Trevor Jenkins is a classically trained chef and culinary consultant with 25 years industry experience. Trevor has worked as an executive chef across Europe and Australia, won international cooking competitions, managed multiple venues and hundreds of staff at once, worked more hours than is healthy and has come to the realisation that one of his real talents is in helping others realise their culinary goals.
The foodie dream: A café to call your own
Have you been entertaining the idea of owning a small, romantic café or restaurant that you’ll be able to invest your retirement fund in? Somewhere chic but not pretentious; quality, locally sourced food with a great, ethically sourced coffee supplier?
It’s a great thought, but the reality is there are a multitude of things to think about – and do – before you even get close to handing over any of your hard-earned money.
Let’s break down the basics.
The romantic idea vs the reality
So you’ve found the place of your dreams. Sure, the kitchen is tiny and the plumbing is full of tree roots but the hardwood floors and the alleyway location just scream next big thing… This is only the first hurdle, the first of many.
Only with the answers to the questions below will you ever have the ultimate goal in your sight:
- Do you have a business plan? If not, get one.
- What do you want to get out of owning your own café? Figure it out so you know your basis for making business decisions and when it’s time to get out.
- What style (food, ambiance, sales process, franchise) of venue do you want?
- Is the venue in the right area (council zoning, demographics, foot traffic, community feel) for what I want to do? Do your research.
- How many competitors are in the area and do they offer the same as what you want to? Again, do your research; know your offering and its place in the market, inside and out.
- If you’re buying an existing venue, do the current profit and loss figures add up? Do your due diligence.
Let’s get cooking
You’re convinced. The deal is done! The dream venue is yours, leaky faucets, broken tiles, out-of-date equipment and all. Now you’ve got the venue, you’ve got to bring it up to a standard you’d be happy to dine in yourself.
You now have considerations like capital purchases, human resources and staff, marketing, stock supply and ongoing maintenance. Where to begin? Here:
- Is the venue layout comfortable or confused? Does it reflect your original idea or have you compromised? Why?
- Is your branding consistent? Do you present a professional company on all stationery, business cards and staff uniforms?
- Do the staff know your business goals and how they fit in?
- Are you excited about the food and menu every time a dish leaves the kitchen?
Keeping the fires burning: The maintenance stage
Once those doors are open, you need to have your finger on the business pulse at all times. It only takes one area to drop its standard and start the snowball effect.
Address each of these on a regular basis to make sure everything is ticking along nicely:
- Does the venue continually look fresh?
- Are you holding regular team meetings?
- Has the reputation of the café increased or decreased from day one?
- Are you still proud of the food and presentation coming out of the kitchen?
- Have you hired too many staff to compensate for poor training?
- Are you and your team still focused on the overall goal?
Behind the office door
Overall, business management is an area that lets a lot of hospitality businesses down. Knowledge, understanding and control of your business is an absolute must to be able to succeed in such a cut-throat industry.
- Are you aware of your financial position? Do you have a good bookkeeper? Are things regularly positive?
- Are you conducting regular staff appraisals?
- Are your advertising activities consistent and reflect the venue in a positive light?
- Have your projected sales been accurate? Have you got a budget for the next quarter? The next year?
- The market is always changing, are your changing with it?
With so many things to stay on top of, it’s very common that at least two or three of the above listed tasks, at any stage of the business, are not where they should be. Be big enough to realise when things aren’t great and seek the help you need. You and your business will be all the better for it.
Until you’re ready to face the good and bad of all these questions – and many more – enjoy your dream café nightly.