Running an internet cafe may be possible if you offer something unique to attract customers, such as hosting a gaming league. There are many practical guides to running a cafe that can help you learn everything you need to know about starting one.
- Analyze your target market
- To determine your customer profile
- To determine what services you should offer
- What foods you should sell
- Based on your pricing policy
- Income projections
- Purchase an existing business
Analyze your target market
The process of estimating demand
Making sure there is enough local demand for your internet cafe is very important. Find out how many establishments in your neighborhood offer public internet access by checking out any potential competitors. These may also include libraries, universities, and colleges that allow public access, as well as other internet cafes. Discover how any local internet cafés compete with yours (if any exist in your area). Examples include:
- Their hours of operation
- And their internet connection speed
- As well as what games and software they have available
- For sale and how much food and drink they are selling
- And what level of computing service they provide
- In addition to the helpful and knowledgeable staff
- And what level of premises and facilities do they offer
- As well as any other services they provide
It may seem that there are no internet cafes available in your area, or there are fewer than expected. In this case, you might want to consider why this is. In addition, local colleges may provide free internet access in students’ rooms (to be used with students’ own computers) as well as free WiFi in shared areas or wired internet access from a number of terminals, or your area may not attract large numbers of foreign visitors (traditionally an important market) or does not have a large ex-pat population (also an important market).
You should keep in mind, of course, that a large portion of this customer base also has access to the internet through their smartphones. Despite the level of competition and the changes in the way that people use the internet, you may believe that your business will succeed because you will offer a unique mix of services.
Defining target markets
Check to see if your local catchment area contains a sufficient number of the type of customers that you are going after. Examples include:
- Colleges and/or student housing may not use your internet access, but people in this age group are often keen gamers
- There are foreign visitors in the area – or are there established communities of people from other countries, such as eastern Europeans. If you look at local shops, you can get an idea of the market. There could be a few Polish food stores, for instance.
- Is there residential development housing for the older generation nearby (older people may be interested in taking introductory computing classes or need help going online)?
While it’s likely that most of your customers will arrive on foot, you might also hope to attract people from a distance, especially if you provide something that’s not widely available, like a fast, uncontended internet connection through a leased line that allows incident-free gaming. In that case, it is worth considering whether:
- Public transportation is readily available in the area
- And plenty of parking is available nearby
- The area is considered safe for leaving a vehicle, especially if you plan to host gaming sessions during the evening and night
You may also aim to attract passersby who stop for food or drinks as well as the members of the public that you have targeted as potential customers for your internet, gaming and computing services. If such is the case, make sure you inform these potential customers that they can buy food and drink without having to also pay for computer time by placing signs near your window or on the sidewalk outside your café.
What makes your coffee appealing to customers
There are several strategies that you could implement to try to increase customer traffic to your café. Some of these might include:
- Charges that are competitive and user-friendly (for example, allowing customers to carry over unused minutes to the next session)
- A selection of food and beverages that your customers will enjoy
- And an environment where people of all ages can feel comfortable
- Using the best hardware and software
- As well as the fastest internet connection
- To ensure convenient hours of operation
- And a knowledgeable and helpful staff
- Providing a wide range of additional computing services, such as computer training and repairs
- And other photo-related services
- It is important to have a welcoming exterior and a relaxing interior – especially for gamers, an extremely comfortable chair will be necessary.
Discover what people want
By speaking with potential customers before you open your business, you can avoid making mistakes. For instance, you could establish:
- How PCs and Macs should be split in the ideal world
- How many of the following services are likely to be used by local business people – if any
- What are the most popular games and how often would they need to be renewed
- As well as what opening hours would be most convenient to customers. In contrast, retired people often use the café during the day, whereas gamers may want to play at night, especially when they are trying to fit in gaming around work or school.
- You might want to consider getting a liquor license to serve alcohol.
