Business startup

How to open a successful café

According to the founders of Beiko craft doughnuts, not only does the success of a cafe or bar depend on the quality of the products it serves, but the customer experience as well. It is this experience that makes Beiko stand out from other cafes, making it one of the in places to go in its neighbourhood.

Why doughnuts? “Why not, everyone loves doughnuts!” exclaims Antoine El-Khoury, co-founder of Beiko doughnuts in Quebec City. It was his idea and his desire to start up a business that led him to meet his partner, Alexis Bégin, with whom he now shares Beiko's success.

How did they get there? We went to meet them to learn more about their path and to discover how they successfully opened their cafe.

One step at a time

01 Have THE right idea

The idea for Beiko came to Antoine during a trip to Ohio, where he visited a craft doughnut shop, which inspired him to open his own doughnut business. “I thought to myself that this is the kind of doughnut that I would like to be able to eat in Quebec, and nobody is making them,” he recalls.

Beyond a good idea, it is important for you to be passionate about your business project. This passion will be your fuel and your motivation to help you get through the most difficult steps.

02 Do plenty of research

A market study is an essential step that will allow you to gather relevant data to start your business (or not). It will allow you to determine if there is a sustainable market for your business, help you to make better business decisions and reduce the risk of often costly mistakes.

03 Prepare a business plan

After a conclusive market study, Antoine started working on his business plan for a potential craft doughnut shop. Once again, this is a step that you must not neglect in order to facilitate strategic decision-making and favour the success of your cafe or bar. Your business plan will be your best tool to get started and not lose sight of your goals.

Antoine met Alexis after he finished his business plan. He spoke to Alexis about his project and gave him his plan so that he could take the time to think about it. “I read the plan that evening and I called Antoine the next day to tell him that I was in,” says Alexis.

About advertising

As absurd as it sounds, in the era of social media, offering a nice-looking product that photographs well can really play in your favour. Beyond the customer experience, how your cafe and your product look can be a major advertising springboard for your business.

Beiko has benefited greatly from the organic advertising that comes from sharing photos of its products on Instagram, because not only are their doughnuts delicious, they also look good. “It's still our main source of advertising and it's free,” explains Alexis. This is an important aspect to consider when you're coming up with your plan.

04 Test and adjust

Before opening their cafe, Antoine and Alexis tested their product on future consumers. After perfecting a few recipes in their kitchen apartment, they offered their catering services.

This step was an opportunity to gather comments from their clients and tweak their recipes in anticipation of opening their business.

05 Go for it!

It was after almost two years of research and planning that Beiko opened its doors in Quebec City. Despite a few bumps, the two owners are proud and satisfied with the path that led them to the big day. “There were a few surprises, but that's to be expected when you start up a business. The important thing is that we learned a lot along the way,” says Antoine.

The two entrepreneurs are convinced that the steps they followed contributed to the success of their cafe and recommend them to anyone who wants to start a similar project.

Lessons learned

Through their journey filled with successes, but a few complications as well, the two entrepreneurs learned a number of lessons, two of which stand out in particular.

Allow more time

Not only does opening your cafe depend on you, but everyone you work with as well. Not everything is in your hands and delays are practically inevitable. “We suggest to people who are starting up to double the time they expect it take to set up shop,” says Alexis.

If everything goes smoothly and you don't have any setbacks, then good on you. It's better to open sooner rather than later and risk disappointing potential clients.

Put your friends on the backburner (temporarily)

When they're looking for suppliers, many entrepreneurs spontaneously decide to do business with friends, in order to save money. Unfortunately, this approach usually has more disadvantages than advantages.

Sometimes friends don't see their commitment to another friend who requires their services as absolute. They often expect more freedom and more understanding from you if they are absent or late, which affects the expected time to complete your project.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, it is often better to choose suppliers that you don't know and who will treat you the same way as all their other clients.

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With the participation of

Antoine El-Khoury & Alexis Bégin
Founders and owners of Beiko