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Cafe secrets: What will set you apart?
What sets you apart from the next café will be education, training and innovation.

Cafés have gained popularity among people of all age groups. A café has come a long way from being just a place to grab a bite and drink. Today, it is the centre of social interaction where people come to meet friends, socialise, discuss business, conduct official meetings and interviews, or simply connect to the online world through free Internet.
In the coffee-loving nation of the UAE, coffee shops are creating a stir in the rapidly expanding retail landscape. It is not surprising to know that more than 3.5kg of coffee is consumed per person annually. With international franchise models competing with new home-grown and neighbourhood cafes serving speciality coffee, the UAE is becoming a bustling place for coffee lovers and aspiring entrepreneurs. The franchisee trend is slowly shifting in favour of the latter.
The growing demand for coffee has positioned the café as a lucrative and viable business in the food and beverage industry. Nevertheless, it is vital to remember that the success of a cafe depends on a number of factors such as consumer loyalty, location and atmosphere. Success means maintaining high standards and consistency in the service and quality that people can get used to.
The hard part is to establish a successful brand in spite of the strong competition that exists. An entrepreneurial spirit, a positive attitude, good work ethics, and a genuine interest in appealing to the consumer's palate are just as and even more important than the affordability to own and run a cafe.
As with all start-ups, it is advisable to do thorough market research about the location, demographics and demand before investing money and resources into this new yet exciting venture.
It takes considerable time to open for business following contracting the real estate, seeking approvals and permissions, making structural modifications, having the fit-out done and sourcing quality coffee and equipment and even when open for business, it will take as long to get the cash flow and to start breaking even. Start-up costs should never be underestimated and can sometimes be an unpleasant surprise. It is therefore important to plan well with financial forecasts and a healthy contingency budget.
Just as location is vital for real estate to command a good price, so is it for a café to maintain its reputation and subsequently its revenues. Zeroing in on a venue with heavy footfall, possibly near an anchor store, car park or kids' entertainment area does go a long way. That said, what works for one, does not necessarily work for another. It is therefore important to research your neighbourhood, while keeping in mind culture, affluence and proximity to the type of people you want to attract.
Training baristas and service staff is crucial to the success of a café, as they are the very reason for repeat customers. While it is as important to procure the right coffee and equipment; one should never downplay the role of a barista. It is their skills that bring out the difference in cup quality.
It is advisable never to lock in with suppliers on long-term contracts until you have had the opportunity to gauge their level of commitment to ensure the success of your business. A reputed coffee supplier for example, will be fastidious that the coffee you serve reflects well on the brand of the product that sits on your shelf. A supplier who does not remember that your success is their success is not worth your business.
A successful café management demands passion and pride in the product being offered. A cafe needs to offer a perfect combination of environment and coffee where guests love to come back to enjoy their speciality experience. Café owners and operators must remember that the process of improvement and learning is ongoing and customer satisfaction is vital for their profitability.
Finally, like every other business, education, training and innovation is what will set you apart from the next café.