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Making it as a Café Owner – Success in a Crowded Market

Many people dream of one day opening and running their own small business. Cafés are especially popular goals – personal, sociable businesses which have an air of craft and classiness to them. They place few demands on an owner in terms of existing experience or capital. And best of all, they capture the imagination with the focus on two things many professionals enjoy – good food, and coffee.

But the small business market, and for cafés in particular, is incredibly competitive. Cafés are typically not profitable for many months after their opening, and a majority fail to ever make past that initial period of desperate growth. To get there requires a level head, good business sense, and a lot of determination. Here are the hot tips from those who have been there and done that:

Your most valuable investment is in your staff

Without motivated, skilled staff your business will not succeed. It’s as simple as that. Even for a “simple” job like frontline hospitality it is essential that staff be trained. If you have the experience in the field, set the standard yourself; otherwise you can hire someone with good years in the job to be a mentor to the rest of the team.

Training employees improves the service customers receive, but also keeps them engaged with your business. You can further this feeling of inclusion, that they are genuinely part of your business, by sharing your plans for the café with them or actively seeking out and addressing their concerns. Turnover is inevitable at some point, but considering how negatively it can impact your business it makes sense to keep your employees invested in the business as much as possible.

Build a reputation your customers trust

To become profitable as a business you need to build a strong customer base. The easiest way to do so, aside from good service, is to provide a product that your patrons trust enough to come back for. It’s easier if your business has a narrow focus and can concentrate on improving its process – one reason why a new café should not have too expansive a menu.

Once you have customers coming back to you again and again, word will naturally start to spread and you will see your café’s business grow sustainably.

Reward and excite your customers – they are your foundation

Once you start bringing in significant money, that is the time to think of inventive ways to expand your brand and keep the people rolling in. Customer loyalty programs are popular for a reason, both aiding customer retention and advertising the brand for a tiny outlay. Other successful ideas have been supplying catering for community events, limited time menu changes, or celebrating local occasions. In all cases, getting the most visibility possible for cost is the key.

Understand what’s important, and make your capital count

Starting a small business of any kind is not for the faint of heart – or wallet. Part of the reason so many new cafés fail is that they try to copy too many features of established businesses with too little capital. Spend money where it will have the most impact on your product – staff training, coffee machines, fresh materials – and your customers will taste the difference. This formula is true for all small businesses, so think about how you can apply it to your idea and see the results.


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