- What, if anything, does the group dislike about the existing internet cafes and public access facilities in the area
- And what pricing system would they prefer
Legal and tax issues, plus current trends
- Trends in the internet cafe sector
- Laws that affect internet cafes
- Taxation of internet cafes
To determine your customer profile
Based on your market
you can expect to find:
- If students do not have access to the Internet, they may wish to stay in touch with friends via Skype, social media, and email, as well as download music and videos to their own portable devices, as well as take advantage of any other services you provide.
- International students. You might be able to find a significant market in your local area if it attracts a large number of foreign tourists. Additionally, they may also want to do some research on the local area via the internet, in addition to
- Emailing friends from abroad who are staying in the UK for a while. Cafes provide a great way to meet new people from similar backgrounds and to stay in touch with friends and family back home. Your food and drink choices can even be tailored to a particular nationality if you have a lot of customers of that nationality
- Who plays games. Increasingly more people are taking advantage of online gaming as online games’ quality increases. You may be able to attract groups of gamers to your café if your connection is fast enough (faster than those offered to domestic customers). Alternatively, you might offer networked gaming of popular games that can be played online or not. To accommodate this group of clients, you might decide to open through the night.
- Senior citizens. In this group, many people want to learn new skills, use email, browse the web, participate in social media, and shop online but are too intimidated to do so on their own. This type of person may benefit from courses that introduce them to the internet and computing in general
- For business purposes. Today, it’s unlikely that many business people will use an internet cafe as their primary form of access to the internet. Businesspeople away from the office, for example, at a conference, may need to work on documents, send files to colleagues, or print out documents
- Just for people passing by to get a bite to eat. If your café is small, and you intend to offer food, you may want to discourage people from using the internet in order to encourage them to visit.
- Your other services, like photocopying or printing photocopies from a digital camera, may be of interest to your customers
with special offers and discounts
During certain times of the year. In order to attract customers during quiet periods, you could offer free drinks or a lunch deal, in which your customers get a sandwich, drink, and half an hour of internet access for a reduced rate. Evenings are when some cafes charge a reduced fee for internet access.
It is possible to run a membership program in which people pay an annual fee to receive discounts.
Make sure your staff knows which customers are eligible for a discount, and how much. Prevent your employees from giving discounts to their relatives and friends without authorization.
To determine what services you should offer
If you decide to open an internet cafe, the services you offer will be determined by how much you can spend, the size of your premises, and your own preferences and skills. Additionally to wired and WiFi internet access, the following services may be available:
- Gaming networks
- Computer services, such as data recovery, sophisticated software packages, document printing, disk burning, etc.
- Courses in information technology. These might be particularly popular with older people who would like to learn internet skills but are too intimidated to do so alone
- Due to fax and photocopy services
- Or venue hire for events such as website launches and focus groups
- Involving food
- Or advertising
For the services you provide
No matter what services you decide to offer, you must make sure that your potential clients are aware of you. Promoting your internet cafe can be accomplished in several ways, including:
- By setting up your own website
- Publicize your business in your local newspaper and other local publications, such as a leisure guide. Your local newspaper may be interested in writing about your new business if you can provide an angle
- You can purchase an entry in an internet cafe guide
- That advertises in universities, computer shops, etc.
- Place contact information in outlets such as delicatessens that attract customers from abroad
- Any business vehicle you operate should display your logo and telephone number prominently
What foods you should sell
Make a decision about what to serve as far as food and drink are concerned. You might decide to offer just a very limited selection – or even none – of food and just canned or bottled drinks, possibly because you don’t want to go to the trouble of constructing kitchens and hiring staff. A wide range of food may, however, draw in more customers, including those who don’t want to use the computers or the internet for any other purposes.
Describe your menu and drinks.
Several factors will determine the dishes you will offer your customers and the types of drinks you will stock. Examples include:
- What length of time do you expect your customers to stay. When the majority of people will only be stopping in to check emails, it makes little sense to offer a variety of hot meals that require time to prepare and eat.
