Your Guide to Starting a Cafe

Now that you’re up to speed on our general guide to starting your business, it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty details of opening a coffee shop. Below you’ll find detailed information on the specific café licences, rules and regulations, as well as tips for choosing your location and staff.

This guide is also available in a downloadable format and includes an extra comprehensive startup checklist – a perfect way to keep track of your progress!

Pros and Cons to Running a Cafe

  • Ability to be your own boss and have more control over your career
  • If successful, financial reward will be superior to working for somebody else
  • Open and peak hours are more likely to be during normal business hours and daytime weekends, in contrast to restaurants or bars
  • Ability to utilise a range of different skills that you may not get as a regular cafe employee
  • Ability to meet a lot of new people, and establish the ‘goodwill’ of the local community
  • Running a cafe is not a job and ‘business hours’ don’t exist: it requires a significant investment of personal time and planning
  • Cafes can fail – meaning huge drain and stress on financial resources and time lost
  • Subject to seasonal variances, meaning cash flow can be a notable stress point for cafe owners
  • You will need a range of different capabilities beyond hospitality to be a successful owner of a cafe; including business and finance management skills
  • Employee tenure can be lower than other industries; meaning higher time investment required to find and train staff

Which Cafe Licences Do I Need?

Business and food licences are designed to help cafe owners follow proper food business requirements and protect their customers from contracting food-borne illnesses.

Business Licences

You’ll need to apply for a business licence and registration from the local council. The local council will ask you to provide information such as:

  • Your food business classification
  • The type of food to be served
  • Whether food is pre-packaged
  • The name of your food safety representative

For information on the process with your local council, visit the Australian Business Licence and Information Service.

Council Certificates

You’ll also need to apply for a number of certificates from the local council, including perhaps:

  • A zoning certificate
  • A construction certificate
  • A fire safety certificate
  • A compliance certificate
  • An occupation certificate

You’ll then need to pay the associated fees and fill out the required paperwork.

Food Licences

Food business licensing ensures your cafe can produce safe food before it is supplied or prepared for the local community. Licensing requirements vary depending on the size of the venue and state or territory where you’re establishing the business.

These can be viewed here:

There are also a number of other licenses you may need, so it’s best to seek advice. For example, if you plan to play music at your coffee shop, you may need a music license to cover copyright issues.

Want to save this guide for later or get started straight away with our bonus checklist?

Download Guide & Bonus Checklist

Owning a Cafe: The Rules and Regulations



Food Authorities and local councils work together to inspect coffee shops on a regular basis. Before you start trading, a representative will need to inspect the food premises to ensure it meets requirements. The onus is on the business owner to arrange this final inspection.

These inspectors will also complete regular food inspections to ensure your cafe continues to comply with regulations.




If you want to use a public space to serve food or drinks (for example, the footpath) you will need to apply and receive approval from council.




And ensure you’re across smoking regulations for your state; some states have already banned smoking in outdoor areas (i.e. NSW), and others are following – Victoria will see the ban come into force from August 2017.




You must also understand and comply with Fair Work laws, national employment standards and work, health and safety law.

Additionally, owners of a café franchise are subject to the rules and regulations put forth by the franchisor.


How to Find Your Perfect Coffee Shop Venue:
Choosing Your Location



Location can make or break your café business, so it’s important you consider every aspect of it, including the pros and cons of a specific location before setting up shop. A coffee shop is a versatile business that can really make the most of many kinds of locations.


These are some of the questions you should ask yourself before settling on a location:


  • How many people reside locally, and who are they?
  • Is the area densely populated and are they the sort of people who will want to leave home for a coffee and a bite to eat?
    Check out the area for yourself.
  • Is there parking?
  • Is there foot traffic?
  • What else is in the neighbourhood?
  • Are you in or close to a shopping precinct?
  • Is the café near an industrial park or a business community?
  • Are you close to a beach, a park or a tourist destination? It’s rare for the café to be a primary destination for customers, so consider what makes the area special.
  • It’s rare for the café to be a primary destination for customers, so consider what makes the area special.
  • What can you offer to the community that is new and innovative?
    If you plan to move in somewhere with a lot of competition, you will need to really stand out from the crowd.
  • What are you planning to offer that is different to or better than potential competitors?

How to Choose the Right Staff for Your Cafe



In the hospitality business, finding good staff can be a difficult but worthwhile endeavour. Café staff need to be friendly, outgoing and loyal. For a successful café, it’s imperative your barista is talented and really understands the art of making a good coffee.

These are our top tips for hiring the best staff:


Advertise everywhere

Putting up a ‘Help Wanted’ sign is a great way to find staff. A loyal customer could end up being your best employee. Advertising online will give you a greater pool of applicants and a greater ability to find qualified staff.

Don’t be afraid of training

Qualified staff may be hard to come by, so don’t be afraid of hiring under-qualified staff. Sometimes the best staff haven’t had an opportunity to prove themselves.

Staff should add value to your business

Look for staff who put a lot of stock in presentation. In the age of Instagram, taste isn’t the only important factor in food and coffee. Just look at how the popularity of foam art has grown. Charisma and ability to keep a cool head under pressure can also make a huge difference.

For a good staff, you have to be a good employer

Reward your employees hard work and treat them with respect and you will be rewarded with dedicated, hardworking and loyal employees.

Want to save this guide for later or get started straight away with our bonus checklist?

Download Guide & Bonus Checklist

Check out our other guides to help you make your hospitality dream happen

Talk to Us

Get in touch with our hospitality POS experts to see how Impos can help your business thrive.

Get Started

Download our free Product Booklet to learn more about how Impos can help your venue thrive

Product Booklet