How to start... a health food cafe
With more and more people realising the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, businesses are popping up all over in order to cater to and educate people about healthy eating. One such business is Pulp Fiction Future Food, a cafe selling vegetarian wholefood goodness in the lovely North-East location of Whitley Bay. Here's how the founders Rose, Paula and Mickey started their healthy food business.
Finding the right location
Paula and Mickey already had a business here in Whitley Bay selling vintage fashion and mid-century furniture, which they found worked better selling at events and online, so the property was already in place. We just had to find the business to fit it.
The inspiration, and getting started
The inspiration for our business idea came from the local fit community of cyclists, runners, walkers, and because of the move towards a trend of eating healthily for a longer future... hence our tagline "Future foods". It felt like the ideal place to open a business of this nature as there is no other venue on the coast offering what we do.
We had all worked in the hospitality industry for many years previously running bars, restaurants, cafes and hotels, so it was quite a natural progression really, and was the way we were going before Paula had an accident which put her in hospital for a spell. The food in there made her realise what a good diet she actually had. She missed her juices and was thinking how good it would be to have juice bars in hospitals so we could get our nutrients easily, so it kind of grew from that really.
We are all vegetarians and have enjoy good clean and healthy food so of course we want this to be the food we serve to our customers, otherwise we wouldn't be true to ourselves.
'Pulp fiction' became our name as we house a book exchange too, with all proceeds going to charity. We wanted to create a space where people could relax, enjoy healthy food, work from, chat with like-minded folk and enjoy the atmosphere. Selling mid-century furniture inspired us to style the venue with a bit of a twist, with all furniture being 1960's original pieces, so really all of our passions have been rolled into one with a space that has something for everyone - whether you want to sit at the bar with your laptop, gather at the booth in the window, chill on the sofa, or bask in the sun in our yard.
Qualifications and licensing
At least one manager needs to have a Food Hygiene certificate. It's good practice for all members of staff to have this, though. These can be obtained online by doing a three-hour course.
You also need a food premises license from your local authority. Some areas charge for this but there is currently no charge for this in Whitley Bay. You need to contact your local authority to start the process to get your license.
Our specialist equipment includes:
2x slow juicers at £349 each
1 x commercial blender at £300
1 x large coffee machine obtained at a catering auction for a fantastic price, saving us hundreds of pounds.
We also of course have all the usual standard kitchen equipment that you would expect in any cafe.
You really do need a passion for healthy food, along with the ability to talk to people. People who are into healthy/clean eating really like to talk about it and learn more. Many of our customers have arrived at healthy eating as a way to heal their bodies following on from illness, some with remarkable results, and they like to share their stories and discuss further what other foods may be helpful to them.
You also need stamina. We work long days as we are open 8am-8pm, so standing on your feet all that time can be hard, but you do get used to it. Multi-tasking is always a good skill as you can be making two juices, a smoothie, and be thinking about the coffees going out too, while a customer chats to you about juicing benefits or how the machines work.
We researched local area demographics online and researched our competitors, which was part of our business plan. Paula and Mickey have lived on the street for three years so know the area, people and other businesses well, which was a big bonus. We used Survey Monkey to put questionnaires on local Facebook pages to get feedback, which was very positive.
We took out a start up loan of £14,000. On top of this, the deposit for the lease of the premises was paid for.
Marketing the business pre-launch
We marketed the cafe mainly on social media. It is such a powerful tool, and yields great results. Since we have launched we have also had reviews and adverts in specialist local magazines, and a write-up in the local paper.
Word of mouth is also a fantastic way to get yourself known in a small town, so we chatted to local people, and also bumped into a lot of customers of the previous business and telling them what we were up to. We have found that a lot of them have come to the cafe.
We are located on a high street and saw many of our fellow business owners and workers on the street as potential customers so we had a taster evening by invitation for local businesses. We went to all of the shops, hairdressers etc on the street and explained what we were doing at Pulp Fiction, and gave out invites to the taster evening whereby they could come to sample our food and juices. This was a success and gave us a number of regular customers.
We then opened our doors on the Saturday to the public, and then had an opening party that evening. From the start we had a good footfall in the cafe.
The first few weeks
The first few weeks were great, but exhausting! We worked very long hours, but things got much easier as we streamlined our work methods and became better at everything we did and got to know what to expect. Preparation is key to a smooth day in a cafe and we have got that nailed now. It was great to meet new people in the cafe who were genuinely excited to have a place like ours open in Whitley Bay.
Any tips to someone else that wants to start this business?
You really do need to have a passion for health food and know what you are talking about and have extensive knowledge on the subject as your customers are most certainly very knowledgeable, and will want to engage with you, ask questions and share knowledge. It is also important that you employ staff with a passion for health food too!
Research is vital - research your equipment, suppliers. etc We spent a lot of time researching and planning and it really paid off enabling us to hit the ground running when we opened. Previous experience in hospitality is also key.