1. Order products with plenty of time to actually arrive
Avoid the nervous wait to see if you'll actually have chairs for customers to sit on.
2. Never trust the council when they say “it only takes 4-5 weeks”
City of Sydney Council moves about as fast as an arctic glacier. We put in our development application for a sign and outdoor seating the day after we signed the lease. This now means our application has been in process for 8 weeks without an answer! I feel certain that if we had hounded them more things may have gone a little quicker. We left it 3 weeks before the first call to see how it was all progressing and they hadn't even started! Only after that first call did things get rolling, oooh so slowly.
3. In your first few days – go simple
Prepared or not service will be slightly crazy in those first few days/weeks. The processes are still being worked out and fine tuned. Its best, therefore to just do the basics well. We spent days thinking of an awesome menu only to scrap half at the end of the week because certain things just didn't work. You need to think about what the capacity of your kitchen can handle - lots of different dishes means more ingredients to order, increased stock to store and generally slower service time. We've culled our menu down to the best dishes. These dishes can be concentrated on, perfected and the whole operation is altogether smoother and simpler.
4. Don’t have your opening party the night before you actually open
Bad move on our behalf. Not quite sure what we were thinking when this decision got made. Worries about your first day only get multiplied by worries of also having a successful opening night party. Try chatting to friends and family whilst also working out in your head all that needs to get done before the next morning. Factor in clean up, next days food prep, baking and a little bit more baking and you end up going to bed at 2.30am in the morning and waking up 1.5 hours later at 4.30am to start your very first day of trade. Not to be re-lived.
5. Prepare blog entries in advance of busy times
Yes, as I'm sure you were only too aware of my lack of blog entries over the past 2 weeks. Working 14 hour days does not bode well for successful posts. Would have been good to have a few pre-written posts up my sleeve.
6. Start looking for good quality staff, early!
Mad rushes to hire anyone who walks in off the street don't usually lead to quality staff. We've found a few gems this way but we've also found plenty of duds too.
7. Get a sign
This could depend of your location and frontage but we definitely need a sign. A sign was something seen as not essential in the build up to opening and in hindsight this was right, it wasn't. But now things are up and running and people are trying to find us or even just see the shop from across the road, the lack of signage is becoming a distinct disadvantage.
8. Get your website up prior to opening
Oh to have free time again. I remember, not so long ago before Palomino opened lounging about the house thinking that I really should write the content for my website. Old lazy Liesel decided that it would be much easier once the cafe opened. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Bad lazy Liesel, you will have no time once your shop opens and the website will become the monkey on your back gnawing at your thoughts and generally making things feel unfinished.
9. Spend time on your budget – 20mins of guess work is not enough is it Liesel? No it is not.
I got off pretty lucky on this one as we did finish the cafe under budget. However, I did see how it could so easily go very wrong. We did a rough budget and thought it was fantastic. Fast forward 2 months and we realise we'd forgotten to factor in costs like carpenter fees, general building costs, astronomical legal fees and shelving. We saved our butts by not spending as much in other areas.