What do I need to open the cafe of my dreams?


Much like running a marathon, opening your first, or even second café requires deep, thoughtful planning, preparation, approach, and considered duties during operation.

All the stamina and drive of spirit won’t see you through to the end, at least not painlessly without the right sensible team, and essentially the best-suited equipment for your desired outcome. You wouldn’t run a 42k marathon without hydration, so you shouldn’t open a café without the appropriate tools to hit the ground running.

In helping with the daunting task of list-making that occurs before any great adventure let’s look at where your main points of focus should firstly be.

1. Define YOUR ideal cafe

What will your café be like and who will it attract?

  • Do you want to be large and inviting, but only catering to a corporate crowd? Or are you looking to be cosy and comfortable, with a cast of students; heads buried in books on your tables?
  • How extensive will your menu be?
  • What kind of food and beverage items does your dream and skill/experience allow? Are you a coffee and cake bar, or would you like a full-service kitchen?
  • Are you wanting to cover breakfast, lunch or dinner, or perhaps all three?

Have you mapped your location requirements and size?

  • Where do you see yourself heading on a daily basis, for upwards of 60 hours a week? Are you looking for the busy city crowd or the slower suburban mums and families?
  • What is the foot traffic like around your location? Are you after a sit down and relaxed venue with ample parking, or a standing room only space but with high volume?

2. Budget

  • Because of the substantial chunk of money coming out of your super, savings, or otherwise well before you see any cash coming in, it’s critical to examine your initial spend allocation.
  • Have you decided to go with an existing fitout or would you like to create your own unique look and feel?
  • What will your fixed costs (rent, utilities etc) per month be?
  • Breaking it right down into finer detail (initially with an accountant is best) how much now do you have to give to your café equipment purchases?
  • Bear in mind, not having a piece of equipment you need when you need it can be a catastrophe and not to be tempted by the lower price lure of domestic equipment; as they are not designed for daily workloads of eight hours or more and will break down with much greater frequency.

3. Additional Licensing Fees & Functionality

  • What restrictions does your lease have for any adjustments made to fixed features?
  • Is your location functionally ready for the installation of gas equipment and any necessary exhaust systems?
  • How feasible are your plumbing ideas?
  • Are you allowed any seating or adjustments constructed on the footpath?

4. Essentials

  • Point-of-Sale (POS): Address your desired speed of service when thinking about equipment that essentially could be the first interactive point of contact for your customers.
  • Business banking accounts: A must (at least according to the Taxman!).
  • Internet Service Provider (ISP): You’ll need this for all your web based interactions with your customers, through social media and simple marketing, as well as when it comes to streamlining your banking requirements. Something to consider: will you offer free Wi-Fi to your customers? Is your ISP capable of such a load while offering the best price?
  • Staff: Simply, you can’t get busy without them! If you can’t make every one of your customers experience a positively memorable one, then they just won’t come back. And you can’t achieve all of that on your own. Hire smart, engaging, enthusiastic people who are looking to learn and who actively participate in the development of your dreams.

5. Cold Storage

  • All cafes will require refrigeration units, but how extensive are your offerings? Will you need a walk-in fridge for a full-service kitchen or underbench fridges to hold your milk? Perhaps a display fridge for grab and go bottles of water or softdrinks, prep fridges for the kitchen, or even a fun ice-cream display to upsell good return on product items. Always question your needs, relative to what you wish to sell, who you wish to sell to and how much you would like to sell.

6. Suppliers & Maintenance

  • Have you made a list of all your preferred product suppliers and do you know who you can trust to call and fix any electrical, plumbing or machine specific problems? Finding the right person has been one failed attempt after another for many business owners, and with emergency services costing much more than usual rates, it’s best to take the time to ask around the people you know and trust who would have needed equipment servicing and collect some quality phone numbers. It also doesn’t hurt to chat with other local businesses in your area as they may know of someone very handy and close too.
  • Don’t forget about pest control!

7. Financing

  • Are you happy with the current service provided by your bank or would you like to receive a more personal, flexible touch by going through private funding? In any case, you will still need to rely on the bank to support your network of POS and accounting needs, but keep an open mind at this stage.

8. Non-Essential Toys!

  • Of course, you will need a coffee machine, but just how much do you love coffee and want to use your equipment as a marketing tool, say by installing a Slayer over a Wega?
  • This approach will attract a clientele that is looking to be ‘wowed’ by the latest and greatest gadgets, technology and staff skill. They also tend to be big fans of social media and the frenzy that is capturing the moment in a freeze of ‘INSTAhappiness’.
  • Always think sensibly and revert back to your budget constantly.

Having gone through this list, you’ll have a much better understanding of what equipment YOU need to open YOUR café and how to shape your equipment needs to match. By physically visiting trusted and established industry equipment suppliers, you’ll be able to engage in a professional conversation around the mould of your café, the specific tools and the fun nitty-gritty. This essentially forms the basis of the information you need to hit the ground running come the big opening day.

So now you’re set to task, but don’t forget to be both creative and adventurous with your thinking. Always approach each aspect of planning with well-considered thoughts toward your dreams, wants, equipment needs and shopfront layout and design. Most importantly keep an eye on your budget!

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