The cheat's guide to opening a cafe in 3 months

People often dream of opening their own café, but they work full time (often in a job they loathe) and they feel their dream is always out of reach, it takes a long time to plan, organise and fit out a café. All true, unless of course you skip a few steps along the way.

If you know how, rest assured you can have your café up and running in 3 months – or less! The trick is to get going. You can make wholesale changes to the business as you go along, using cashflow for changes to fit out, furniture, uniforms and the like. What is important now is to have an operational café that can start making you money.

Here is a list of hacks that can help you implement your dream of opening a café in a much shorter timeframe;

  • Stay in your job and save your leave. This way you have an income to continue supporting yourself whilst your savings and other finance goes into setting up your café
  • Check with local business brokers if there are any existing cafes on the market, buying an existing business will propel you towards your dream at a far greater rate. Often cafes can be purchased quite inexpensively if there is not long left on their lease. Be vigilant with reviewing the lease to ensure you can renew the lease
  • Do all your strategic planning now;
    • Create an identity or vision for your café – your café concept; menu & fit out style, indicative pricing, service model (order and pay at the counter etc) brand values. You may not implement many of your plans until you have been in the business for a while, but you have a roadmap to follow. Once the doors are open it’s hard to carve out time for planning.
    • Engage a brand marketer to create a brand including logo to use you’re your signage and marketing collateral. At this stage shop front signage and a simple website linked to a Facebook page is adequate. You simply need an online presence these days but don’t spend a fortune on a detailed website. All people want to know is where you are, when you’re open and what you’re serving!
    • Create a social media profile and start posting images of the great food and coffee you will be offering to create awareness of the business opening. Connect with your local area Facebook Group and start promoting the cafe relaunch or opening
    • Plan and price your menu, stick to a concise 1 page menu for ease in the kitchen. Photograph each plated dish to ensure consistency in the kitchen.
  • If you aren’t purchasing or taking over an existing business, keep it really simple. Start with the bare basics with a fit out;
    • Use a shop fitter that will design, project manage and install your fit out. The more parties you use, the more complicated the fit out process becomes with no one taking ownership for delays and miscommunication
    • Use a reputable project manager to oversee fit out if not supplied by shop fitter
    • Purchase non customised equipment and furniture that is in stock ready to go, avoiding delays and expense
    • Purchase and install prefabricated flooring and wall treatments, avoid custom joinery
    • Check services (gas, electricity, water) against menu requirements and equipment requirements so you have a kitchen that can produce the food on your menu!
  • If you are buying an existing business don’t make the mistake of falling into the trap of renovating. Just ensure all equipment is in working order and freshen it up with a quick paint if required. Run the business for a while before you decide what needs to be changed from a fit out perspective, in the months to come you may want to take the concept in a whole new direction. It is important to change the brand if the existing café went out of business, to wipe the slate clean so to speak!
  • Don’t order expensive customised uniforms, go with jeans and black t shirts (can be inexpensively branded online if you wish)
  • Use generic packaging, don’t try to order large runs of custom packaging, your menu will likely change after the first few months so keep your options open with packaging
  • Use your Facebook group to attract staff, use only experienced staff, preferably ones that have worked in a startup. Interviews can be done online after hours and weekends
  • Engage with suppliers online, get samples sent to you to test well before you open
  • Do all your business administration online. Set up all your business banking, employment and taxation obligations, supplier accounts etc online. Not only can this be done efficiently, it can be done mostly out of business hours

Don’t let the overwhelm lead to inaction. It is more than possible to launch your dream within 3 months, you just need a plan and implement it

To further increase your chances of success, check out our online course Cafe Startup Success, your comprehensive step by step guide to starting a successful cafe.


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