Running a specialty cafe is one of the hardest jobs. It can also be one of the most enjoyable ones for those who love what they do. Here is a list of 10 questions to help you on your journey, whether you are new or a seasoned pro. 

1. What makes us a specialty cafe?

Specialty is about craft and premium. The four areas to consider are coffee, food, service and ambience. If you are or aspire to be a specialty cafe all those elements need to be in sync and at the right levels. For us, the coffee experience is a core part of being a specialty cafe. However, all four elements have to match up.

Specialty Cafe

2. What makes us different?

Really, what makes us different from other specialty cafes? Maybe it’s the type of food we do, our brand and personality is different, fun, quirky, etc. Or we have a cultural aspect we leverage such as Japanese, Vietnamese or Korean style. Maybe it's our location or our hours. Maybe it’s our impact or our purpose. Maybe it’s a keen focus on sustainability. Whatever it is, it should be clear as to what our difference is.

Specialty Coffee

3. Who is our target customer?

Deep down, we have to choose. It’s almost impossible to serve all customers well. Yes, it’s tempting and ultimately a lot of people drink coffee. However, if we don’t know who our target customer(s) are it’s hard to do everything else. Some people only want caffeine at the lowest possible price. Some people want the best experience in a slow and enjoyable setting. Others want great coffee with awesome customer service and are willing to pay for it. There are no wrong answers other than trying to cater to every customer. 

And here is the secret: just because you choose a few customers, it does not mean you will lose all other customers. It means that you will be able to serve your core customers much better than trying to serve everyone at a mediocre level. 

4. How are our prices aligned with our strategy?

Okay, so we are a specialty cafe with a difference. Let’s have a good look around. Are we providing a better experience than others? If we are, then are our prices sufficient to do the following? i) signal our premium position and ii) have sufficient margin to continue to invest in quality products, an amazing team and the customer experience. 

Sure the price has to be reasonable. However, if we cannot charge more than large chains and other non-specialty cafes then what are we doing and how can we continue to maintain and invest in our specialty experience?

P&R Cafe

5. How do we select our partners and suppliers?

How do our suppliers and partners help us achieve our strategy of premium as well as the difference we have chosen? Yes, price always matters. However, if in our selection process all we focus on is the price and all the “free” things we want, then how does this help us deliver a specialty cafe experience to our customers?

How many of our questions are about quality, sustainability, support, market trends and expertise? What about reliability and customer service? The way we serve our customers has to line up with the way we buy and partner with our suppliers.

6. What is our team philosophy?

How do we select, develop and retain great hospitality people? Our team is a key part of delivering a specialty experience. Do they know what we stand for? Do we focus on customer experience as a team as well as all the other operational metrics that are important? Our people serve our customers and carry out our vision. A small team of exceptional people aligned to a clear vision can provide a much better experience than a large dysfunctional group that lacks clarity.

Pablo and Rusty's coffee roasters

7. What is our marketing like?

Does our marketing line up with our strategy? Do we interact with our customers? Do we educate our customers? How do we interact with current and future customers to create great conversations and engagement? Our marketing should be an extension of our strategy, the experience we aim to provide and what we want our customers to know about us.

Pablo and Rusty's cafe CBD

8. What does financial success look like?

Whatever it means to us. Whether it’s sales, profit, multiple venues, or selling the business. You define your success. Finance is not a bad word. Sustainable profitability means your business will be able to continue providing the experiences you want in the future.

Pablo and Rusty's Cafe CBD

9. What does ultimate success look like?

This is about the ultimate success. Maybe it’s about being the most sustainable cafe. It may be the best-rated cafe. Maybe it’s about fighting climate change. Maybe it’s about being a showcase for art. Maybe it’s about touching thousands of lives. Maybe it’s about the team of people we work with. Defining our ultimate success is important.

Pablo and Rusty's Cafe

10. How do we make what we do fun?

Running cafes is a hard job. Potentially one of the hardest. If you and your team don’t enjoy it or don’t love it, it’s going to be a hard slog. How can you make it more enjoyable for you and your team? Fun is not the opposite of hard work or professionalism. Fun is about enjoying the journey, the experiences, the hospitality and living what you love every day.