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First Cafe-How Much Food?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I am about to purchase my first cafe and realized quickly I have no idea how to determine how much food to buy right off the bat. It's been closed for some time now so I don't have the previous owners info. It's a small cafe, seating 10 and I suspect I'll have a ton of take out business due to the courthouse and the fire station situated across the street. Breakfast/Lunch only with baked goods too.

So how much do you think I should plan for?

Help!
post #2 of 21
depends on the menu, kitchen staffing, how labor intensive is the prep, how much you can afford to tie up in inventory, how often your purveyors will deliver to you, can you afford the minimums for the deliveries ect. details would help.
post #3 of 21
[QUOTE=LisaD;274591]I am about to purchase my first cafe and realized quickly I have no idea how to determine how much food to buy right off the bat. It's been closed for some time now so I don't have the previous owners info. It's a small cafe, seating 10 and I suspect I'll have a ton of take out business due to the courthouse and the fire station situated across the street. Breakfast/Lunch only with baked goods too.

So how much do you think I should plan for?

Help![/QU

Opening inventory depends on your menu, your hours of operation, location and how many people know you are opening and when. Also most firehouses cook their own food. Make sure you order enough take out containers as they don't go bad. Good Luck:chef:
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post #4 of 21
I am pretty much in the same position you're in. I recently relocated my business to a small city and expanded my seating, hours of operation, and menu.

As you know, most items purchased through distributors come in large quantities- 6 #10 cans/case. The problem in a small place is often having too much of something rather than too little. I should own stock in ziploc bags as I find I open a #10 can, use what I need for a recipe, and freeze the rest. Perishables are another story altogether!

I guess what I'm saying is that worse things can happen than running out of something. Naturally, you don't want to start out with half your menu 86'd, but having to sub cheddar for provolone won't turn customers off. You'll figure out the balance between ordering too much/having your $$ tied up in inventory and running out in no time at all. Until then, I'm sure there's a supermarket where you can grab a head of lettuce and a handful of tomatoes until you can get a delivery.

Good luck! I'd love to hear more about your cafe when you have time.
post #5 of 21
Start off small, use costco, Sams, Or a Cash and carry. When you get a feel for the volume then you may look into a Food service company. If you are by the courthouse I would offer a delivery service. Make sure you have killer signiture sandwiches, Salads, wraps and a daily special.......Once you have your menu figured out just break it down and get your order.............No one can answer this question, but you......Bill
post #6 of 21
In many cases it is better to buy items in #303 cans or other sizes froim the local discount supermarket. Many products are more expensive in #10 cans. The other factor is buying large unless you can use fast, ties up your money in inventory. Also if you cant use the whole can , you then have to bag and store the rest. KEEP IN MIND WHEN ORDERING FROM WHOLESALER YOU ARE PAYING SHIPPING AND TRANSPORTATION CHARGE. You are better off buying what used to be called 'direct purchase', meaning in the door used that day.
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post #7 of 21
Very, very good advice from Chef Ed--DO NOT tie up your money in a large inventory. This was a rookie mistake I made my first year in business.....I had to live lean to come back from that one. Better an emergency trip to the grocery store than having hundreds--or thousands--of dollars tied up in inventory when you desperately need that cash!
post #8 of 21
Thread Starter 

RD & Cosco

Thank you all so much! I spent the majority of yesterday visiting Restaurant Depot and Cosco to see pricing vs other distributors and have a sheet showing which prices are better. Knowing that larger companies have minimum orders, I thought that going this route would be better-at least for the time being.

I've figured out that in order to make a salary I'll have to bring in 55 customers a day with an average check total of $10. That's a little less than a sandwich and a drink, so hopefully I'll be able to do that by adding my baked goods & delicious sides.

Just found out the police station is also across the street-and they were huge customers when this guy was open. Now to start the grass routes marketing!
post #9 of 21
LOOK OUT FOR THE COPS. HEY WILL EITHER WANT IT FREE OR AT DISCOUNT.:confused:
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post #10 of 21
At least you know to stock up on doughnuts.....ha! ha!
post #11 of 21
55 covers with a 10 dollar check average is easy in a good location. just factor in some wiggle room for all the unforeseen expenses. when i opened up my first business i had to do the costco, sam's club and restaurant depot runs also. i hated doing it, but you gotta do what you gotta do i suppose. good luck.
post #12 of 21
Who is going to pay $10 in a small cafe for breakfast or lunch. Its more like $5 to $6 so you need 90 to 110 covers. and thats not including the $3 orders for pastry so maybe even 125 covers to make $550.....$10 a cover would be a nice dream, but in the real world its not realistic....................Bill
post #13 of 21
With a ten-seater cafe I'd give serious thought to really up-scaling the whole menu, decor, etc. if the demographics will allow it. Who knows, there might be pent up demand for just such a place.

