Pop-up cafe is ideal way to get taste of street food plan

Irish Independent - Business Week - - BUSINESSWEEK -

QMY wife and I want to start an eth­nic ‘street food’ cafe but rental de­posits alone on a cafe can run to €40,000. We tried mi­cro­fi­nance, crowd­fund­ing, banks etc but there doesn’t seem to be any­where out there that funds star­tups and po­ten­tial fran­chisors. Where can I go from here? THANK you for your email. It is a lit­tle bit of a chicken and egg sit­u­a­tion. It will be dif­fi­cult to se­cure money without ev­i­dence that the con­cept is al­ready work­ing and that you have proof of trial. You will find your chances of se­cur­ing fi­nance will dra­mat­i­cally in­crease if you are able to show some con­crete sales fig­ures.

If I were in your shoes, I would try to cre­ate a pop-up ver­sion of your street food con­cept and op­er­ate at a num­ber of mar­kets in the first in­stance. Aside from you be­ing able to use this as ev­i­dence when try­ing to se­cure bor­row­ings, it would also al­low you and your wife to fine tune the model based on cus­tomer feed­back and ex­pe­ri­ences at the mar­ket.

In my opin­ion it would be a very big jump to go into a new in­dus­try and open a per­ma­nent café with all of the in­vest­ment that is re­quired without first putting a toe in the wa­ter.

I also think that it would be im­por­tant for you to seek feed­back on why all of the above in­sti­tu­tions are de­clin­ing your project for fund­ing. Is it that you have pro­vided them with in­suf­fi­cient in­for­ma­tion? Are they dis­sat­is­fied with the level of de­tail in your busi­ness plan? Have they taken a view that the con­cept will not work?

The answers to each of these ques­tions will help de­ter­mine how to pro­ceed next. It will also be vi­tal that your ap­pli­ca­tion is ac­com­pa­nied

Aby a ro­bust busi­ness plan where you are able to show the com­mer­cial pro­jec­tions, menus, op­er­at­ing model, mar­ket­ing plan etc.

For the per­son mak­ing a judge­ment call on your ap­pli­ca­tion, the main piece of in­for­ma­tion they are re­liant on is your busi­ness plan. If you feel this is not up to scratch or could do with strength­en­ing, then talk with your Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fice about pro­vid­ing you with a men­tor who will help you for­mu­late a busi­ness plan which will be ac­cept­able to fi­nan­cial lenders.

Good luck with your jour­ney.

QI WILL be open­ing a se­cond café in four weeks’ time and want to make sure that the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence is equally good on the se­cond site, par­tic­u­larly over the open­ing weeks. Any sug­ges­tions? I RE­MEM­BER the open­ing of one of our new Su­perquinn branches many decades ago where we made a ter­ri­ble mis­take.

We put big signs up on the hoard­ings around the shop, giv­ing the day and date of the launch and we in­vited a celebrity to drum up fur­ther in­ter­est. The cam­paign was a roar­ing suc­cess. Thou­sands of peo­ple ar­rived on the open­ing day and the traf­fic in the area ground to a com­plete stand still.

A suc­cess one might say. The op­po­site was the re­al­ity. The shop be­came over­crowded, the check­out queues ex­tended all the way to the back of the shop as the staff were new and not up to full speed and the car park be­came a night­mare to get in and out of.

The net re­sult was we were in­un­dated with com­plaints from fu­ri­ous cus­tomers say­ing they would

An­ever re­turn to shop with us again. We had to spend a lot of money over the fol­low­ing four months try­ing to at­tract all of these cus­tomers back again, as their ini­tial ex­pe­ri­ence had been poor.

Never again did we pro­mote a shop open­ing in ad­vance and in­stead pre­ferred to do soft open­ings. This gave the staff the time to build up speed and con­fi­dence and for us to work out any lo­gis­ti­cal de­tails spe­cific to that site.

Within around 10 days all the cus­tomers would have dis­cov­ered we were busy and we were then able to cope with larger num­bers.

My ad­vice to you is to en­sure that you bring a core team of peo­ple from your ex­ist­ing site to act as a back­bone and keep things mov­ing.

Do not pro­mote the open­ing date and start with a soft open­ing and grad­u­ally with­draw the ex­pe­ri­enced team as the new site team gain con­fi­dence. It can be a costly er­ror to over pro­mote the busi­ness in its early days.

Q AI DON’T have a very big bud­get for mar­ket­ing for my re­tail busi­ness. Can you ad­vise on how best to in­vest this? YOU will have seen me re­spond­ing to a sim­i­lar ques­tion in the past where I ad­vo­cated the best value for money is in­vest­ment in dig­i­tal me­dia ac­tiv­ity. That ad­vice still stands.

How­ever there are other tools open to you in the more tra­di­tional mar­ket­ing are­nas.

There is rel­a­tively new ter­mi­nol­ogy in re­cent years which refers to “dis­rup­tion mar­ket­ing”.

As the name sug­gests, the fo­cus is on dis­rupt­ing or catch­ing the cus­tomer’s at­ten­tion as they go about their busi­ness. One re­tailer known to many peo­ple, who spe­cialises in this area is Mat­tress Mick. His phi­los­o­phy is sim­ple. He re­minds cus­tomers at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity that his busi­ness ex­ists and points them in the di­rec­tion of his lo­ca­tion.

He has en­joyed huge aware­ness of his brand and re­tail out­let. I read re­cently that he used to own a taxi com­pany as well as his mat­tress shop and when the taxis had come to the end of their life, he had cal­cu­lated that he would prob­a­bly get €500 for each ve­hi­cle.

He then de­cided that the cars would be of far greater value to him as mo­bile bill­boards with graphic on them pro­mot­ing his busi­ness, then any money he might get for them, if sell­ing them to a garage.

He now moves these three ve­hi­cles sev­eral times per day to dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions in the ar­eas sur­round­ing his shop thus catch­ing the at­ten­tion of his cus­tomers.

He has had a film made about him­self, Stephen Fry tweet­ing about him and has ap­peared on many TV and ra­dio shows as he is now re­garded as some­what of a celebrity be­cause of his ap­proach to pro­mot­ing his busi­ness.

The re­al­ity is that he could never af­ford the ad­ver­tis­ing which would be needed to gen­er­ate the same level of aware­ness.

While some of the tools you might use to pro­mote your own busi­ness might be so­phis­ti­cated and fo­cused on on­line com­mu­ni­ca­tion, oth­ers might be more ba­sic and fo­cused on dis­rupt­ing the cus­tomer on their daily jour­ney.

There is merit in ex­plor­ing that.

It’s also vi­tal that you have a ro­bust busi­ness plan which a men­tor can help you with if it is not up to scratch

Send your small busi­ness ques­tions to him­self@ fear­galquinn.ie

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