The humble coffee shop has come a long way in a relatively short period of time, and the rapid increase in the number of cafes up and down the high street goes to show just how popular the market has become, but why?
Something happened in the world of coffee a decade or two ago. What was, for many, something of an acquired taste suddenly became an indispensable part of the day for so many of us.
Coffee also became cool. The way the coffee culture was marketed implied that it was something we needed in our lives, and then a seachange occurred that made it absolutely crucial that we got our daily fix from a local barista on our way to work or after the school run.
Undeniably a big factor in the increase in interest, and enjoyment, of coffee, was down to the quality of the product. What many had been drinking up to that point were poor derivative products that were little more than caffeine delivery systems with very little to do with taste.
The idea and expansion of the coffee market were expertly handled by those employed in the industry, and the result was a boom in terms of our spending on the many different types and flavors we could enjoy, and it was only a matter of time before the idea of a takeaway or takeout option would take hold.
Coffee Shop Boom
Coffee shop chains hit the big time in the 1990s and were led by the likes of Starbucks, who opened their first cafe in 1994 and was quickly followed by a host of other similar brands, and the market has continued to climb steeply.
As well as ‘chains’ there has been a steady increase in more bespoke coffee shops seeking to break through and offer a more refined experience, and these have tended to experience a higher success rate when compared to the opening of a restaurant.
The concept of visiting a cafe to pick up a coffee, to consume in a cafe, or take out, would have been alien to most of us prior to this period, but with the help of great marketing and cultural placements within our collective psyche, such as in hit TV shows like Friends, it has become a success story which continues to this day.
Restaurant Industry Falling, Cafes On the Rise
Coffee shops were already a hugely important part of our culture long before the coronavirus pandemic and have subsequently become even more intrinsically linked to our day-to-day lives.
The fallout of the COVID pandemic saw many restaurants close and go under. The financial crisis that has hit many of us post-COVID means that eating out is still very much a luxury. However, we still need to feel special about ourselves, and that means that the relatively low cost, when compared to dining out in the evening, of visiting a cafe to have our coffee as well as a little snack or even a light lunch, becomes a more tangible option.
This will only lead to an even heavier, more profitable footfall for the cafe industry.
Back to Basics
If you are putting together your plans to start your own cafe, you’ll need to know that you will be up against businesses with far more capital. In every town or city, the coffee shops that are predominant are those that are part of national or even worldwide chains.
So when you are getting started, you’ll need to know how to keep the costs down without it impacting your overall ethos or direction. That might mean keeping it simple when it comes to your restaurant chairs and tables; after all, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel here.
Know Your Community
In order to give your potential customers a reason to visit your cafe over the nearest Starbucks (or equivalent chain), you’ll need to know your community. Your cafe’s best shot at survival depends on your ability to connect to your clientele.
Keeping your prices down is a good way to encourage customers to choose you over the nearest chain, but that means you need to offer additional options when it comes to products you sell to go with their coffee.
Also, look to develop ties to the community; anything that helps create that connection that will make your customers feel there is a tangible reason to get their coffee at your cafe over all the other many options that probably exist within a one-mile radius is key to your potential success.
Build a Vibe
Consider ways that your coffee shop can stand out. In the evening, you can offer live musical events or book readings by local authors. During the day, you can offer reduced coffee for mothers in the area. Look for imaginative ways to give your cafe a vibe or atmosphere that goes beyond merely serving them a coffee every morning.
Make the Best Use of Every Square Inch
The layout of your cafe is very important. Make sure you make efficient use of every square inch. That’s as important for a coffee shop with plenty of room as it is for those who can barely fit a table or two into their establishment.
Real estate costs can be expensive, and you need to plan your layout to make the best use of your space. This will be crucial in terms of turnover in peak hours and will also impact the staffing costs you’ll incur.
Never Cut Corners on Quality
While you are clearly looking to make money from your venture, and planning efficiently is a big part of that, you should always pay attention to quality.
You are a cafe above everything else, and your coffee, and the other products you sell, must be of high quality; otherwise, every other aspect of your business will prove meaningless. In other words, no one is going to spend 45 minutes listening to a great poetry reading if the coffee they are served tastes hideous!