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Oct 4, 2004
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Hey Eveyone,

I have purchased an internet cafe, where the previous partners had a falling out of sorts. There is approximately 3000sq/ft of floor space which includes an upper floor. The previous owners had approximately 20 computers in the cafe, as 8 of them were set up for internet users and the other 12 were set up in a class room that doubled as a board room that they could rent out, but the guy doing the computer part wanted to use the class room more for computer training and the lady running the coffee side wanted to be able to rent out the board room and do catering. This is the reason they had a falling out. Anyway the location isn' t the best it is in a back alley with main street access via a walk way between 2 buildings. I know this isn't the best location for a cappuccino bar, but it's all I can afford to get into right now. I am planning on keeping about 4 computers for internet users. My problem is I need ways to attract customers.

We have been contemplating having making the second floor more relaxing by adding couches and coffee tables where people coild just sit and relax reading a book or playing a board game or card game or something. Also trying to think of ideas for the boardroom and we have been tossing around the idea of pre paid coffee cards, and doing a theme dish for our menu ie. Greek one day, Spanish another etc. maybe even dare I say it a fondue night!. What does everyone think. Any ideas would definately help as we really need this to work for us.

Sorry I forgot to mention our city is approximately 60,000 and growing rapidly also we are right down town which is currently been revitalized.

Your help would be greatly appreciated


Hi Xeno,

Welcome to the forum as well as to the specialty coffee industry.

It sounds like you have a lot of space to work with and have room to play around with different ways to draw in customers. Not having a highly visible location means that you will need to create more of a destination place for customers. Have you thought of having live music? Maybe serving beer and wine in the evenings? Meeting rooms can be good depending on the demographics of your area, but in a growing city I think your focus should be on creating a community atmosphere.

Couches and chairs woudl be great, you want to create different environments for your different customers. Also you will need to focus heavily on guerilla marketing and getting the word out to new clientele.

A book just came out by Bruce Milletto of Bellissimo Coffee InfoGroup called Essential and Effective Marketing for the Specialty Coffee Retailer, which has 20 chapters on great marketing ideas specific to coffee bars. This could be a great resource for you to get some ideas going. I would also keep asking questions like you are on this forum, subscribe to all the trae journals you can like and others, and if you can attend tradeshows like CoffeeFest .

Good Luck!

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Thanks BaristaTrainer!

Yeah I really have to get the message out. I am not sure if I want to go the beer route though. I have been in shops that have done that and pretty soon the place starts to smell like a brewery instead of a Cappuccino bar.

Thanks for the advice though and keep them coming people

I agree that you need to be a coffee bar first, if you do beer and wine make it upscale, served only in bottles ... I agree you don't want to be a bar. I managed an Italian themed cafe that sold excellent wines in the evening and european bottled beer. Just an idea :)

Don't let any smells overpower the beutiful aroma of freshly brewed coffee!

Id try to keep most of the people on the main floor, people don't like stairs.
Id think long and hard about all the food products you are considering; a focus on really good quality coffee and light lunches (sandwiches, salads, soup) can go a long way without tying up all your time.
Get free WiFi and put the PCs upstairs maybe, users wont mind walking upstairs as much, they have a reason.
Learn ALOT about coffee preparation, techniques, quality and use that info.
A really good book to start for espresso is David Schomers 'Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques'.
YOu do need some kind of advertising off the sidewalk, maybe a really nice stand-up signboard. Coffee, espresso etc should be highlighted prominently on it.
Dress up that walkway, maybe flower pots, ivy trellis, painted walls, some lighting etc. Its the entrance to your place and a first impression.
Another idea...

Hi - I'm not coming at this question with cafe experience as much as I am with corporate experience. I worked in New York advertising for a decade, and I can't tell you how many times we couldn't book a conference room within our own office for a client meeting. If a meetings has a certain number of people and they need AV or internet access, you can find yourself fighting for the board room...which is constantly booked.

If you're in a city with a reasonable business presence and limited space, you might market your upstairs room as a being available for company meetings and all-day "off-sites". These meetings usually require some catering and you could offer a selection of baked goods, cookies, and coffee...which should not be a stretch if you're a cafe. You could also position yourself as a computer training room in the same way. It's a very common corporate practice to move a meeting offsite; presumably to avoid distractions or to provide a fresh atmosphere for brainstorming. You could make calls to the HR people at major companies nearby or direct mail the admin assistants of the major partners, who are the ones usually battling for the conference rooms. You definitely would want some comfy seating areas and low tables, and you'd need to have whiteboards and easels available for setup. Plus, of course, you'd need an LCD projector and a screen for computer presentations. And if you want to go all-out, put in video-conferencing. But at least have a great speaker phone.

Then, when the room wasn't booked, put that stuff in the closet and it could be open to the public.

Just a thought.