It’s the day you’ve been planning for months, maybe years. A day of definite mixed emotions: excitement but also (likely) fear of knowing this is the beginning of something really big for you and your business. Your project is no longer in the dreaming and planning stages; it’s the real deal, the big leagues. Now is what all of your hard work and tireless effort has been about.
The Soft Open: To Throw a Party or To Not Throw a Party?
Before your business’s grand opening you should consider throwing a “By Invitation Only” party. Send out invitations to people that you know: friends, family, business neighbors, people who have had a hand in the business, your landlord, city leaders, and anyone else you’d want there.
If you decide on this type of party, plan on giving away your products for free. Sure, it might be a financial hit, but the exposure and positive feeling you give to people will undoubtedly pay for itself in the not-too-distant future via word-of-mouth advertising.
The goal of the party is to get as much exposure from it as possible and you want them to experience what you’ve created. Create hype and excitement around your business and get everyone excited about your true grand opening. The people invited to this party are meant to leave wanting to tell all of their friends about what they just went to. The attendees can also serve as your very first clientele if it goes well. In theory, these people should become your biggest fans, and advocates to tell their friends about the new cafe in town that they must check out.
It’s natural to be scared of this free-for-all party concept. You’ve spent all of this time planning and creating, for it to be given away for free that day? But the best way to look at it isn’t in terms of what you’ll be losing, but more about what you’ll be gaining. Yes you won’t be pocketing any coffee sales that day, but what you will be gaining is something even more priceless: word-of-mouth marketing. You couldn’t begin to put a price tag on this type of marketing.
Of course, we do realize that you will incur some costs in the process of this party like the invitations and labor. Despite this, we still think it’s a great event that has proven to do very well. The immediate customer base it can build for you into the future is so valuable seeing that you’re going to need people coming into your doors when you’re a brand new coffee shop. You’re going to need ways to draw enough customers into your business to make sure you’re on track to break-even and get into making a profit. This party is an investment that is an unparalleled way to market right off the bat and it gives you a chance to work out all of the kinks in a more forgiving environment before you officially open. You don’t want the experience to be a terrible one though, so make sure you’re as prepared as you possibly can be with refreshments, proper employee training, and an enjoyable atmosphere. Being that it’s a free and festive party, it’s likely people will be more forgiving and appreciative.
Preparing for Opening
Your actual opening day will be a whirlwind so that’s why it’s important to plan ahead of time to avoid the stress. You’re going to want to schedule extra employees to make sure you have plenty of hands on deck to handle any rush you may encounter that day. This also serves as a great learning experience for your staff to make sure they’re all able to handle real-life customer situations and you can be there for any help they may need. You can be there to nip any bad habits in the bud; it’s easier to instill good habits than to change bad ones that have already been established. If you see something happening, you can address it and hopefully prevent this from happening again.
Your Business’s New Phase
You’re now starting a new phase in your business’s life. You should feel proud of what you’ve accomplished, putting things all of the pre-opening pieces together to make it to where you are now. Now it’s time to move forward because this next phase is going to be quite a ride and you’re going to want to buckle in tight. It’s the most important phase and what you’ve been working towards: being in business and to start serving customers.
You should have a bunch of projections about how your business is going to perform, but it’s time that you take a step back from them. Once you celebrate your opening, reality is the new projection. If you had projected that 120 people were going to come into your shop the first day, but only 50 people do, that’s the new reality of the situation. From now on, it’s about using real life to make predictions and to improve upon each and every day you’re in business. This includes making adjustments to staffing to avoid overstaffing and operations to make sure everything is working smoothly.
Your Real Grand Opening
Don’t make the mistake of coinciding your first opening day with your grand opening! We recommend that you do a grand opening a week or two after your official opening of your coffee business so that your employees get into a solid routine and all of the kinks have been worked out. Once you feel that your staff is ready, it’s time to announce your grand opening to the public. This involves a heavy promo phase to attract as many people as you can to the grand opening. You can hang your “Now Open” sign in the window, place ads, hand out coupons, and introduce yourself to your fellow business neighbors. You’re now in business.
It’s important for new business owners to realize that you probably won’t break-even your first day, first month, or first three months. This limbo period is frustrating but pretty inevitable for new businesses, so make sure you have enough in the reserves to pay your bills when you’re working towards making a profit.
Clear your schedule, you’re going to need to make yourself as available and present to your employees as you can. They need to see your dedication to the success of your business as well as you need to be there to observe and teach. When you do this you can establish a sense of trust with them that they will carry on the quality customer service and drink quality that you expect of them. This is also important for your customers to see too! Seeing the owner involved and interacting with the customers is a great thing to experience for the first time in a new coffee shop. You shouldn’t be in your office doing administrative work during your first few weeks open; small details should’ve been handled before opening! Be on the floor for your employees and customers, after all, you are representing the entire business.
Strive for quality from the very day you open. This is people’s first impression and, if it’s terrible or even just mediocre, that is what will stick in people’s minds. So make sure they walk out of your business satisfied and wanting to return. Do whatever it takes to gain those lifetime customers.