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Cafes & Restaurants

The Complete Café Launch Checklist

Written by 
Brad Davis
October 12, 2021

Image Credit: Pom Pom Bagels

Opening a café should be a fun and exciting experience… but to not be just a little bit stressed out when opening day is looming on the horizon would be foolish. Opening any kind of business can be overwhelming at times, especially when it’s in hospitality.

But 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

man signing paper with pen

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 authorised 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

man working behind cafe counter

This includes everything from the obvious stuff (like coffee machines, fridges, dishwashers, ovens, stoves, lighting, wifi, stereo etc.) 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 organise all your professional services like pest control, health and safety inspectors, accounts etc. ahead of time, so that you know where you stand.

3. Insurance

smashed window

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 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

gourmet food on table

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.

5. Menus and signs printed

menu on display behind counter in cafe

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.

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

staff and customers at POS in cafe

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.

It also gives you a little more wriggle room to work on other areas of the business – like marketing, accounting, customer retention, food ordering and so on. It’s harder to juggle these things when you’re constantly chained to the coffee machine.

7. General ledger/daily accounting set up

tax paperwork

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 café launch checklist.

8. Have clear procedures in place for everything

post-it notes on wall

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.

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

woman working on laptop in cafe

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 digital loyalty punch card app

With so much attention being paid to opening the café doors and acquiring customers for the first time, it’s easy to neglect the importance of retaining them, too.

Not only does it cost five times as much to attract a new customer, but the probability of selling to an existing customer is up to 65% higher (Invesp).

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:

  • View loyalty activity in real time
  • Full access to customer data
  • Send targeted Push Notifications & SMS campaigns
  • Gamify your loyalty program with our Scratch & Win feature
  • Set up Birthday Club
  • Integrates with your email platform

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 14- or 30-day free trial (depending whether you opt for the Pro or Elite version).

To speak with a friendly member of our team about setting your new café up with a convenient and affordable digital loyalty app, don’t hesitate to get in touch today.

Stamp Me provides loyalty solutions to businesses large and small, from our own Stamp Me Loyalty App to fully customised loyalty and rewards programs for enterprises and brands.

Contact us if you would like to discuss a loyalty or rewards solution for your business or brand.

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