How to open a cafe - Part 2

15 Oct 2014
How to open a cafe - Part 2

In his first post on how to open a cafe, Ross Brown of Browns of Brockley discusses the early stages of setting up a cafe, from finding the right location to hiring tradesmen and accountants. Today he explains layout and equipment - critical components to get right before you open the doors of your new coffee shop. Here’s part two of our ‘How to open a cafe’ series.

So you’ve just signed on the dotted line for your dream space, now it’s time to sort out your shop configuration and equipment.

 

Layout

There are four important things to remember when thinking about layout. Customers need to be able to enter your cafe, they need somewhere to order from, somewhere to stand while they’re waiting, and they need to get out. If you nail these four, everything else should fall into place.

Layout may not seem like a big issue but it will dramatically affect how your business functions financially. You may have a prime high street location with footfall so vast your thumb can’t engage the clicker quick enough. But if customers can’t get in and out quickly, efficiently and without stress – they will simply go somewhere else. If you are ever stuck for ideas about how to arrange your shop go to any major branch of Starbucks. The coffee may be foul, the music may be that awful Paul McCartney record they released but by God they know how to churn customers through like a German production line.

Once you have a feel for your space, start to visit multiple architects or designers. Ask them about their experience with commercial spaces, particularly within the hospitality sector. There are many niches within our wonderful industry and layout is one of them. I have seen a lot of expensive plans in my time where dishwashers sit underneath till stations and milk fridges are at the opposite end of the bar from the espresso machine - avoid this.

Given your space, consider how your staff will move behind the bar and throughout the shop, where to place key components like the machine, till and the wet area. Also consider the height of your counter, chairs and tables. How your tip jar signage sits, and where you place those gold-plated Hario kettles may seem important now, but they’ll find their way with time. Stick to the essentials for now.

England is not blessed with large commercial spaces as a whole (at least not affordable ones) and I imagine if you’re reading this money is going to be somewhat tight, but more space is better. It may feel counterintuitive in the beginning to leave big, vast spaces but believe me when that soy technique that you probably stole off me gets around town you’ll be crammed and wishing you hadn't included that extra splinter-ridden wooden pallet, sorry, I mean table.

Tip: Once you have your plans, take a set to your equipment supplier. An extra set of eyes is always a bonus, and they will hopefully give you a list of things they need such as different electricity supplies, wastage and plumbing points.

 

Equipment

Again, lets pray that this hasn’t only crossed your mind once you’ve had ten sets of keys cut for your non-existent staff, but you will definitely need some equipment. The big question everyone asks is new or secondhand?

Without a doubt, no questions asked, do not buy secondhand equipment for your first shop. I know money is tight, I know they’ve spelt it La Morzogoto on eBay and you’re the only one clever enough to search for misspelled items. But trust me, it is not worth it.

A little like your tradespeople mentioned in Part 1, is your new best friend from eBay going to come and fix that blown boiler three weeks into your new venture? New machinery can seem very expensive but the piece of mind and security outweigh the price in the long run. You’re purchasing an asset, and while it will depreciate in value, you can offset that cost in your accounts.

It’s also possible to lease equipment. This will cost more money in the long run, but if it enables you to purchase shiny new hardware that won’t break down, then go for it!

If you aren’t sure which machine you want to use, go and talk to people. Talk to other shop owners if you can and read online about others experiences. It may be possible to talk to coffee roasters about equipment but I would be slightly wary of anyone wanting to give you anything for free – you’re probably paying for it elsewhere in exorbitant coffee prices.

 

Recommended equipment suppliers:

I can’t cover all machines with suppliers and stockists but here some that may be helpful.

La Marzocco - While having an office here, they won’t sell to anyone off the street so go through resellers. These include a number of different roasteries as well as third party companies like Coffee Hit and Espresso Solutions.

Nuova Simonelli / Victoria Arduino - They have a distribution deal with United Coffee, and I believe some machines and grinders from their range can be purchased from Square Mile Coffee Roasters.

Slayer espresso machines - These are available through Has Bean Coffee.

Synesso machines - Also available through Square Mile Coffee Roasters.

Mazzer grinders - These are available through third-party resellers like Coffee Hit as well as Mulmar.

 

In the next post in this series, Ross will discuss staff.

 

Read How to open a cafe - Part 1.

 

Photo by Vic Frankowski, courtesy Vespertine Press.