Running a cafe – the views of an owner - Hilton Smythe

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Buying a Business - Success Stories

Running a cafe – the views of an owner

Jay Patel, the owner of Café Moods, situated within the Salford Quays/ Media City, talks about running a cafe and the challenges he’s faced during his tenure.

Why did you decide to buy a café?

Well I was an IFA since 1990 running my own firm and my wife who was a Project Manager. However she wanted a change and a new challenge.

It all started when my wife and her friend had been out for the day shopping in Leeds and they went to enjoy a cup of coffee at O’Briens café. They were really impressed with the products and high quality of the service provided.  So we started to look into the idea of owning our own café.

We knew we wanted to go down the franchise option and started to enquire through a variety of franchise options. Finally we settled on an O’Briens café as we liked the brand and how things were run.

Why did you choose the franchise option?

As we both had no experience in the café trade it was an easy way to pick up some new skills. O’Briens offered a training program so we could learn how to make coffees and gain the necessary skills needed to run a café. As the disciplines were already in place we could fit into the business and our lack of knowledge was already covered.

Marketing was included in the franchise, therefore we were able to understand the business, and it meant that we didn’t have to worry about trying to portray the brand correctly or targeting the correct market.

What finance options did you consider?

We had three options regarding the finance. We could remortgage our house, we could dip into our savings or we could borrow the money from family.

We opted to use our savings as we wanted to start with a clean slate and not go into debt. With the savings we were able to buy the franchise licence, all the equipment and stock.

What Challenges have you faced whilst running a café?

We first started trading on 27th January 2004. However, soon after my wife fell ill and couldn’t manage to run the business, so I took over running the business full time as well as looking after my wife and the children. This meant I had to sell my existing IFA practice and put all my effort into the café to make sure it was successful.

However, in 2010 the O’Briens brand fell into difficulty and the brand wasn’t performing as well as anticipated. This meant they sold the UK side of the business to investors. Unfortunately, the investors didn’t seem to understand the practices needed to run a café franchise, this meant the marketing was neglected and the processes that standardised the franchise were not correctly put in place.

During this time I had a very difficult decision to make about the future of the café.  I was not happy about the franchise, so I considered my options and decided the best option would be to go it alone. Therefore on May 23rd 2011, Café Moods was created, this is the brand I have today. This was a huge step and challenge as we had been helped previously and now we had to start afresh.

To start we had to create a whole new brand. We ended up hiring a marketing agency and created a new brand image and menus to go with it. In addition we had a new website built. Which I was really happy with, we had made a brand I thought could be successful, and be able to satisfy my target audience.

How do you market the business?

Our marketing revolves around themes. Each year we have a new theme, and that will be the focus of the year. For example the theme for 2014, was health and well-being and for 2015 it will be to focus on coffee and loyalty card proposition.

During the festive period we are focused on our Toy Appeal for Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. Every year we ask our customers, suppliers and staff to donate to our toy appeal. As we continuously support Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, the toy appeal is one of our favourite times of the year as we get to give to children who otherwise may not receive gifts at Christmas.

As for the New Year, we will be focusing on the quality of our products. Our coffee is a 100% organic Arabica blend, which is sustainably grown on smallholder farms in Latin America. We are exceptionally proud of the quality of our products and particularly proud of our coffee. The coffee we serve has won one gold star at the prestigious Great Taste Awards 2012, 2013 and now 2014.

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