two hours on school days. Before employing children, you must inform their education authority that will carry out a risk assessment.

Want to know more about recruiting and choosing the right people? Watch these videos!

Promoting your café

Create social media pages

Social media is a powerful tool when it comes to finding new customers. Be creative and show what’s on offer using high-quality pictures and videos. It’s frequently said that people eat with their eyes first, so keep that in mind and share some “tasty” content!

It’s also a great idea to create your social media pages and start posting before you launch your business. This way you will build an audience that is excited about the opening of your café and will come to try what you offer on day one! Read here, to find out how you can build your social media following from zero.

Offer deals, promotions or loyalty programmes

almost empty coffee cup and a card saying thanks next to it

No matter if you’re selling clothes, furniture or food, people love a bargain! Providing special offers such as lunch deals can attract more customers, especially if your café is close to offices or university campuses.

Another thing to consider is loyalty programmes. Customer reward schemes including discount or stamp cards or point-based programmes are one of the best ways to keep your customers happy and excited about coming back to buy more!

Make sure your café is easy to find on the maps

When you’re looking for the nearest place to shop or eat, where do you look? You probably go on search engines that give you suggestions and show you where the place is on the map. You need to make sure you’re there too! Add your business to both Google and Apple maps, so your café can be easily found.

Don’t forget about the traditional marketing

A lot of new businesses focus on digital marketing only. However, when you open a small business, you become part of a local community. And traditional marketing, such as leaflets can be a great way to communicate with that community!

Let people know you’re opening a new café in their local area and show what they can expect from you. After the launch, you can use leaflets to promote new menus or special offers.

Are you ready for opening your own café?

So how do feel about opening your own café after reading this guide?

Have we answered all your questions? Or do you have even more now?

If you need further guidance, why don’t you contact us? We have a team of experienced business advisors that will help you get from the idea to running a successful business!