10 questions to ask before opening a cafe

Have you ever feel the need to set up a cafe, where you get the satisfaction of growing a legion of foodie fans who will lap up all your food selection? That you are blessed to experience the cacophony of chatter and discussion over hot cuppa and home-baked cakes on a daily basis? Perhaps even an appearance on a globally-syndicated reality tv programme where your culinary talents can be displayed for all the see?

Well here is some practical advice for you to get the ball-rolling.

1. Market research

It is always important to start any business with market research as your gut feel may not reap positive results. Just because you know your different coffees does not automatically qualify you to set your own successful joint.

Find out if your dream cafe has a market demand and if your current financial position can help sustain slow customer growth for at least 6 months.

2. Preferred ambience

You can then proceed to decide on your preferred cafe ambience. It can start with the simple details like the colour of your table cloth right down to the specially designed lighting. Seriously consider how you want your customers to feel because studies have shown that this atmosphere does have a direct bearing to their spending patterns with your cafe.

3. Food

In the age of globalisation and the easy access and sharing of information, it is unrealistic to have a slogan that boasts of a secret formula or recipe. No matured or discerning customer is going for this buy-in.

In contrast, you can highlight your food as the healthier choice or even suitable for diabetics. Now this is a much clearer unique selling point.

4. Don't just turn on a radio station

Be more creative with your selection of in-house music. Perhaps have a juke box that has different daily music theme. You can also invest in an in-house band that takes song requests.

5. The walls do speak

Remember to utilise your wall premises to further boost an unforgettable eating experience. You can decorate with reviews of your food or even encourage past customers to pen their thoughts of your food. You can also show your social concerns by educating your customers about fair trade. Simply giving them a panoramic view outside your cafe is just a thing of the past.

6. Name your product

Having unique names can help make your food offerings more memorable and creates a sense of ownership. You should create a contest to get innovative names that endears to your target audience.

7. Differential pricing

Seriously consider creating a differential pricing other than the obvious lunch and tea special. Perhaps you can encourage healthier choices at lower prices to set your cafe on a different pathway.

8. Cooking masterclass

Have regular cooking masterclass especially targeted to youths and employees from MNCs. In the case of the former, you can open a new opportunity of training during lull periods. In the latter case, satisfied customers, through word of mouth, can spread your cafe to their HR department and you could open a new food delivery arm of your company.

9. Jam sessions

Having jam sessions and theme parties creates a sense of warmth and spontaneity for your cafe. However, you have to set aside some special rooms for regular clients who may want to conduct confidential and quiet meetings.

10. Social media

Create a strong social media presence where your fans can post selfies, wefies and positive eating experience for your cafe. You can also allow more demanding customers to post their criticism and you respond accordingly. The message is you must have fun in connecting with your audience.

Here are my last words. Creating a cafe from scratch is never easy like a walk in the park. But through trial and effort.

Best of luck!

Colin Ong Tau Shien is a current NTU adjunct lecturer in entrepreneurship/e-commerce, and also a popular A-levels tutor in economics and general paper.