10 Key requirements for a Perfect Cafe

I have a thing for small, dainty, and stand-alone cafes. All the effort that goes into creating one from the scratch with the owner’s creativity on display. All the hopes and dreams attached to that one cafe. It is exhilarating and heart-warming when we see all these efforts bearing fruits. This article mentions 10 key requirements for a perfect cafe.

A café is a place that offers comfortable and casual seating and dining space to people for social interactions. People can meet up for formal/informal get-togethers, eat, drink, work, or simply socialize. A cafe can choose if it wants to offer table service or alcoholic beverages as well or not, and decide on its own culture. Once you have gone through the 10 key requirements for a perfect cafe, I am sure it will be easier for you to conceptualize it and have a edge over other cafes in your vicinity.

Post COVID, the work-from-home culture has largely come to the fore. However, instead of working from home, Gen-Xers and Millennials choose to work from a café instead. The coffee industry generates about $70 billion a year in sales nationwide and there is immense scope and financial potential in running your café in any part of the world.

Below I am listing out 10 key requirements for a perfect café that you can’t miss in case you are planning to open up your café in any part of the world.

LOCATION: This is the first and foremost requirement and plays a key role in deciding the future of any cafe. Do a thorough location survey and market research on other cafés in the location you choose. Look for the required ambiance, footfall, and the concepts being used by these other cafes. Accordingly, you need to devise your strategy and plan the concept of your café. Whether you decide to continue with the same concept as other cafes in that location or create one of your own. Your marketing and advertising plan for your products depend on the location. Usually, it is observed that a cafe on the ground floor works better since it is more accessible. However, people prefer an open terrace concept as well. Choose your location considering all these aspects and market it accordingly.

BUDGET: Be mindful of the overall budget and the cost of running a café. Much before the running cost comes into purview, one needs to consider the cost of interiors, equipment, kitchen requirements, lighting, furniture, staff cost, training cost, IT requirements, and other day-to-day expenses. The initial investment to start a café could be between 10-15 lacs. The cost of getting the required registrations and certifications will be additional. In case initial cash flow is not easily available, there are many loan options available in the market that could be availed.

Next is the AMBIENCE the café provides. The look and feel of it and how it caters to the customer’s senses. This is also dependent on the location and the market research you did initially. You can choose a single-color theme or choose contrasting colors on walls and furniture. You can choose between soothing colors or flash in some brightness. Some cafes get special paintings created for their walls. Some cafés choose greenery as their theme. Another common practice being followed nowadays is one whole wall is kept empty and used as a testimonial wall instead. Different colored stick-pads with different color pen options are provided for customers to choose from and customers share their experiences and feedback and put it on display on this wall. This is the cafe’s hall of fame wall created for the customers, by the customers. With the upcoming work-from-anywhere option in most companies, providing a WIFI is a must. Additionally, providing ergonomic seating arrangements for those who choose to work from a café and need to work on their laptops for longer hours, would prove beneficial in inviting repeat customers. If possible, sufficient space between any two seats could be provided. One can also choose to include live music, open mics, karaoke, games like chess or Jenga, etc to keep the customers entertained. You might also want to consider if you want an open kitchen or a closed one. I am yet to come across a person who doesn’t like open kitchens, provided you have a powerful exhaust option. 

Then comes the FOOD AND BEVERAGES section. The overall menu needs to be well thought out. You can include some basic items available at all cafes and some specially curated ones which are available at your café only. These specially curated items in your menu are your edge over the other cafes in the vicinity. Be mindful of the coffee beans you use as well since it would be responsible for how the coffee tastes. The quality and serving size of each food item or beverage also add up. It is advisable to get the menu designed by a professional graphic designer and make it creative and attractive. You can choose to share about the owners, why they choose to open this café, what the café represents, and a brief journey of the café. In case of any celebrity visits, the menu can be modified and these celebrity pics could be added as well on the last page, or you can be creative and share some customer testimonials on the menu itself.  

