Career Resources > Tips for Setting up Your Own Café

Tips for Setting up Your Own Café

In recent years, an artisanal café wave has been sweeping Singapore, spearheaded by a fresh crop of young graduates with bright, entrepreneurial minds.

Local culture brews up the regular visitation of cafés as social, affluent, and downright hip. Given the avid patronage of young student muggers, Singaporeans’ experimental palates and the national pastime of eating, setting up a café can be a tantalising taste of a profitable business. But if your would-be café is to appeal to the cake sage, latte lover and occasional hipster, here are some (of the many) things you need to know before you can fulfil your culinary dreams.

Getting in the Zone

First of all, your new café has to be officially compatible with the existing residents and businesses. As far as possible, your new café has to comply with the character of the extant community. The café de’ founder must have approval from the Housing Development Board (for setting up in HDB heartlands) and Urban Redevelopment Authority when it comes to location, location, location.

You should also not forget the Food Shop License issued by the National Environmental Agency, which is mandatory for the retail of food and drinks across the board. Once you’ve checked off a vexing list of government regulations, you can then proceed to make the first quantum leap.

Ace the Taste

Your next step would be to make sure that your fare is not only tasty, but also doesn’t give your guests projectile diarrhea. For instance, as a (relatively) inexperienced barista, it is highly likely that your first few cuppas’ would be a far cry from satisfactory. A handful of trusty food samplers in the form of your critical (but nonetheless loyal) friends and family would go a long way.

In addition, don’t compromise on the calibre of your cakes and coffee beans; you’ll need to do your homework and source for and liaise with reliable food suppliers that would swear by the quality and safety of your ingredients.

Making It Your Own

Cafés in Singapore are a dime a dozen; to stand out, consumers will be looking for novelty and innovation (cronuts, anyone?). Don’t be afraid to be fiercely abhorrent of normalcy and ensure that you make your café unique.

One big way to do so (and establish the sacredness of your café) lies largely in its ambience. A tasteful interior will set an established café apart from what we locals call a mere ‘kopitiam’ (no-frills coffee shop). A quirky row of artistry sprawled across the wall and the right mix of slow jazz and chanson tunes will make for a very laid-back atmosphere. It will also encourage your guests to recommend your joint to their friends!

The Big Biz Plan

Last but not least, your café’s business plan should include carefully crafted plans on budgeting, operations, loans, pricing plan.….. the list goes on!

Business plan notwithstanding, your café in its infantile phase would require you to bleed red ink, at least for a while. As a newly-baked business owner fresh from the oven, you should expect to have no salary to call your own. You could take up freelance or part-time jobs on the sideline, or give tuition if you still remember how to solve your simultaneous equations.

It also helps to have a contingency plan on hand. Abiding by the law of good ol’ Murphy, it is important to think of what can happen and plan for unexpected situations accordingly.

In short, to start a business is no piece of cake, but religiously adhering to the nitty-gritty details can bring you one step closer to showcasing your novelty and your very first café.

Thinking of setting up your own café? Gain some F&B experience first!