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How to Start a Cafe

This article provides tips on starting a cafe, with particular attention given to building your operations systems.

These are tips for several operation systems which are common to all cafes. If you plan to become more efficient and profitable (and especially if you plan to expand to additional cafes down the road) you should create clear plans for each of these systems.

Sales System

The simple process of your staff providing food and drinks for cash is no longer so simple. For one thing, the increasing reliance of customers on credit cards means that you will be turning away customers if you don’t set up a credit card terminal and accept at least Visa and Mastercard. You need standard steps for how to deal with credit cards and perhaps a minimum order if credit card fees are a concern.

Furthermore, a mechanical cash register can track the sales accumulated and the cash inside, but offers little in the way of analysis to show what sales consist of and how profitable the cafe is. A POS (point-of-sale) software system is an added start-up expense, but can offer detailed analysis of the items that are selling and those that are not. If you enter the costs of items the POS can calculate profit for you and help you analyze the effect of adjustments to your menu.

Maintenance and Cleaning Systems

Maintaining your service equipment and cleaning the shop’s premises doesn’t happen by itself and if your direction to staff is just “do it when you can” you will be lucky if it ever happens. Take the time to create cleaning checklists for weekly, daily, and even hourly items. If your seating area is not clean, customers may find eating and drinking in your cafe unappealing, so be sure you clearly direct your staff as to how often the seating area must be checked and cleaned.

The same goes for maintaining equipment. Document the daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance steps and assign the responsibility to staff. Determine if they can be done during normal hours or must happen before or after closing to not disrupt service.

Customer Service and Service Recovery Systems

The steps of greeting and serving a customer should be standardized to the extent they can. Otherwise, you may have some customers greeted with a sunny “May I help you?” and others with a surly “What do you want?”. A bit of a script is important for staff for whom customer service skills don’t come naturally.

Also, plan ahead for what steps you will take in the event of customer service failure. This could be mixing up a customer’s order, serving a subpar item, or spilling on the way to a customer. If these failures happen, all is not lost. You can take these opportunities to turn around the situation so that the customer leaves feeling positive. By giving clear directions to staff as to how to handle these situations (offering a free additional item, giving money back for the order, giving the customer priority, etc) you empower your staff to make the best of a bad situation.

The first step to starting a cafe is to develop your cafe business plan. Growthink provides products and services to help you develop a professional business plan and turn your dream into reality.

Download Our Cafe Business Plan Template!

If you want to create your own business plan quickly and easily, we now offer a cafe business plan template that allows you to develop a professional business plan in hours or days, not weeks or months.

Visit this link to learn more:

OR, We Can Develop Your Plan For You

Our professional business plan writers can create your entire business plan for you. We will make sure your business plan is sound and ready for investors so you can continue to focus on running your business. Over the past decade, we have created business plans for hundreds of cafe businesses.

To speak with a Growthink business plan consultant, call 800-506-5728 or complete the form below.


Growthink helped birth my company. They got to know both me and my vision. They helped ‘smack me upside the head’ to help make sure I was realistic, about meeting expectations. As a result, they helped craft, draft and construct the right written presentation. As a result, I got my funding.

Jeffrey Ullman
Founder & CEO
Great Expectations

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