How to create a Cafe Business Plan when you hate doing paperwork

Not everyone get’s excited about the idea of sitting down and writing about their dream cafe lifestyle … in a document that makes their Accountant or Finance person happy.

In fact, most people would rather just jump straight into the deep end and learn from their experiences along the way.

But if you take the time to really think about it, jumping straight in means you could end up with something really unexpected and not much like the dream cafe you have in mind at the start.

Imagine for a moment what would happen if you ask a builder to build a house without a plan.

Would you get the right number of bedrooms? Would there be windows and power points in the right spots? What would it be built out of? Would it be well positioned on the land for privacy, airflow or views? Who knows what kind of oddball building you’d end up with!

Which is why having some sort of plan for your cafe business is important.

At its most basic level your business plan is the way you communicate to others the things that are most important to you. It’s a document that provides clear answers to questions like –

  • How many customers does it seat (at capacity)?
  • How many staff are needed for the smooth running of the cafe?
  • How many other cafes are in the neighbouring area?
  • How much storage space is there for stock and inventory?
  • How much money do you expect to make each week?
  • How will you get more customers in the future?
  • How will grow your cafe business?
  • How do you plan to ‘exit’ from your cafe business?

You can be forgiven if looking at a blank business plan template makes your mind go blank; or re-live some horror exam essay writing experience from school. So here, we’re going to break it down and make it as relatable and easy as possible for you to make a cafe business plan that’s understandable.

There are five key elements to a great business plan

  1. Having a cafe business vision – long-term destination
  2. Knowing your goals and milestones – short-term destinations
  3. Having some idea of how you will measure your success
  4. Documenting your plan
  5. Taking action

1. Having a Cafe Business Vision

This is about having a mental picture or feelings about what your cafe business is like ‘in the end’. It’s about having a few details around that ‘dream cafe’. How big is the cafe? Where is it located? Are you working in it? What sort of music or vibe does it have? What types of customers does it have?

For people who aren’t great with words, this could start out as a ‘vision board’ – a collection of pictures, quotes and trinkets that have emotional meaning for you. That you can later translate into a paragraph or two for a document.

2. Knowing your Goals and Milestones

This is about figuring out what you want and need to achieve … each day, week, month and year. Anything goes here. Getting more people to walk into your cafe than walk passed. Selling more muffins today than yesterday … those sorts of things.

There is a difference between Goals and Milestones, even though both of them help you reach short-term destinations.

Milestones don’t usually have a fixed date or target number to hit. Instead they have conditions that need to exist to signal you are ready for more.

For example, you might set a milestone to hire a full time cafe manager when your monthly profits hit $50,000 for 3 consecutive months.

Another milestone might be to open a second cafe after being in business for 5 years; or to sell your cafe after growing it for 5 years.

Goals on the other hand are a little more like your ‘school timetable’ and having tests. They give you dates (like when the next exam is or when school holidays start and end, sports days, school festivals etc), they have specific details that describe what’s expected (what topics will be covered in a test and what a passing grade is) and they are achieved or not (like grades and test outcomes – you pass or fail and need to repeat).

For example, a goal for your cashier may be – during July to sell dine-in customers take-away coffees when they leave; with a target of four coffees per day.

Another goal might be to bank $25,000 in ‘takings’ for January (your slowest month which usually has $22,000 in takings).

If you’re not the type to sit down and brain storm a whole bunch of things, then post-it-notes are great for capturing your Goals and Milestones. When you think of something, get it down as soon as you can on a post-it-note and just keep collecting them. It doesn’t even matter if you have a bunch with the exact same thought on them.

Not really the neat and tidy type? then grab your phone and voice record Goals and Milestones as they come to mind. There are even apps you can install that will transcribe your voice recording to text (you could even copy and paste that into your business plan later).

3. How you Measure Success

Once you have some Milestones and Goals, you need to figure out how you will know when you have achieved them.

Let’s take the goal of selling four take-away coffees per day (from above). First you need a way to keep track of these coffee sales … and you might need a way of keeping track of these coffee sales that’s seperate from your usual records.

After all, if you’re not measuring how many coffee sales are being made under these special conditions (dine-in customers buying a take away coffee when they leave), there’s no way to know that you’re succeeding. And if you’re not measuring, how will you know if you need to make improvements so you can make those extra sales?

It’s the same with your Milestones. If we take the one about hiring a full time cafe manager from above. Unless you are keeping track of your monthly cafe business profits, there would be no way for you to know that in September, October and November you made profits over $50,000 so you’re now ready to hire someone.

Measuring Success is about working out what success looks like for your cafe business and having some way of measuring your efforts so you know when you’re winning. Having this information in your business plan helps your lender, banker or accountant work out if you know what you’re doing as a cafe business owner.

If they identify any gaps in your business plan, then they can help you with their professional advice.

4. Documenting your Plan

Now all these bits and pieces – the Cafe Business Vision, Milestones, Goals and Measurements get brought together into a single document called a Business Plan.

This is the document you share with others to help them understand your cafe business and ambitions as a business owner.

Sounds easy … but like everything that you do for the very first time, there are bound to be things you just don’t know about.

You can’t know what you don’t know!

Cafe Coach

Which means there’s going to be whole areas of business that you might not know about right now, so they’ll be missing from your business plan until you do a bit of discovery (or get professional advice).

Got gaps? That’s when you break it down into smaller bits to make it easier to work out what your Milestones, Goals and Measurements would be for an area of your cafe business. Especially one you might not know much about (like staff rosters, supplier contacts or lease agreements) to begin with.

To avoid risking the money you have pulled together to start your cafe business, it is important to have as much of your business plan completed as you can. Even if you’re not entirely confident that the numbers or ideas you have put in the document are right.

Simply having something down in a document makes it easier to make better decisions and as you uncover new things they get added to what you already have.

5. Taking Action

When you have a Cafe Business Plan, you are ready to jump into your cafe business.

Unlike before, you now know what it is you are going to build. You even have Goals, Milestones and Measurements to make sure that you are building what you expect – to the standard and quality you want.

Now if you’re thinking this makes sense … but you’re still staring at a blank piece of paper and can’t get started – a Cafe Business Plan template for reference and inspiration comes included in the Café Entrepreneurs Boot Camp in a Box home study kit.