Little did I know, when I skipped down the aisle to the soundtrack from the Lion King, that my future wife had a dream; a burning ambition to serve hipsters with frothy coffee and pensioners with trifle. To be honest, in terms of my wife’s dreams, I was hoping for something a bit more lesbiany.
We’ve been running a vintage cafe in Leeds for nearly six years. In that time, we’ve learned how you can boost profits by dancing to Tina Turner and we’ve created a novel way to save money by repurposing excess food. So, if you’re thinking about taking the plunge by setting up your own independent cafe, or just want to take a peak behind the curtain, here’s my: Hipster Cafe Survival Guide.
In-depth customer footfall analysis.
I’ve never owned a cafe before, so the ebb and flow of customers is all new to me, but slowly, an in-depth pattern of customer footfall is steadily emerging.
Mondays are quiet. In fact, on Mondays I could easily dance around the cafe naked to Nutbush City Limits and nobody would notice.
Wednesdays are also quiet. I could stand in the window and wank off to God Save the Queen, without being spotted standing in a window wanking off to God save the Queen.
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are packed. We get people waiting around the block; just like when Star Wars first came out.
So if I had to do a powerpoint presentation to prospective cafe owners about the experiences I’ve gathered so far, I would break it down like so: If you want to wank off in the window to the national anthem or Nutbush City Limits, I would do that on Mondays and Wednesdays – but don’t do it on the other days. I would highlight this bit as important.
Advertising – Get creative.
As we all know, it’s standard social practice that if you went to university 20 years ago with someone who becomes famous – in my case, Dermot O’Leary – and then you open up a tea shop in Leeds, the celebrity has to drop everything and open it; that’s just how it is – I don’t make the rules.
I tried to cash my cheque by ringing up his agent, who passed me onto his assistant, who passed me onto the assistant to the agent’s assistant. I’m not daft, I appreciate he is a busy man and it would be challenging to get to Leeds at short notice, so I asked if Dermot could mention the opening of the cafe while he was presenting the X Factor.
I was thinking something like: DERM: “Next onto the X Factor stage is Wagner…and don’t forget, Boff’s Baps is open for: hot drinks, sandwiches, panninis and afternoon teas. Now here’s Wagner with, Everybody Walk The Dinosaur.” Fireworks – applause. It didn’t happen, but on the upside, Dermot doesn’t view me as just some guy he went to Uni with, he now views me with a great deal of suspicion.
Window display wars.
The window displays at Harrods are always spectacular, but are mere rags and baubles compared to what the chemist, my neighbour in our little muse of shops, can come up with.
This year he has gone for the classic, shiny pink paper and santa rabbits surrounded by cotton wool balls, with a Gillette shaving pack as the centre piece.
I am new to all this shop game but I always thought that a chemist didn’t get much passing trade. It’s a specific shop for a specific need, mainly athlete’s foot powder and cream for your itchy cock or fanny.
In fact, I think all chemists should be renamed: The Foot, Cock and Fanny shop. I assume, from the products he’s selling, his prime customer is an hermaphrodite with trench foot, and I doubt an hermaphrodite with trench foot is going to be lured in by a Gillette bumper pack.
My missus has just pointed out that the chemist sells a wider range of products than I have suggested, and that people also visit the chemist if they have a cold or an itchy arse – fair point.
How to spy on your staff.
Sir John Harvey Jones, MBE, was one of Britain’s greatest industrialists. He is mostly remembered for his TV show ‘Troubleshooter’ where he tried to breathe new life into ailing businesses.
In order to get some ideas for my own cafe I bought his book, ‘Managing to Survive’, but I was disappointed to find that nowhere in the entire book did he advise that you could increase profitability by spying on your staff from a bush over the road – which is what I did yesterday.
The business leader also didn’t advise taking pictures of them from a stranger’s bedroom – which I also did yesterday.
I ended up in the bush and the bedroom because I managed to get a job fitting shelves at a house directly opposite the cafe. And I think anybody in my position would have done the same.
The internationally renowned business guru also forgot to recommend ringing up your head waitress – in my case Vinegar Tits (she’s a bit bossy) – and revealing that you know what she is wearing and where she is standing; just to see if she can still serve hot panninis (only £4.99!) whilst in fear of being shot through the window by a crazed gunman.
I am glad to report that Vinegar Tits passed this standard business test with flying colours.
Eat my biscuits! Eat my biscuits!
Owning a cafe means that sometimes you come into contact with strange characters; characters that have slipped through the net and inhabit the darker corners of society.
Every Wednesday morning a man stands in the doorway and shouts: “Dalek don’t work! Dalek don’t work!”
It’s not clear if it is a broken toy Dalek that he’s referring to, or he’s infuriated by the lack of job opportunities for Daleks. Nobody has the balls to ask him.
Now, we’ve attracted another random shouter. By the end of the year we’ll have gathered enough to form a very angry choir. This new guy looks like Oddbod from Carry on Screaming and shouts: “Eat my biscuits! Eat my biscuits!” He then ambles to the counter, pulls some biscuits out of his pocket and we have to eat them.
I would like to take this opportunity to tell the heavenly spirit or body that designates cafes for people to shout at, that we are running at full capacity, but my rival down the road, Big Keith’s Butty shop, is taking on new shouters. Thanks very much.
How to make you kids a pair of boots for the price of a loaf of bread.
When you first start out in the cafe business, you end up with a lot of stock left over because you are not attuned to your customer’s demands. It’s gut-wrenching to see your profits go straight into the bin, so to combat this, I would eat whatever was left over. In our first week of trading, I think I ate 15 quiches and drank 24 cans of Lilt.
Then, obviously, I wised-up and started using the excess food to make clothes for my kids.
My most popular creation was this pair of boots I made for my son, which are finely crafted from two loaves of Warburton’s Toasty bread.
After road testing them for a few days, he concluded that they weren’t very good in wet conditions, or dry for that matter. Plus, going outside in them increased his chances of being attacked by pigeons.
I even got a commission to make a pair of bespoke bread boots from my good friends Paul and Nina Gillette. By commission, I mean they didn’t ask me to do it. I just made them and left them on their doorstep, but I hear they brought joy to their kids for up to 2 minutes before they fell to bits.