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Cafes & Restaurants

Opening a Cafe: The Ultimate Launch Checklist

Written by 
Brad Davis
October 12, 2021
Loyalty Programs
Small Business

Opening a café is a fun and exciting experience, but it can no doubt be a stressful time too. While it's natural to feel some jitters as the opening day approaches, having a comprehensive 'café opening checklist' ensures that you are well-prepared and ready for every crucial step before welcoming your first customer.

By developing a clear plan of action and listing every major task that needs to be sorted before you open your doors to the public, you can remove as much stress from the equation as possible.

So without further ado, here’s a complete café launch checklist to ensure you’ve taken care of everything!

1. Make sure you’ve got all the right permits and licenses

Two people signing papers.
Image source: Canva

Once you’ve secured an appropriate location for your new café, the first thing you should get on top of is researching all the necessary permits and licenses that you’ll require, and acquiring them well in advance.

Be sure to check national, state-wide and even local council regulations and standards to ensure you’re fully authorized to operate as a hospitality business (especially if you’ll be serving alcohol!).

It doesn’t hurt to enlist the help of a qualified professional for this process, for peace of mind and to make life easier for yourself.

2. Triple-check that all your equipment works

Interior of a cafe.
Image source: Canva

When it comes to your ‘opening a cafe checklist’, this tip might seem obvious. But it’s incredibly important that all of your equipment is up to date and functioning. This includes everything from coffee machines, fridges, and wifi, right down to the plugs, toaster, toilet flush, door handles and so on.

A good trick is to try turning absolutely everything on at the same time, and seeing if your electricity supply can handle it.

If you’ve got the air conditioning blasting, fans going, dishwasher running, music streaming, all the lights on, stove cooking and so on; then you can enjoy peace of mind that the power’s not going to cut out from having too many appliances on at once.

Then there’s the utilities like gas, electricity, water and internet – it’s important to make sure you have consistent and reliable access to these services, with no delays or interruptions.

And finally, be sure to organize all your professional services like pest control, health and safety inspectors, accounts etc. ahead of time, so that you know where you stand before your cafe’s opening day.

3. Acquire Insurance

​​Every café needs insurance, and the sooner you get this process sorted, the better! Don’t forget that there’s different types of insurance, and part of a cafe opening checklist means that your café will need to be covered under a variety of categories.

You’ll need to insure the building itself, its contents, your staff, as well as insuring yourself for things like machinery breakdown, glass breakage, finances and so on. There’s also the standard ones like:

  • Public Liability insurance (for example, if a customer hurts themselves in your café and sues you)
  • Product Liability insurance (for protection against claims of food poisoning and other damages caused by the products you sell)
  • Management Liability insurance (covers you for things like employee dishonesty, occupational health and safety, workplace bullying/harassment and similar issues)

4. Food and Drink Suppliers

    The last thing you want is to open your café and then run out of supplies on the first day! It’s crucial that you find reputable suppliers long before opening, sample their products, question them about their services and policies, and generally just establish a good working partnership with them in order to keep supplies flowing and your customers satisfied.

5. Menus and signs printed

Cafe menus on wall.
Image source: Canva

Take your time to deliberate on the perfect menu. Have a very long think about what your menu should consist of. 

There’s no shortage of cafes out there that try to do it all, but the problem with this is that if you do everything, you do nothing. Your menu design is almost part of your marketing strategy – what is your business selling, and what makes you unique from other cafes? 

Don’t just consider who your target market is, but figure out who your target market isn’t. This is an important part of any cafe opening day checklist, as your menu is a reflection 

Once you’ve got your menu set in stone, be sure to invest in quality graphic designers to make them stand out, and print them on quality paper (or do something cool like A4 slabs of wood etc.) to reflect the professionalism of your brand.

6. Recruitment, training and contracts

Cafe staff behind coffee machine serving customers.
Image source: Canva

Take the time to find good, honest, reliable employees who you think will fit in with the environment you’re trying to create with your new café. Be sure to allow ample time to train them up properly so that they are well prepared for opening day, and perhaps consult with a legal professional when putting your staff contracts together.

Another good tip is to hire enough staff for the place to run efficiently without you.