- Separating the eating area from the computers would be helpful. If you do not plan to provide a separate eating area, you may only sell less messy items, such as sandwiches and crisps, if you feel it is too risky to allow customers to eat meals at a computer terminal
- Due to the size of the premises. If your facilities are not large enough to accommodate a large number of different dishes, you might not be able to serve them all
- If you prepare your own dishes or only sell ready-made products
- What kind of experience do your cooks have
- And if you are licensed to serve alcoholic drinks. You may find that having an alcohol license will help you to attract more customers when you stay open late (for example, to serve gamers 35 and older) since licensing laws allow alcohol to be served 24 hours a day.
You should introduce new menu items at regular intervals to keep up with changes in consumer preferences.
Instead of offering a full menu, you might opt to install a few foods and drink vending machines.
Based on your pricing policy
Consider your pricing policy, keeping in mind that you should charge enough to cover your overheads, including your own drawings. You might price your computer services as follows:
- A quick check of your email costs 50p.
- For 15 minutes, it costs £1.00.
- For 30 minutes, it costs £1.50.
- An hour session costs £3.00.
- A photocopy costs £0.10 per page.
- Printing in black and white costs £0.10 per page.
- Printing in color costs £0.75.
- If you print from a disk or memory stick, you will be charged an additional £0.50 per page
- For scanning, you will be charged an additional $1.00 per page
- Receive £0.50 per page; send £1 per page for faxing
- With net gaming starting at $2.00 per hour
These prices are only for illustrative purposes
Another option is to run a membership scheme where members pay a set fee each year and then receive a discount every time they use a service.
You may decide to price items in line with your competitors and another non-internet cafe in your area if you serve food and drinks.
If you want an idea of what internet cafe offer and how much they charge, check out the websites of existing internet cafe in your area.
- The weekly income you receive from customers using your internet cafe services will be affected by:
- Number of computer terminals
- And the cost of WiFi access (if you offer it).
- There are a number of other seats (other than those at a computer terminal) in your café, known as ‘covers’
- Depending on how long you are open each day
- And how busy you are on any given day.
- Regular customers tend to spend more money.
An example of the maximum possible earnings per week
Please note that all figures are for illustrative purposes only
- The cafe has room for ten people to use computers and ten other diners
- We are charged £5 per hour to use the internet
- Each computer user will spend an additional £2.00 on food and drink during their hour spent on the computer
- A non-computer user will spend an average of £2.00 and stay for half an hour
- per visit, which will mean you are open for 10 hours per day
Therefore, if each seat was always filled, you would earn £70 per hour from computer users and £40 per hour from non-computer users, meaning that you would earn £1,100 for a ten-hour day or £7,700 for a full week.
As a result, it is unlikely that your café will be full every day, every day. Consequently, in order to arrive at a more realistic estimate of your income, you must consider:
- What the demand for your coffee will be
- Along with the level of local competition
- There will always be quiet periods during the day – for example, lunchtimes will be much busier than mid-afternoon
- Mid-afternoon, and during traditional holiday periods you may be more busy than usual.
Other income sources may also be available.
If you provide computer services, rent out venues, or sell camera memory cards, USB flash drives, etc., you may have additional income from other sources.
Your income will not be at its full potential during the first few months of trading as your business becomes known.
Purchase an existing business
Rather than starting a business from scratch, you might decide to purchase an existing internet café. Going concerned can mean that the products, customers, regular sales, staff, premises, and equipment are already in place. The Internet café can also have longstanding customers – although in many cases, the majority of customers are one-time visitors, it’s still possible that a café is used on a regular basis by people of a particular nationality or by gamers looking to utilize the facilities.
Consideration should also be given to:
- Current internet connection speed and the cost of the connection
In contrast, buying a business can be a risky, expensive process unless you have the right skills and experience on your team, including legal and financial experience. Make sure you establish the business’s real trading and financial position so that you don’t pay too much money for it.