Feedback on my business plan [in progress]

affenarschgeil

New member
May 2, 2014
1
0
From my longtime experience in forums with a specific knowledge base, a lot of eyes are probably already rolling, but please bear with me--I take learning seriously. :coffee:

I just graduated with a BA in English with a concentration in Writing & Rhetoric (what a cliché, right?). It was several weeks ago, while in class, that a well-respected poet and professor of mine mentioned something that had been on my mind for most of my life: the area in which I live is sorely lacking a real café. She had taught in several major metropolitan areas in the northeast that all had such establishments where she could go to write. Over the next week, several more random people (always in Starbucks, or other major chain) asked me if I knew a privately-owned coffeeshop in the area where they could just go to relax and enjoy good coffee. I'm a first-generation American from an all-German family, so I've heard complaints about this lack my whole life--there is a heavy importance put on afternoon coffee & cake in the Fatherland. It got my mind racing, since I'd been deciding what to do with the [minimum] year I'm taking off before applying to MFA programs. (This is not to say that I'm treating this as "just something to do"--it is not. Owning a foodservice establishment has been a lifelong dream.) So in doing my research and putting together a business plan to assess feasibility, Google has directed me to this forum 8-9 times out of 10. So thank you to the community for the information I've been able to gather so far. I will now do my best to outline what I have for industry-experts to scrutinize.

First, the location:

It's a free-standing, historic building with original wood flooring and fireplace. The building is well-maintained and is overflowing with charm. It's just off the main street of a very busy, high end downtown area. It's only 1,300 square feet, but has room to expand with an outside patio area (my father is a carpenter, so this isn't an expense I'd worry about). I could easily count on an extra 1,000 square feet of outside space. Cost is $3,500 per month, but is probably negotiable. This downtown area has many well-regarded restaurants I've patronized, but only one dedicated café, which, in a word, sucks, at least in my opinion. I always question my server at each of these restaurants if they'd recommend any place to get coffee in the area, and none of them have ever had an answer. These restaurants also seem to consider coffee an after-thought.

The concept:

Return to an English coffeehouse idea, where there is an importance put on exchange of ideas, reading, and learning. I plan to have bookshelves with a "take a book, leave a book" motto. I will also offer intro & intermediate writing workshops taught by MFA students from the nearby university, with higher-level courses occasionally taught by professors. This downtown area hosts international poetry and literature festivals (as well as surrounding areas), and the poets/writers always patronize local establishments after readings. I'm confident my concept will attract poets and authors from these festivals. But this patronage alone won't sustain the business, so my main focus will, of course, be delivering a product of superior quality to anything in the area that espresso-connoisseurs will flock to. (It's worth mentioning many other international events occur here, including major tennis tournaments.) I also plan to host public debates, with teams required to do their research (with citations, to be scrutinized) and present their arguments in a classic debate model, with a moderator and questions from the audience. These will cover important local issues, possibly national issues should this idea take off. Possibly even eventually offer webcast of the debate, should demand exceed seating capacity. I aim to educate the community on important information and let them make up their own mind, rather than leave this up to the news...

I know this goes against the high-turnover model, where uncomfortable furniture is employed to push consumers out the door to fit more in, but I'm personally not a fan of this idea.

Equipment:

From my research, La Marzocco seems to consistently receive the best reviews from owners and operators. I have a base of equipment I know I'll need, but I know I'm missing important little things. Please feel free to add.

La Marzocco FB80 4 Group (4 group may be too much, but I'd rather err on the side of excessive)
La Marzocco Über Boiler
La Marzocco Swift Grinder
Roaster: undecided
iPads
Under Counter Fridge: undecided
Large Storage Fridge, will possibly build external walk-in.
Ice machine: undecided
Furnishings aren't a problem either. Industrial-strength tables can easily be built by me/father.

I'm also undecided on whether to purchase commercial percolators or experiment with siphon brewing. (I can't think of one place within hundreds of miles that siphon brews). I may offer both. I am, however, unfamiliar with siphon brewing, and would probably have to take a business trip to Japan to educate myself. :smile:

I plan to have 2-3 iPad stations for customers to order from and pay at, with one Expo monitor. If the app I have in mind for this doesn't exist, I will make it/have it made. I'm hesitant to have a pastry display case, because if I photograph my offerings, I can control how it looks at all times. I can also then use the iPad for up-selling: before checkout, offer baked goods with pictures, et cetera. Then, when picking up at the counter, I or my employees can then attempt to up-sell again. At this point, I will have samples to offer (this, in my mind, cuts down on the taste-test-only customer that samples just to sample after seeing it in a case. Also saves money and room on a giant case.)

Anything baked will be done by me, offsite. Offerings will start small, with limited-edition runs advertised on social media/website to bring people back in and test the market for particular items.

I also plan to offer a small wine list. I'm very tempted by the excellent margins on alcohol sales. Writers are also known to enjoy wine. ;-)

About me:

My first job, at 16, was at an ice cream parlor. About 8 months in, I was made key-holding Shift Manager for the night-shift. I spent about two years here before moving to commissioned electronics sales. I spent another two years here, having been offered jobs at higher-end places like Sound Advice and one local privately-owned place that sold equipment that cost more than the house I lived in, but ultimately decided to take a job at a high-end restaurant, because the other two were more career paths in a career I didn't want. While at the restaurant, I became the go-to guy for managers. Anytime anyone called out, I was called in, even if I'd never worked that position before: I worked just about every position here for almost three years. After this, I was done working for other people, at least for a while. I turned a lifelong hobby of thrift store shopping into a business, which I've run for almost three years now. I sell very high end rare clothing, antiques, art, et cetera. I have picked up several consignors along the way without even trying. I have 100% feedback on eBay, and am a Top Rated Seller. For what it's worth, I also earned my Eagle Scout at age 14 and have generally put in leadership positions in anything I've done.