Another main component that makes people stay longer at your café and visit repeatedly is the MUSIC. Music is an integral part of deciding the concept of the café and needs to blend in with the overall ambiance the café provides. One can choose auto-curated playlists available on music apps or can create your playlist. Though a specially curated playlist adds value, this needs to be revised regularly considering the current music trend. Some cafes play country music, some only Hindi songs, some choose English songs or jazz. Some cafes chose not to align with any such genre and choose to play Indie music or singles album only. You can choose what blends in with the concept of the café and the overall experience you want to provide to your customers.

LICENSE AND REGISTRATION: Before you start the café there are some basic licenses, registrations, and certifications one needs to apply for and procure to avoid any issues or uncalled-for fines at a later stage. Some basic licenses which are required are listed below for easy reference.

– Business registration

– FSSAI license

– Eating house license

– Health and trade license

– Fire security license

– Shop and establishment license

– Trademark registration

– Music license

– Certification of environmental clearance

– Pollution certificate

– GST registration

– Insurance

You can connect with certain advisors or practitioners who specifically assist in getting these licenses and registrations in order. This might involve further costs but it will make the entire process smoother. In addition to the 10 key requirements for a perfect cafe, procuring these licenses and registrations also play a key role in getting your cafe certified and assist in marketing them accordingly. You can read more about the process of procuring these licenses and the cost involved here.

For any food establishment getting the FSSAI certification is a must. That’s where HYGIENE comes into purview. We don’t want rats scurrying around or cockroaches in the meals. Believe me, I have seen all this and I didn’t go back to those outlets. Not just the kitchen hygiene, the sitting space also needs to be spic & span and presentable at all times.

STANDARDIZATION: Another important requirement is training your baristas thoroughly so that all your baristas make the same kind of coffee in the same way. We don’t want customers to have a different taste of a flat white coffee every time they visit. People like consistency. Remember the uniformity McDonald’s offers in their meals irrespective of their outlet. That’s what we want to aim for. Another crucial aspect of training is to ensure the correct order goes to each table.

MARKETING: And once you are up and running and ready to go on a roll, advertise, advertise and advertise! Nothing’s ever good if it is not shared. The same is true for any feedback or customer appreciation you get. Market all about it. Create pages on all social networking platforms. Create events and promotional programs, especially for the initial days, and then let the word of mouth do the talking. Don’t forget to get professional pics clicked of the food and beverages and post them on all your social networking sites. Discuss it, share customer experiences, and post customer feedback on all your networking sites. There are two ways to market a café, one is direct marketing through social media accounts and the other is indirect marketing which is largely through word of mouth. It is advisable to connect with food bloggers, at least during the initial stages, and invite them to experience your café and the food. If the food blogger has a good number of followers, then that’s some good marketing if they post a positive review of your café on their blog or networking site.  

INCLUSIVITY: Be inclusive. Nowadays, some cafes take inclusion to the next level and allow pets as well. They might have a separate food menu for dogs and cats available with separate utensils for them or some packed food options for your pets. Never refuse a customer irrespective of where they come from. Be respectful at all times.

Apart from these 10 key requirements for a perfect café, one also needs to look into the overall ROI and keep a check on the cost estimate for maintaining the interiors, kitchen requirements, and the cost involved in retaining the staff. Always keep a margin for any over-and-above costs that might come up from time to time.

Finally, as soon as your café is up and running, start working on your website. You can mention your locations, the coffee beans used, how these are procured, and the process of creating a masterpiece of coffee. Post customer testimonials and happy faces, post about how happy your staff is, and how your café is pro-inclusivity. You can also upload the playlist of the music that is played in your café. Also, include the option to order online, with special discounts, to promote your website. Don’t forget to include the links to all your social networking platforms. Do have a separate grievance re-dressal mechanism also in place. Encourage your customers to click pics and post their experiences on your website. Advertise the overall experience your customers get and then let word of mouth do the talking.

Now that you have gone through these 10 key requirements for a perfect cafe, I am sure it will be easy for you to plan and conceptualize your own cafe.

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