It’s the quintessential small business: a cozy bakery café filled with trays of delicious desserts, the fragrance of baked goods fresh from the oven, and a casual assortment of bistro tables and chairs inviting patrons to recharge for a few sweet minutes. To get your delicious concept to this idyllic stage, you’ll have to match sweat equity with sweet equity; but once you take your first loaves of freshly baked bread out of the oven to the delight of customers, you’ll know what the perfect business feels like.
Tackle the most formidable business-launch task: arranging for funding to open the doors of your bakery café. Lenders look for good credit, a well-designed business plan, a competitive analysis and financial projections. So put all of your cupcakes in a row before approaching banks, venture capitalists and well-heeled relatives. You’ll also need a list of commercial equipment, furniture, light fixtures and electronics so investors can see that you’ve thoroughly fleshed out your business model.
Come up with a delicious marketing plan that creates a “personality” for your bakery café so future marketing, advertising and public relations efforts spring from a solid base. For example, you choose a French name, theme and décor plan for your bakery café and plan a menu that’s inspired by Parisian bistros. Hold a brainstorming meeting with friends and relatives to come up with a list of Paris-inspired ideas guaranteed to attract patrons.
Follow the business mantra “Location, location, location” when perusing neighborhoods for the best bakery café locations. This may not be your call if you’re taking over an existing shop, but if you have a say in the matter, look for neighborhoods that target the patrons you seek to attract. For example, a French-themed café fits nicely into a neighborhood loaded with upscale shops, boutiques, bookshops and other quaint eateries. To make sure sites on your short list of venues are properly winnowed down to one, “stake out” each neighborhood during weekdays, weekends and evenings to assess traffic patterns.
Think creatively when tackling the job of refurbishing, decorating or renovating your rental space. If you’re decorating on a shoestring, plan to do some or all of the carpentry, plumbing and decorating tasks. Explore inexpensive ideas for turning your space into a welcoming bakery café. Install photographic wallpaper recalling Parisian street scenes, for example, to fill large wall expanses, or turn to a theatrical prop house for large posters and decorative accessories to complement the furnishings and color palette you’ve picked.
Announce your café opening well in advance of the big day. While you create your menu, complete these tasks: Purchase insurance coverage, oversee the installation of equipment and appliances, and file for permits and licenses required by your municipal government. Put the final touches on your grand opening game plan. Debbie Fields handed out free cookies in malls to promote her delicious baked goods. Don’t be afraid to follow her lead by doing something fun to debut your eatery so the public gets a sweet taste of the respite your cafe promises.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.