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Pros and Cons of owning your own cafe/restaurant

The most common business that people come to seek advice about through the Bec is owning a café. Either purchasing an existing café or starting up one from scratch. Café’s can be very rewarding and challenging at the same time and I am sure if you ask any good café operator they will tell you the same thing. So before you start here are a few tips and a look at the up sides of Café ownership and downsides.

The number 1 persuasive point to working for yourself is exactly that. You are working for yourself. No Mr Boss breathing down your neck, telling you how to dress, tapping their watch as you walk in the door 2 minutes late. Yes, you can, bee self-employed. Then you only have to answer to yourself and of course to the needs of your customers.

Owning your own cafe means you get to express your entire creativeness and indulge those culinary desires you could previously only dream about. This starts with the decor of your cafe, the logo, the name, the menu to decide upon. Basically everything,

The opportunity to meet lots of lovely, interesting people in the community. This is a real plus from the cafe trade. When a customer turns into a regular and you remember their orders, know where they like to sit and in the long run get to know them. I've met quite a few friends this way over the years.

If your coffee shop is successful, the financial incentives should be worth it. You have direct influence over your monetary success or failure.

You get to work from your heart and not just for the money. It's a happy life when you are doing something you enjoy with passion. An added bonus of having your own restaurant/cafe is that you never really pay for food. Yes you buy lots of stock for the business but then you end up eating breakfast and lunch there and you'll probably take some leftovers home for dinner. Dollars saved.

Owning a cafe isn't just another job. It's a totally different lifestyle. Prepare yourself for long hours, working on weekends and getting called in on the rare occasion you do get a day off. Say bye bye social life. Ensure your partner realises the situation too!

The financial risk: Generally, there's a lot of your money that could go down the drain. A number of people have gone into Café’s unprepared & have lost their life savings Only ever borrow from the bank or invest an amount that you are prepared to lose. I decided on a number that if lost I know I can still come back from.

Unsteady income: In the first few weeks to months there won't be much money to put in your pocket at the end of the day. Re-investment, wages and cost of sales all have to be covered before you get your share.

The food industry is also very price sensitive, which means demand for your food and coffee will go up and down significantly as a result of price changes. This leaves owners with a very fine line to walk, with cost of goods and labour and making a profit.

  • You never get to walk away from your own business. When things are get tough, you have to stick it out and try to turn the situation around. No clocking off at 5pm, that business is yours 24/7.
  • Banks are often not too keen on the self-employed. It can be hard to secure loans in the beginning and don't even think about a new mortgage. In due course, however, these fickle creatures will soon turn around once you have an established successful business. But initially you will probably already need to own your own home or have some other assets to go guarantor on any loans.
  • The last point I can think of isn't really a negative to owning a cafe but its something that makes life harder. Many would be cafe entrepreneurs don't realise the number of skills you have to have up your sleeve. At any one time you should be ready and able to perform as barista, chef or waitress. If you can't perform all of these jobs in your cafe it could make life very hard for you. What if someone calls in sick? What if you suddenly get slammed for take away coffees and have to help on the machine? Experience in all these positions is necessary as well as being a good manager.
  • Look, it’s obvious there are going to be good and bad sides to any job in life. I must think the advantages outweigh the risks or I wouldn't be following through with my initial dreams. I believe if you really want/need to make it work and are willing to give the business everything you've got then you'll get your rewards. Most of the negatives mentioned above are issues that will surface at the beginning of the business. Give it time; establish processes and cafe life will soon become straightforward and pleasant. I can't wait to open up my little place and I'm prepared for whatever it takes to ensure your cafe is a joy to visit and work in.

The Business Enterprise Centre is a community based not-for-profit organisation established to foster the growth of business within the Central West of NSW. We are managing agents for the NSW government Small Biz connect Program, Australian Government ASBAS and NEIS program. To find out how we can assist your business contact the BEC on 63620448 or email