Cafe business plans are boring.
No one likes writing them, very few people even want to read them…but they can be vital for the success of a new business.
Why? Because as you write down your plans on a page, the process makes you to think critically about the how viable your concept really is.
It makes you answer hard questions like:
- How are you really going to be different from your competitors?
- Where are your customers going to come from?
- How much money do you need to get started? (and then stay afloat for the first year)
- What sales & profit are you projecting over the first 3 years?
There are a lot of long, technical business plan templates out there. This is not one of them. This is a simple, practical cafe business plan template for everyday humans.
Note: Every business is different, and this information is general in nature. It is based on my personal experience and opinion and should not be considered financial advice. Both this guide & the business plan kit is written specifically for cafes in Australia.
How to write a cafe business plan
In my view, a simple, no-nonsense cafe business plan needs the following 5 sections:
Start with your goals
Start by answering the most important, and often most difficult question: why are you doing this?
Some people are in it for the money, some are buying themselves a new career, some just want to see their vision become a reality. Your specific goals could also include how you’ll impact the community, your family (like time off) and a whole lot more.
Ultimately, you want to communicate what success looks like to you.
While you’re at it, I think it’s also wise to at least think about an exit plan. I know that seems like the opposite of what you should be doing right now, but having a strategy for selling or expanding your business will be a big deal in years to come. Some questions to ask all the partners involved in the business are: Is this for life, or are we planning to sell at some stage? How many years before we take a look at our options?
A good marketing plan should cover a number of things, I’ll focus on 2:
Who is this business for?
The most effective businesses are designed with specific customers in mind. The more specific you get, the more you can focus the plan on what they want.
The example below (from the business plan template) breaks down customers into segments based on who they are (demographics) and what “occasion” (time of day, circumstance) you can fulfil.
Now we have an idea of who they are, let’s have a look at what the competition is doing
Your Competition & Competitive Advantage
If you already have an exact location lined up, go ahead and take a look at which customer segments your closest competitors are looking after.
Be honest, most businesses have something and someone they’re just right for. Find out what it is and compare it to the segments you’re targeting.
Identify those things that you can focus on to help you stand out. Remember, you don’t have to please everyone, but you do need to be completely amazing for the customers you’re targeting.
Once, you really understand your customer & your competitive advantage you’re off to a great start. The marketing plan should also include:
- Pricing Strategy
- Promotions & Advertising Strategy
- S.W.O.T. Analysis – that is, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats of your business concept
- Branding & Store Design Strategy
How are you going to run this thing?
Yes, you need to cover mind numbing details like:
- Business structure – company, partnership, sole trader, etc)
- Approvals / Registrations Needed – Development Approvals, Outdoor dining permit, etc
- Trading hours
- Opening date
But the big one for a cafe business is Location & Lease…
Location & Lease Strategy
Now if you’ve already signed a lease there’s not a lot to see here. Just outline the detail of the site and the basic lease terms.
If you haven’t already committed to a lease, good for you – go and read our article on the 7 things to look for in a cafe location. It’s got heaps of detail on what you should be looking for.
In your plan, include a basic shopping list for your ideal site. Here’s an example from the cafe business plan template
We are seeking a 100-150m2 retail lease with street frontage. The site will have high passing foot traffic drawing from a mix of office workers & local residents. We are seeking minimum lease terms of 3 years + a 3 year option to allow a return on investment.
You can something like this to talk with brokers & real estate agents. It gives both you and them something to focus your search.
Who do you need to make this happen?
Ask any experienced cafe owner, the number one thing keeping them up at night is staff.
Now is the right time to think through who you need & what skills they need to bring. You should also make it clear what sort of hours & skills both you (and your business partners) are going to contribute.
How much is it going to cost to get started? How are you going to make money after that?
The plan should include:
- Profit & Loss Statement (also called an ‘Income Statement’) – ideally over 3 years
- Budget for opening costs. Including fit-out, equipment, stock & working capital.
- Where the money is coming from. Savings, loans, leasing, your parents…
Yes, forecasting sales is hard, even hospitality veterans get it wrong, but it’s important that you try. You can start with benchmarks & examples from other cafe businesses (a sample is included in the business plan kit) – but it’s wise to run your numbers by people who have done it before. They can provide a reality check based on your plan and location.