October 6, 2016

Expanding your business

Growing from one café to many

Many of the successful cafe owners I speak with have set up one cafe and are now looking for what’s next. Making the leap from opening one successful business to unrolling multiple sites can be both challenging and rewarding. There are a number of common problems that cafe owners usually experience at this point.

Two of the key problems are:
1. Their time is tied to the business
Many business owners want to expand their business but they just don’t have enough time. Their plate is already full managing their existing business. Taking on the design, fit-out and operation of a new cafe only adds to an already heavy workload. Without good systems and a management team in place it can be difficult to separate your time from the business to allow yourself room for growth.

2. Their brand has not been tested in a variety of markets
Opening in a new location often means introducing your brand and product to a new set of customers who may respond differently than your existing customers. Understanding who your customers are and finding the right location needs to be considered afresh for each new site.
To explore how other businesses have successfully overcome these challenges, I sat down with Daylan Isai, the owner of Little Birdee Expresso, to discuss his business journey, plans for expansions and what he has learnt along the way.

Staying small for long enough to get it right
Little Birdee Espresso began with one site on the Ground Floor of a commercial office building and the idea of bringing together great food and convenience. Within six months the business grew to two sites and was being approached with offers to open cafes in other locations. Rather than continue in rapid growth Daylan says he chose to stay small for a period of time to consolidate the business before further expansion.
“We chose to stop at two sites for a while and invest in getting the right people and systems in place to allow us to grow, while also delivering on the promise that we have made to our customers.”
While some business owners choose to unroll new sites as quickly as possible, this strategy of staying small and getting it right has allowed Little Birdee to set up the systems they need for growth, refine their product offering and train the team they need for further expansion.

Refining the Product
Understanding the needs of the customers allows your business to refine the product offering before expanding. While communicating closely with customers is important at any stage of business, this is particularly valuable in the early stages to determine customer demand for new products. When new businesses expand too quickly, assumptions can be made about what customers do or don’t want, which can be costly for the business. Accessing feedback from customers can be done in a number of ways, Little Birdie Espresso is looking at the use of technology to assist in this process.
“I am excited by new technology and how we can use technology to communicate with both our customers and our team. We have recently launched a new ordering app which allows our regular customers to order in advance and also provides the ability to give our team feedback on their experience.”

Attracting the Right Team
The power of your brand is not just about attracting customers, but also about developing a staff culture which will attract the right team for the business. Clearly communicating through your brand the vision and values of your business allows you to attract people who share your vision. Taking time to invest in training staff will assist when you do come to grow the business as you will have a team who know how to operate the existing business, freeing your time for growth.

Establish the Systems Needed for Growth
Before you can free your time from the business you need to be able to document what you do in such a way that other people can learn to do things in the way that you do. Having a documented operations manual and a system for training staff before you expand will allow you to know that your business is on track. This will allow you to create consistency across multiple sites.

As an interior designer, I work closely with hospitality businesses going through the process of expansion. I have found time and time again that creating a reliable team of people, both inside and outside of the business, will make the process much smoother for you as you grow from one café to many.


Alisa Newey – CEO, Renew Design
Renew Design is an Interior Design consultancy specialising in working with hospitality businesses to open new sites on time and on budget, while also delivering a remarkable experience for their customers.

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