Man, there are lots of sandwich shops around.

Here's a tip: it's not just a cliche, firemen really do cook a lot. I wouldn't count on landoffice business from the fire station. You could very well have a rude shock coming your way if you do.
post #14 of 21
The fire department is right out my back door and I see them about once a week. I know that they spread their dining dollars around to many of the local places. My sandwiches are $5.95-$6.95. With a drink for $1.50, and maybe a $2 dessert, they're right at your price of $10, but many days, they only want a bowl of soup and a coke for around $5.75 incl tax.

I would love it if each of my customers spent $10 a day for lunch! Some do, but many don't.

I think my husband uploaded my cafe menu to my website. Give it a look if you have time.

portablepantrynh.com
post #15 of 21
Looks good. Keep us posted on how it goes.

One thing - I've always hated odd-even pricing ($5.95, $11.99), etc. Psychologically it might work but I'm doubful. I'd rather just see $6, $12. This makes menus easier to read and I have a feeling your clientele already rounds up in their minds anyway.
post #16 of 21
A ten seater is really small.. the cafe I cooked at was a 25 seater, with a patio for another 30 in the warmer months. We got most of our food from a supplier only because our sales rep was amazing. We didn't even come close to their minimum order in the colder months but we more than tripled it when the patio was open so she let us coast through those months.

Your menu looks great. Do you offer salads? I have a salad suggestion for you... grilled chicken with a cranberry-raspberry spicy dressing over mixed greens.. I make this all the time and I include feta cheese, kalamata olives, cucumbers and thinly sliced red onion in the salad mix.
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post #17 of 21
I think a 1/2 Sand, with a cup of soup is a good idea in times like this........I don't like the idea of Cafes not having a lower cost alternative. I own a employee Cafe and have pricing from $1.25 to $4.75 I realize people don't have $5 to spend everyday.........Some people on some days only want a $2.25 bowl of soup. Think of the working Guy and Gal that have 2 1/2 kids at home trying to make ends meet. No one can figure a working person spending $10 in today world.........Bill
post #18 of 21
Leeniek, that salad sounds amazing. Mind if I use it more a veg special at the restaurant some night?

Chef Bill is definately right, a soup and sandwich dish is a great idea. We have them on the lunch menu at the restaurant I work at and its a big seller and the great thing is its easy to make. If you get your sandwich line down pat then you can churn these babies out very very quickly. Great idea for a cafe.
post #19 of 21
Expect to do a lot of coffee in the morning. Lunch will be essential to your business and you will have to get people in and out of the door in a hurry. You will have an hour to 1.5 hours do do the bulk of your business so make sure you can do this in a hurry. It will do you no good to have people come in and occupy your 10 seats for 45 minutes at at time at $7.95 per person. That will just take up your whole lunch service window. So basically 1 minute service, 10 minute sit down. Lots of soup and maybe premade sandwiches, condiments in single serve packages, and to go boxes made up. Make it easy to order, easy to pay, and easy to carry out. Salads, pasta salads, etc. Customers should come in and not have to "learn" your system. CC swipe, no signature required, cash, no checks.
post #20 of 21
Line_grunt you can use it for sure! I don't mind at all. Did you want me to post the recipe for the dressing? We used to sub portablello mushrooms for the chicken for vegetarians. Actually we had a note on the menu that they could sub ports for the meat on any item, and we had the odd vegan come in and I always had an olive oil/balsamic dressing for them to have with their salad.
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post #21 of 21
The cafe I was at did a lot of coffee, especially in the early mornings. People would walk in on their way to work, get their coffees and go. We did have a few for breakfast during the week, but the bulk of our breakfasts were on the weekend.

I made all of our sandwiches to order and they were all done on the panini grill, but my chit time was usually 5-7 minutes unless it was the summer and we were plowed on a Saturday or Sunday. Then the chit times were a bit longer but not by much and if they were on the patio, they didn't mind waiting as they wanted to sit and watch the world pass by anyway.
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