5 Insider Tips To Consider Before Opening a Café

Mike Tan

It seems like a common theme for kiwis having the dream to own their own café.  You love coffee; you love people so it makes perfect sense to ditch that 9-5 and own your own café right?  I often get people of all ages asking me for advice on taking the step into starting or buying a café business, here’s a few tips to consider and some real advice.  These tips are not meant to put anyone off but are cold true facts to consider before taking the leap.


Am I prepared to put in long hours, early starts and weekends?

This factor is heavily dependent on whether your café is a 5, 6 or 7 day operation however regardless, cafes can involve long hours.  Early starts are a norm in the industry especially if you plan on getting flour on your hands to do the baking.  On a positive note, most cafes close in the afternoon giving you time to pick up the kids from school or head home for paper work.


Can I go without paying myself for months if needed?

Starting a business can take time to generate a profit and it would be injudicious to forecast a profit and/or a feasible wage for the owner from the day of opening.  We have all seen the statistics of high failure rate of businesses opening within the first 3-years and it is important to plan in advance for slow starts and/or unforeseen expenses that creep up along the way.  A café can be a profitable means of earning a living but don’t expect this to come too soon.


The hospitality lifestyle isn’t for everyone…

I have experienced many individuals and couples who have given up the corporate lifestyle for the dream of owning a café.  From lawyers to accountants to sales managers and everything in between.  *Some of these people find that the fast-paced hospitality environment is not as enjoyable as they thought and this type of work is not fit for everyone.  Many white-collar jobs require linear thinking, sequencing and analysing facts commonly known as left-brain thinking.  A lot of hospitality work requires rhythm, visual thinking and intuition – right-brain thinking.  This simply means that it can take time and practise to accumulate the tools and mental capacity required for hospitality – this small aspect is often overlooked and many people think and wonder ‘how hard can it be’?

 This most definitely isn’t the case for everyone who went from wearing a suit and tie to an apron and coffee tamper, purely an observation of a few personal cases I’ve identified.  I’ve also identified many successful café owners that have come from corporate jobs and developed a passion and appetite for the hospitality industry.


 Being on your feet all day, often with little, interrupted or no breaks can be physically demanding.  Although you won’t get bad posture from crouching over a computer desk, being on your feet all day can take some time to get used to.  There’s no need to be a marathon runner, but being fit and physically capable does have its advantages when working in a café.  Don’t forget to buy a large tub of hand moisturiser for those rough barista hands too!  This can also be seen as an advantage and possibly a means of cancelling the gym membership you never went to anyway.


 Managing staff can be very rewarding but does have its difficulties.  As cafes are labour intensive, this comes with the responsibility of managing a team of people to keep your operation running.  Leadership plays an integral role in the operation of a café and many café owners can confirm that the right team is an essential ingredient for a successful café.  Hospitality typically has a high turnover of staff but this isn’t always true across the board.  How you manage your staff will play a significant impact on the culture and work ethic within your business.

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