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Thread: Opening a coffee shop

  1. #1
    giz
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    Opening a coffee shop

    Lately I seem to have more work than I can shake a stick at. Lots of little jobs. Now a friend of mine has come to me and said that a friend of hers has a coffee shop that he wants to quit, it's an existing business (always busy), only has to pay 3% of his profits to the owner of the building etc. etc. At some point I'd need to start paying for food etc. Machine repairs, that sort of thing. Now I do like to cook, but am awful on paperwork. It's all I can do just to not lose receipts for personal tax. I don't trust myself to do paperwork on a business. It would only be open 4 or 5 hours a day, Monday to Friday for the office crowd.

    Does anyone have experience of this kind of thing? Would I potentially make a good living? I might have to give up some of my clients (I clean for $25 per hour). Would it be worth it? I would like to continue working for myself if possible. Would it be a lot more trouble than I'm anticipating? I need to decide asap apparently.

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    On a cupcake mission! Lois Lane's Avatar
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    Oh gees, Giz. I only knew one person who owned a small cafe and she ended up going out of business. From what I heard, it's a very difficult thing to do. Would you have a business partner--someone who's really good with the numbers to crunch?

    Hopefully some of our self-employed FORT business people will have more lucid advice!

  3. #3
    giz
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    Nope, it would just be me. I know the shop is always busy, it's got a great location. But I've never so much as made a latte. Yes, I can cook for my family and my students, but everyday, mass quantities. Don't know. I hate to turn down the opportunity to be successful, but it could also bomb. I don't really have any money to spare for supplies and I'm not sure how that would work.

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    RESIDENT JEDI MASTER Stargazer's Avatar
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    I've been a restaurant manager before and its very hard work. There's a lot more paperwork than you could even believe (Unk knows this better than I do, Im sure). A cafe may have less menu items, but I'm sure it would be run much the same as a restaurant. You'll have to know when and how much food and paper products to order, you'll have to keep the cafe up to health department regulations, you'll probably need to do some marketing to stay in business, and you'll need to clean and run the cafe. Maybe you could ask to observe the current owner several days to see if you think its for you.

    If you are truly terrible at crunching numbers, you will probably need to hire an accountant or the current owner for a few days to get your books started for you. It's a lot easier to keep existing books than to try to figure out how to do it yourself.
    "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter."- Yoda

    "I'll just see where Providence takes me and try to look like I got there confidently." - Craig Ferguson

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    Resident curmudgeon Newfherder's Avatar
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    See if you can work there for a couple of months before you make a firm decision, and see if the current owner would be available for a time to ease the transition. Examine the books very carefully, or hire someone to scrutinize them, too.

    (another edit) Keep two more things in mind. The cafe may be open 5 hours a day, but the hours that you work will certainly be longer. The other is my #1 rule of business--employees are a pain in the ass.
    Last edited by Newfherder; 05-05-2006 at 07:51 PM.
    "The road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built in despair, even though they both lead to the same destination."
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    giz
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    Thanks Stargazer and Newf. I'd forgotten about the cleaning (I do have my foodsafe certificate so that's good). I think it would be a lot more work than my friend thinks. It would mean giving up other stuff. The guy wants to quit in a few weeks, and I think that's too short a period of time to make up my mind. I just don't think that quickly about important stuff.

    Hopefully Unk will weigh in, I'd forgotten he does this.

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    FORT Fogey Muduh's Avatar
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    Newf pointed out something that I had intended to. If the cafe is open for 4-5 hours a day, then plan on putting in close to twice that. By the time you do all your prep work and get some cooking done, serve the meals till closing time, then clean the cafe and order supplies, do books, and everything else involved, you'll be lucky to get out in even that amount of time.

    If you like your cleaning business, and can make a good living at it, I wouldn't think of changing. Running a cafe, by yourself is a huge undertaking.

    Besides, you are going through so many changes in your life right now that you don't need a lot of added stress.

    I know that this is all negative but I really want to point out some disadvantages. I've had my own business, not involving food, and it made for some long, long days, believe me.

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    Premium Member canuckinchile's Avatar
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    Why does this guy want to quit? If he was making boatloads of money I doubt he would. I would be very cautious and since my dad was a C.A. (that's a CPA in the US) I know that before you even consider it, like newfherder said, you need someone to go over the books with a fine-tooth comb.

  9. #9
    That's all folks! Unklescott's Avatar
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    I guess the first thing I would say is it ain't as easy as it seems. Many, many people think that because they like to cook, have been told they are great cooks or like to entertain that the next logical thing to do is open a restaurant. I mean geez, people giving you money to do what you do for fun? How could you beat that?
    I guess what I would be interested in knowing is what is it going to cost you to get in? What kind of volume does the business do? What is the bottom line currently? What are food, utility, supplies and maintainence costs? Is there a payroll? How many employees? Would you be able to secure a line of credit with a food broker? What condition is the equipment in? The rent is based on a % of profits? So why wouldn't the current owner just cook the books, show no profit on paper and avoid rent? Are you sure it's not based on a % of sales which sounds more logical to me.
    I guess the only advice I could give is to tell you it's a tough business and requires many, many hours of hard work. I personally love the restaurant business (I'm an idiot ).

  10. #10
    giz
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    Thanks guys. Unkle Scott, I worked in bookstores for years and people were forever saying "oh I'd just love to work in a bookshop and read books all day". And I just wanted to say "and get fired after the first day for not working, fool!" So I appreciate what you're saying. I could do this, but as Mudah pointed out, do I really want to? I want to make lots of money, I want to be flexible in my hours, and it would be nice to do something that would not cause people to flinch (as they do with the cleaning). But I think you are right, it would be too long hours, I'd have to give up the cleaning (which is steady and pays well), and I'd be even more tired than I am now. It sounds like a nice idea, but probably would be too intense for me right now. (I think it is likely very profitable. Whenever I go by there it's full to brimming, right next to a government office building so does a huge coffee and lunch trade. It's also right next to social services and across the street from the soup kitchen, so there could be potential for stressful encounters with the mentally ill). I'm still thinking on it, but I suspect on balance that it's not for me right now.

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