In my spare time, I experiment in the kitchen. I've picked up and experimented with vintage and antique coffee-making equipment, as well as modern items. I do not have experience with commercial espresso machines, save the fully-automatic unit I used at the restaurant. I do, however, know how a cup of espresso should taste--I've sampled many offerings from all over the world. I'm not worried about learning my way around the machine, as I'm a good reader and a quick learner. I would not open doors until my employees and I can count on a 100% efficiency on a perfect pull.

I have estimated my overhead to what I think is pretty accurate. From my number crunching, I think what I have is feasible. I'm writing this in one sitting, so I've probably neglected to mention some things.

I appreciate the time anyone puts into reading this and am looking forward to reactions. Thank you! :coffee:
 

ensoluna

Banned
Apr 29, 2014
2,823
0
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
wow..... that was as long as War and Peace. perhaps tad bit longer.....
i have never owned any cafe in my life, so I can not really give you constructive advises (i am in the farm/factory/laboratory and exporter side of the world... the beginning of coffee.. and you will be at the last end of the stick). it seems like you have figured out exactly what you want to do. for that, i congratulate you.
Even though I can not really give you specific advises on coffee house, but if you have any other general business questions or Green/Roasted coffee questions, please let me know. I would like to help. Good luck to you.
 

ensoluna

Banned
Apr 29, 2014
2,823
0
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
By the way, I really appreciate you explaining everything in detail, however, not whole lot of people is willing to read till end and be able to give you sound advises. probably better to make it short and concise. Just friendly advise.
 

PinkRose

Super Moderator
Staff member
Feb 28, 2008
5,219
6
Near Philadelphia, PA
But this patronage alone won't sustain the business, so my main focus will, of course, be delivering a product of superior quality to anything in the area that espresso-connoisseurs will flock to.

In my spare time, I experiment in the kitchen. I've picked up and experimented with vintage and antique coffee-making equipment, as well as modern items. I do not have experience with commercial espresso machines, save the fully-automatic unit I used at the restaurant. I do, however, know how a cup of espresso should taste--I've sampled many offerings from all over the world. I'm not worried about learning my way around the machine, as I'm a good reader and a quick learner. I would not open doors until my employees and I can count on a 100% efficiency on a perfect pull.

As I was reading through your very long post, I was wondering if you'd ever get around to mentioning a passion for coffee. And, I finally read something that has possibility.

As you search this Coffee Forum, and read some of the posts from others who have shared the same dream, you will see a lot of replies from members who have lived it. Some were successful, and some were not.

You may want to re-think a few ideas. For example, I can't imagine you personally doing the baking off site as well as running the business. I don't think most municipalities allow that anyway, (unless you already own a licensed, inspected bakery that you haven't mentioned).

Weekends are generally slow on the Coffee Forums. I'm sure you'll receive some more responses as time goes by.

Rose
 

BFRoasters

New member
Apr 13, 2014
62
0
My advice would be to stick to one thing at a time. If you are running off on a lot of different angles it will be hard to have excellence everywhere. If your town has a really good bakery, use them, then if it becomes feasible to bake yourself work it in. But you have to bake in a commercial setting.

As owner/operator expect very long work weeks with yourself stretched thin. Organizing debates, being a somm with the wines etc, will take away from the coffee aspect of it. I have worked in the food industry a long time, and the places that do very well generally are very very good at one thing. Of course there is always room to branch off, experiment, and add new things. But I would start with just coffee, making sure that everything is tip-top there, then add in the other ideas and test them. That way, you always have your tried and tested base of a coffee shop to fall back on. If no one goes for the wines, at least you won't have a 100,000 dollar wine cellar to deal with.

Good Luck.
 

tazzadiluna

New member
Sep 26, 2011
207
0
My advice would be to stick to one thing at a time. If you are running off on a lot of different angles it will be hard to have excellence everywhere. If your town has a really good bakery, use them, then if it becomes feasible to bake yourself work it in. But you have to bake in a commercial setting.

As owner/operator expect very long work weeks with yourself stretched thin. Organizing debates, being a somm with the wines etc, will take away from the coffee aspect of it. I have worked in the food industry a long time, and the places that do very well generally are very very good at one thing. Of course there is always room to branch off, experiment, and add new things. But I would start with just coffee, making sure that everything is tip-top there, then add in the other ideas and test them. That way, you always have your tried and tested base of a coffee shop to fall back on. If no one goes for the wines, at least you won't have a 100,000 dollar wine cellar to deal with.

Good Luck.

Sounds like great advice to me. I concur!
 

Musicphan

Active member
May 11, 2014
1,508
2
Kansas City
My 2 cents..

Equipment - La Marzoccos are solid machine that will be work horses. I can't see needing more than a 3 head.. I personnally work off a 2 head Linea and can handle most volume. The swift grinder helps for faster production (and training of new employees is easier) but most 'purist' don't like the Swift. I also prefer a normal grinder when pulling straight espresso shots - a bit more control Not sure on the Uber.. .seems expensive to me. The rest of the equipment - make sure you have LOCAL repair services. I would also simplify your offer for 'drip' type coffee... I assume you want to do pour overs since your looking at the Uber. SIMPLIFY.. choose that or the siphon etc.

Making your own Point of Sale - MISTAKE.. I can't stress this enough.. there is so much risk exposure with being hacked these days. Use a product which has been test... you don't want to get a notice from the card brands that you have been hacked... $20k to get that problem fixed.

Baking was already commented on... you will quickly run out of time (or have no life).

Good luck..
 

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