Maybe it’s the fault of Hollywood, but there are many people who see operating their own café as the ideal occupation. The nearly identical fantasy to this is to run your own bar. But often the less you know about something, the easier it seems to be. Running a successful café is difficult and very few startups succeed to become long time businesses. It is not the quirky, laid back world, people think it is. There is a lot you need to get right.
- Success is Slow to Arrive: The world is full of cafés, and the places where they aren’t found, probably are bad locations. If you open a café, and you are not a franchise, all the awareness and advertising issues are on you. It is going to take a long time before people begin to choose you over their regular place. Advertising is expensive and habits change slowly. You should expect to lose money the first year.
- You Need a Reputation: Café customers are always searching for the next hip hangout, but they are a fickle bunch. Just like enticing new birds to a feeder, you must have what they are looking for. They need to feel comfortable, and if you do something that they don’t like, they’re gone. The trouble is that there is only so much innovation to go around, so your best move is to focus on your strengths and aim for consistency. Like some of the successful cafés on the Central Coast. If you stay consistent your customer base will begin to find you, and after time the few may become many.
- You Need a Lot of Money: Although it may seem to you that cafés are simple shops, the better equipment costs a lot of money, and that is just the beginning. You will likely need to pay a lease, which will probably be a multiyear contract. You will need to pay for wages, supplies, and advertising. And you will have to do this without making a profit for an unknown amount of time.
If you are not discouraged yet, it is possible that you have the never-quit attitude required to be a success in this heavily saturated industry. If you are serious, spend at least a year doing research and maybe you can drum up some support too. A café can be a wonderful thing if you are determined to be excellent, and you are realistic about the business.