Six essential foundations every café owners needs to avoid burnout and build a thriving business

My last post looked at the major reason why so many café owners suffer from burn out, and the crippling effect it has on us and our business, you can read it HERE. In this piece I look at six key foundations every café owner needs to avoid burnout, attract more customers, generate better profits and have time to enjoy life away from work as well.

There are lots of ingredients needed to create a thriving business, I see these six as key to ensuring you have solid foundations in place so you have control of your direction and the systems to grow a thriving business.

Here are the six key areas every café owner needs to understand and implement into their business for ongoing success…

1 – Vision
Before you do anything else it is vital to come up with your grand plan. This will be your long term road map, or your 3-5 year vision as there is never really a “FINAL DESTINATION” unless you aim to build a business with X number of outlets with a turnover of Y and sell it in a certain time frame.

As an example, say you want to drive from London to Singapore. You need to plan your route on how you are going to get there. This planning is the broad brush strokes, it is not about the finer details, they come later. It looks at the big picture and makes each stage a specific project or goal.

Running your café is very similar, you need to have a strong vision with your major destination in place. Then you will need to set up projects/goals for each part of the journey. There is no way you can ever know exactly what challenges or obstacles you will meet and need to overcome before continuing.

One additional note – Many of us are in such a rush to get to our destination we forget to enjoy the journey.

Take time to stop and enjoy the trip, celebrate each step no matter how small or painful it was to navigate

2 – Planning
If your vision is your big picture, your planning is the short to medium term actions you take to move your vision forward. Here is your planning process flow

Vision (3-5 year plan) – For anyone who registers for my emails I have a great planning template you can use, I will email it to you with a video on how to use it…
12 month goals – The 12 month goals are your 5-8 big project goals you want to achieve for the year. You can read about goal setting from an earlier blog post HERE
90 day or quarterly plan – The 90 day plan takes each individual project and breaks it down into specific actions you need to do to complete it. Once you have your list of actions to be done, work out how long each task will take and add them into your diary planning and filling the full 90 days (with small gaps for unforeseen emergencies). All you need to do then is to open your diary on a Sunday evening and you can see immediately what you will be working on over the next week.
Weekly plan – I do a weekly review each Sunday evening and look at what’s planned for the week ahead. Make adjustments based on any urgent additional work that may have come up otherwise work on projects as listed in your diary.
Daily plan – Each morning BEFORE start in to work, take 5-10 minutes reviewing your calendar, list tasks in priority order for the day plan my day ahead and then get on with it.

Planning in this way allows for far better control, avoiding getting side-tracked and it keeps you working on the big picture things which take you towards your goals.

If you are failing to plan, then you’re planning to fail!

3 – Systems
Henry Ford implemented incredibly structured yet simplistic systems into his factories so his workers could produce literally thousands of cars, each one exactly the same as the one before. Likewise any franchise or well-run hospitality business be it McDonalds, Pret or The Savoy are all run by systems, the staff simply operate the systems.

The idea is to take out the inconsistencies and create a set way each task is completed in the business. The tasks are aimed to give the customer the best experience in a consistent way every time without it feeling like a robotic process, this is also the most consistently profitable model as well.

Every café no matter what its size will have some form of systems in place. However to get a far better level of automation you need to have detailed systems for every task that needs to be performed in the cafe.

Break it down into operational areas such as opening and closing, health and safety, kitchen, front of house, bar / coffee, service, finance reporting (it’s important for owners duties to have a system as well if staff need to take over while you are away they can). Make it detailed e.g. include photos / video as well so that a new recruit can understand your operations manual visually and what to do right away.

The more planed your systems, the better your staff will be able to perform their specific roles in the business. New staff will also be able to get inducted faster, creating greater consistency for the customer. It does not take away the individuality of staff they are able to bring their personality and make each interaction with customers personal and professional as well.

4 – Finances
Knowing how well you café is performing financially weekly and monthly is incredibly important. It gives you a greater ability to make decisions based on the real knowledge not just a hunch.

The latest till systems can report everything from sales figures, sales statistics for staff and even track how successful your marketing is by tracking how many vouchers have been used. This gives you far greater understanding of exactly what’s going on in your business, which will allow you to make changes far faster based on this information.

Here are two great suppliers you can look at if you want to upgrade. and – POS-system

The critical point here is to get as much information as possible to help make decisions based on a thorough understanding of your accounts. It will help you run a much tighter (and hopefully more profitable) operation.

5 – Marketing
For many café owners marketing is either considered unnecessary as “word of mouth” is the best form of marketing, or it’s the last thing they do as there is always so many other jobs to be done.

First come up with a 12 month plan of what you want to achieve that will attract new customers in, and encourage customers then to return again.

The best approach to marketing is to do small amounts, each day. This way you can grow your café incrementally. Great marketing does not feel like marketing at all, and makes people whether they are existing or prospective customers feel they are a part of your community. Great marketing helps move your prospects to understand what you do, why you do it, or it educates them in some way.

Consider what your readers want to know, their different perspectives, think about informing, educating and educating them. Marketing is not about selling the whole time. E.G. if you have a newsletter, make it more like a magazine with articles from your chef or floor staff. New menu, guest coffee information, upcoming events, and even a staff, or supplier profile. You can include specific promotions e.g. 241 voucher, but make sure you measure their effectiveness on sales before during and after the promotion.

To get a far better understanding of how to make sure you are “doing” media NOT marketing, have a look at the Rainmaker podcast 

6 – Education & training
After running my own businesses for the best part of 8 years I have realised we never have all the answers (which is a massive change on how I thought when I first opened). Lack of knowledge from a business perspective is THE MAIN reason I burnt out and it’s the main reason why most cafes fail, the owners work themselves to a standstill. It is also the reason I believe ongoing education as vital to any long term success.

You can educate through attending conferences, mastermind groups, join membership sites, online forums and even join a local business club, all of these things will help you in some way to give you a change of perspective, develop relationships and grow your business.

Being a café owner can be very lonely place at times, sometimes is good to be able to have other owners you can talk to that understand exactly what you are going through.

It is also vital to have staff training session at least once a month, run either internally (by you or a manager) or externally. The aim is to make them better at what they do which will improve your business as well.

Running a café is complex, yet implementing these six core areas into your operations will give you far greater control of your work, deliver an increase in turnover, you will be better able to work on your business and have possibly enjoy some time with friends and family as well.

IF you would like to receive more information on how to better manage and grow your café, SIGN UP FOR UPDATES. For anyone who registers, I am giving away a powerful planning template and video on how to use it. 


Let me know which one of these six you need to work on.

Thanks for reading, Charlie

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.