So you bought a café? Congratulations!
There are many factors that go into running a successful café, not just good food and amazing coffee – but they’re a good start!
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When you first started looking for a business to buy, you might’ve stumbled upon what looked to be a gold mine; the place was always full and the figures looked like your retirement would be all Greek islands and golf courses. So, you took the plunge, put pen to paper and handed over your hard-earned money.
Now you have a lot of work to do! It’s not as easy as it looks on TV. If your only intention for the business is to sell it for a profit within 12 months of taking it over, reality will be biting you in the rear pretty soon.
The first couple of weeks, maybe even the first month, were just as you expected. But then the customers realise that something’s up; the staff have changed, the menu has changed and their favourites are no longer anywhere to be seen. As you watch the revenue decrease, the blame gets directed at the customers, the staff and anything else you can grasp at as you slowly sink into the quicksand.
As I have said in my previous blogs, you need to do your research; you need to listen to the customers and staff that have made the café ‘their own’ before you start making changes. Trust is a huge thing in the very fickle world of hospitality, once you lose the trust of the customer, it’s a hard road back – not to say that it can’t happen – it just means that you are going to have to work a lot harder than you may have anticipated.
From day one you need to get the support of the existing staff and customers. It is incredibly important that you meet with the staff on a regular basis to get feedback and to keep the staff up to date with what is going on in your head. Remember that the staff and customers are more important than you; so don’t think that you can do it on your own.
To keep your staff engaged, communicating with you and enthusiastic about the future of their employment have their daily procedures templated, in plain sight, taught and reinforced. This is especially important if there have been any operational changes with the purchase of the business.
Also, make a point of keeping staff meetings a regular thing, even if you think there isn’t anything important to update your troops with. You could even go so far as to encourage an employee you trust to ask a question or give feedback in one of these meetings so that the rest of your corps know that it’s a safe forum for feedback.
As for your customers – the ones that you’re trying to win over – take as many pieces of feedback you can possibly personally receive. By making the effort to hear the veteran patrons of your establishment – even if you don’t agree with their feedback – you’re acknowledging the importance of their presence to the success of your business. With a few strategic conversations about your vision for the future – even though the previous business was a “winner“ – they may become some of your biggest advocates.
This phenomenal new café of yours is, no doubt, the result of your personal hard work, determination and overall business vision – but do not underestimate the power of your people, both inherited and your own supporters, to mean the difference between making a profit and bankruptcy.
The hospitality business is hard – but also incredibly fun! Make sure you bring everyone along for the ride and let the good times roll.