How a simple business analysis changed Anita's life
beachside cafe needs hospitality rescue

That's me

If this story is something you can relate to, contact us and we will help you moving forward

Anita found this nice little café close to the beach that was for sale.

It included a flat on the first floor with beautiful sea views. Since her husband passed away two years ago and the last of her sons finally moved out, she was looking for something to retire. But it still needed to provide her with a moderate income as well.

So it all looked pretty good. She signed the deal on a sunny Saturday afternoon when the café was buzzing with beach visitors and she could see herself already standing behind the counter chatting to customers.

“She could wind down on her balcony upstairs and read a good book – paradise!”

The first few months were exactly as she imagined – she got up early, took a walk at the beach, then opened her café to welcome the first customers, helped out in the kitchen to make breakfast, prepared for lunch, started cleaning up at about 2pm and closed her café at 3pm. At that time the sun was still up so she could wind down on her balcony upstairs and read a good book – paradise!

But it didn’t stay that way. First it was just that she was too tired from the busy day before to go for a walk in the morning. Then she had to multitask one weekend and run around from kitchen to counter because one of her staff called in sick short notice. It topped it all when her bookkeeper released the first figures and told her that she doesn’t make any money.

“What does that mean, I don’t make any money”

“What does that mean, I don’t make any money,” she thought. I make money every day, the till gets balanced at the end of the day and the money put in a little safe at the back. When suppliers come I pay them. Every week on a Sunday I pay my staff and every month there is enough left over to pay rent, electricity and gas. That can’t be right, there must be a mistake.

So temporarily she brushed it off and kept doing what she was doing, just with less enjoyment as at the beginning. The afternoons – even the sun was still up – were filled with organising her paperwork and paying the bills, the slow start in the morning was used to check stock levels and re-order, and slowly it became clear that there was not much time to sit back and relax.

“She wanted to visit her son in the city”

Anita decided to take a week off – she wanted to visit her son in the city who just recently got married and expected his first child with his new wife. Since she took over the café she barely had time to talk to him on the phone. So she organised her staff to extend their hours and look after her shop while she was gone.

What enjoyment is was when she arrived at her son’s place, he looked so happy and his wife showed already quite a belly! Anita cherished her time with her family – until she got a phone call. “Hi Anita, sorry to bother you, but I don’t know what to do,” her manager in charge said. “The fridge broke down over night and we have to discard of all the food. What do you want me to do?” Oh bugger! Anita took a deep breath and though for a second. Then she said, “You have the code to the safe. Get the money you need and get somebody in to fix the fridge as soon as possible. The same time make an inventory of what food items you need and send somebody to the shops.” Crisis averted, Anita thought, and she turned back to her daughter-in-law.

“I didn’t think that it was so expensive”

After a week away Anita came back to her café. She felt magically re-energised and went straight to her office to do the wages that were already delayed by one day. She opened the safe and counted the money. What’s that? There was not enough left! “Oh yes, the fridge,” she thought. “I didn’t think that it was so expensive, but that’s business I guess.” She took out her private cheque book and wrote out the wages for her staff.

“The same customers for a year are telling the same stories”

Fast forward a year, Anita is getting up in the morning, there is no spring in her step anymore, let alone the energy to take a stroll at the beach. She lifts herself out of bed, gets dressed and opens her café. The same customers for a year are telling the same stories – Anita nods and smiles politely. Her mind is elsewhere. She has to make a list of what she needs to cook today. Her cook left a few months ago and she decided to save his wages by doing it herself.

“There is this new funky café that opened a few meters away”

At 10am her only staff member left arrived and Anita changes into the kitchen. She starts preparing the same items like every day. Slowly a few orders are coming in – most of it are regulars. Where is the buzz, where are the customers that she had seen when she purchased the café? Right, there is this new funky café that opened a few meters away with its shiny coffee machine and hip baristas. They are offering their food in fancy containers with lots of stringy herbs on it, some of them Anita hasn’t even heard of.

What has she done? This was supposed to be her semi-retirement! It was never planned that she had to work from morning to evening 7 days a week! And now she can’t turn around anymore – who will give her the investment back that she put into a buzzing café a year and a half ago? The only thing to do is to keep going and make sure enough money is coming in to pay the rent.

“Anita, have you ever heard of a budget?”

That was until she met Adrian. Adrian walked in one day and left her a business card that piqued her attention. “Hospitality Rescue Services” it said on top, and “We give you a business analysis for free”. “What do I have to lose,” Anita thought and gave him a call a few days after. Adrian came in with his laptop, asked a few questions, typed some figures into his forms and then turned around to her “Anita, have you ever heard of a budget?”

Of course she did, and back when she was a house wife she always budgeted with the grocery money. It never occurred to her that this was the way to go with her café as well. “Look, all your problems at the moment can be summarised by a lack of budget when you started.” Adrian continued “You use the money coming in only for your day to day expenses and that gives you a false sense of security. You need to know what the running of your business costs first before you distribute expenses. The way you do it, you will be caught out the moment something breaks down or your first tax bill is coming in.” Anita cast her eyes down, that’s exactly what happened.

“You are in a vicious circle”

“And then the house of cards falls down in itself. Because you can’t pay wages, you save money in doing it yourself. You can’t pay your suppliers in time, so you lose some of them and change your menu. You lose your spark, and with an exhausted owner and a run-down menu you don’t attract any new customers, so you don’t make money either. You are in a vicious circle.” Anita broke down into tears. How can some man from the street whom she never met before sum up what she experienced in the last year in just a few words!

Adrian left that day and promised to come back the next day with a plan. Anita couldn’t sleep all night. She decided the next day to leave the café closed to re-assess her situation and then attack the whole business-thing fresh. When Adrian arrived she was waiting for him with all her books out and two mugs of coffee waiting.

“Focus on making money rather than saving money”

The café stayed close for a week, but when Anita re-opened she was back as the host she was at the beginning. She hired just enough staff for her to be able to manage the café as an owner should – at the front with her customers. She re-vamped her menu and hired a new chef. She decided to keep the café closed two days of the week to be able to get some private time and refill her energy. All these changes were cost factors at the start, but with Adrian’s help she knew now what money she needs to make every week to keep her dream alive – and this alone made her focus on making money rather than saving money.

And – guess what – the customers loved it! The old ones came back and new ones got infected by the buzz of the café and the warmth that the owner radiated. They came for breakfast “just like mum used to do it” and enjoyed lunch dishes they knew from when they were little. And from the far you could see Anita standing at the counter chatting to her customers and enjoying every second of it.

That's me

If this story is something you can relate to, contact us and we will help you moving forward



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