5 Tips for Opening a Cafe

A café or restaurant is like an orchestra. If you have ever seen and heard one in full and perfect performance, it is a joy. However, if the guy with the triangle, or the lady on the flute, or the dude on the bass makes their entrance a split second too early or late, chaos ensues. The conductor will get into an almighty stropp and the aural experience of the audience will slide from sublime to grating. Thus, getting every single tiny element right down to the last lingering note on the ear or the last taste on the tongue or last expression on the face matters a lot.

So, before opening your café, visit your nearest concert hall and watch as the orchestra troop in, section by section, check out the instruments , read their instructions, warm up and, listen. Watch how everyone is in the right place with the right inanimate  instrument which they know how to cajole into a thing of beauty. Watch then the conductor who is the last to arrive on stage. I have observed conductors at a number of concerts and I wondered if any of the orchestra ever feel that this guy/gal  gets too much attention. After all, s/he just waves that stick around and depending on the style, jumps, wiggles and shakes along with the music created by the orchestra, who are after all actually playing the instruments.


But, like a good manager in a business, the conductor brings all those disparate elements together and makes it into a fabulous sound and experience. To get back to opening your café, the same principles apply. Knowing the business, learning the trade, practicing, practicing and then bringing it all together with strong management.  


  1. Learn the Business –you would not open a Hair Salon unless you knew how to cut hair or what shampoo to buy etc, you would not open a garage unless you knew a lot about cars, so why open a café if you don’t know how it works.
  2.  Get some experience with a good café operator. There is nothing to beat working on the ground in a buzzy, busy, well run café with a good ‘conductor’ in charge. You will learn how the whole comes together from planning the menu, to preparing, serving and smiling all day long.
  3. Know the Law of the Land – unromantic as it may seem, there are lots of laws ( some would say too many) relating to starting your café business. Being on the right side of the law will get you off to a good start and save time and money later.
  4. Commit to Excellence in every single aspect of your business – To quote, the late, great Steve Jobs, ‘ be a yardstick for quality, some people are not used to working in an environment where excellence is expected’.
  5. Study the Market you will be operating in –– it is not necessary to be all things to all people and neither is it necessary to copy someone else. Really study the market and resist the temptation to bring a concept you saw in Manahattan to your local town unless it ‘fits’.