Commercial: How to - Coffee Shop & Cafe - tactics / tips

Why: Deciding on the purpose of the coffee shop or café will also  largely determine who runs it, where it’s located, what it’ll do and what wares and other goods and services it’ll sell. You’ll need to decide this anyway if you’re going to set it up and run it as a separate organisation, legally distinct from the church – which is advisable anyway to minimise financial and reputation risk to the church if it all goes wrong  in any way.

If you’re going to set it up as a charity you’ll need clear objectives, like ‘advancement of religion’ which is a recognised specific category of charitable activity, or ‘relief of poverty’ and other specific social and community objectives. You can of course have a mix of objectives like this, but you do need to give careful thought right from the start to exactly why you want to do what you decide you want to do in the first place.

Who: Why you’re doing it will also determine your choice of staff and volunteers, as well as the management and trustees, if you’re going to run it as a separate charity. So, will it be a small group of church members who manage it, or will it be a larger, ecumenical venture of a group of local churches – or maybe even a ‘franchise’ of an existing similar church venture elsewhere which will assume ultimate responsibility for running it?

In any event, the trustees or management group will need a good mix of skills and background and you’ll need to give some thought to where you’re going to get your paid staff and volunteers from and whether they’ll need any special training to work in your particular venture in the way you want it to work – again, all this will be largely determined by why you want to do it in the first place and the objectives you’ve decided on when you first set out on the venture.

Location: Where you locate your café will also be determined to some extent by why you’re doing it. But there’s also  strictly commercial considerations to bear in mind, like where’s the best location in terms of footfall and does your church’s location fit the bill for a  suitably heavy footfall, or are you going to have to develop different forms of ‘unique selling point’ for your café offer in order to entice people to go out of their way to come to your café and sample its wares?

So, should you rent premises on the High Street or some other busy location, or are you going to convert part of your church building to house the café? Will you need planning permission and what other practical arrangements do you need to make?

Getting the name of your new venture right is also important, particularly if you’re going to have to invest heavily in time (and money) in order to lure your customers to a location off the beaten track with very light footfall. In any case, you’ll need something clear and different to avoid any possible confusion with other projects and similar commercial ventures with similar names and aims. So you should also consider protecting the name you chose as a trademark.

Doing: What will it do apart from sell coffee and cake or light meals and snacks – if anything? Again, this will depend on your objectives and why you want to do it in the first place. If one of your objectives is ‘the advancement of religion’ then you might want to consider other activities related to that alongside the core hospitality element of the business – informal religious services in the context of the café perhaps? Or other religious meetings of one sort or another? Or if your objectives include ‘relief of poverty’ and other social and community objectives, you might want to consider using the café as a venue for advice services, counselling or the direct provision of free food for people in food poverty for example.

Questions of what it will do will also influence things like your pricing policy – ‘Eat, share, pay what’s fair’ rather than  fixed commercial pricing for instance, if you want to attract people from all income brackets rather than profit maximisation as your primary objective.

Selling: This overlaps to a certain degree with what it will  do, and both are once again  primarily determined by why you decide you want to do it all in the first place.  Will the venture aim for ethical and fair trade suppliers as a demonstration of its objectives in practice? Will it try and produce as much of its own food as possible to demonstrate its aims in practice? Will it rely on the voluntary labour of church members preparing the food and drinks either on-site or from home? Will this be primarily to keep costs down and profits up? And with what aim in mind? If one of the primary objectives is profit maximisation, to what ends will that profit be  put – and who will decide what happens to the profit?

More here. For further help and support in getting your Church Coffee Shop or Café off the ground and thriving contact Dave Nicholson at david.nicholson@smitf.org