You might be fully committed to getting up at the crack of dawn every day and making people’s coffee yourself, but the reason why it’s a good idea to be slightly overstaffed is that if there are any issues (sudden terminations/resignations, arguments, sickness, change of circumstances etc.), you can step in to fill the gap and the business isn’t impacted.

Incorporating time management into your ‘opening a cafe checklist’ not only grants you more flexibility but also allows you to focus on other vital aspects of the business. This includes marketing, accounting, customer retention, food ordering, and more. Balancing these responsibilities becomes increasingly challenging when you’re perpetually tied to the coffee machine.

7. General ledger/daily accounting set up

Papers and a phone calculator.
Image source: Canva

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes café owners make (or any business owners, for that matter) is to not pay close enough attention to their finances in those crucial first few months of being open.

It’s easy to look at the money coming in and get excited, but every café always carries a lot of overheads too. If you don’t keep track of the money coming in, going out and the overall revenue itself, it’s easy to suddenly find yourself in financial ruin.

There’s plenty of quality accounting software out there to help you manage your café’s finances, and depending on the size of your business it might even be worth hiring a dedicated professional accountant. Either way, be sure to include this on your opening a café checklist.

8. Have clear procedures in place for everything

Interior of a cafe.
Image source: Unsplash

Try sitting down with a pen and paper, and brainstorming all the possible scenarios that might occur at your café. Once you’ve thought of as many as you can, develop a clear plan of action for executing these tasks or resolving these issues.

For example, what to do if a customer complains, or if the power goes out? What’s the first thing that needs to be done in the morning, or the last thing that happens during close? What’s the process for cashing up at the end of the day? How often do the toilets get cleaned?

By thinking of these things before they inevitably happen, you and your staff can be fully prepared from the get-go and you can check this off your ‘opening a cafe checklist’.

9. Establish a clear and succinct marketing strategy (and stick to it!)

People talking over a table.
Image source: Unsplash

Don’t wait until you’re open to start marketing your café… ideally you want everyone to know about it before opening day! Social media is your best resource these days, but there’s a whole host of techniques you can employ to expand brand awareness and gain exposure to new audiences before you’ve even served your first coffee.

Try gamifying your social media posts with fun quizzes and exciting prize giveaways to build up hype. Make sure you document the entire “start up” phase of creating your café from day one, as this will equip you with a huge bank of interesting images/videos that you can use in the future, for Throwback Thursdays posts and other engaging content.

10. Retain customers with a digital loyalty app

Stamp Me's app interface on phone frame.

While the thrill of opening the cafe doors and attracting first-time customers is palpable, it’s vital, as part of your ‘opening a cafe checklist’, to understand the importance of retaining customers. 

As Invesp points out, not only does it cost up to five times more to attract a new customer, but the chances of selling to an existing customer are also considerably higher at up to 65%

And while digital loyalty programs used to be a huge investment that required immense long-term planning and a tedious installation process, it’s never been easier to provide your customers with an excellent loyalty program experience.

Digital loyalty apps allow businesses of all shapes and sizes to offer their customers a convenient and engaging way to accumulate points and earn rewards via their smartphones.

As an example, our own Stamp Me loyalty app provides businesses and their customers with the following features:

  • Full access to customer data
  • Loyalty program activity data in real time 
  • Send targeted Push Notifications & SMS campaigns
  • Gamify your loyalty program with our Scratch & Win feature
  • Set up various engagement campaigns such as the Birthday Club and Re-lapsed Customers 
  • Integrates with your email platform for more outreach 

The app is remarkably easy to set up and start using, so you can drive repeat business and increase sales from day one. It can be implemented across stores in multiple locations, and comes with a risk free free trial. 

Want to launch a cafe loyalty program but need a bit of help? Check out our free Digital Loyalty Program Launch Checklist!

In Conclusion

We hope that you’ve found this cafe opening day checklist helpful and you feel more than prepared to launch your cafe for the public. Remember, success in the hospitality industry goes beyond just serving delicious food and beverages – it’s about creating a memorable experience, building trust, and cultivating a loyal customer base. As you gear up for the grand opening, embrace the adventure, be diligent in your preparations, and look forward to the countless cups of coffee and smiles you’ll serve in your new cafe. 

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