Building a Better Cafe Business in 2019

Building a Better Cafe Business in 2019


When I started this blog a few years ago it was always my intention to use it to post about my experiences of running a business.  I’ve written about various topics along the way but I’m now reviving the primary thread.  I intend to get back to talking about what I’m doing to try and build a better cafe business in 2019.  Tied up in the aim is to also help other people do the same by avoiding my mistakes along the way!

One reason I am certain of for the lack of recent posts is that I led a business (Norse) into liquidation in the first half of last year.  This kind of event affects you personally and professionally, it dents your confidence and makes you consider whether you know anything about running a business.

It certainly hit my confidence and to some extent that was probably a good thing.  I am an optimist at heart and tend to operate around the ‘it’ll be alright in the end’ area of the spectrum.  I now know for certain that it won’t always be alright. If you get things wrong it can lead to a fairly awful situation that hurts many people.   Maintaining a positive ‘can-do’ mindset is pretty ingrained in my character, but a heavy dose of self-awareness about the frailties of that approach comes in handy when making decisions in the future.

Lots of people have been very kind to me about the failure of Norse and they have made many excuses on my behalf.  Whilst I can take a certain amount of credit for what the business achieved in terms of guest satisfaction, national coverage and industry recognition, I know that I am a huge reason for why that business ultimately failed.  A distinct lack of proper systems for managing the business is down to me.  Had I been more on top of the daily running of things, with access to accurate metrics for holding the team accountable, perhaps the result could have been different.

This realisation has informed the steps I have subsequently taken with my original business ‘Baltzersen’s’ and it is this ongoing process that I wish to share on this blog.

In August 2018 I engaged well regarded coffee shop consultant John Richardson to help me make some changes in the business to consolidate it’s position.  We’ve now finished that period of consultancy and in our final meeting we fleshed out the plan for the businesses in the short-term.   My family situation, with two children under 5, means I am loath to be looking at opening additional locations outside of Harrogate at this time.  I want to be around for my wife and kids over the next few years and don’t like the idea of needing to be somewhere else at opening time each morning.  With this in mind the focus for building a better cafe business over the next couple of years will be:

Continue to make positive changes to make Baltzersen’s more efficient and profitable.
Build systems to oversee operations and allow more management from a distance.
Develop additional revenue streams working within the existing overhead.

I’ve spelled out the direction I’m planning to travel, I hope you’d like to come with me.  I’m kicking things off with something that was the basis of much of the work that would follow and yet it’s something that so many hospitality businesses fail to do, the blog is titled: ‘How to cost a menu (and as importantly why?)

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