Sorry it's taken so long to post here!
I had a meeting with our library board and they are in total support of our coffee shop.
They are also understanding of the public's desire to have a place at the library for family eating.
While they had planned for folks to come to the library and buy items from the cafe and eat or drink at the available tables, they did not plan for people bringing their own food. Since this is a public library they would like to accommodate their patrons.
I think they have decided to amend our lease, with no extra cost to us, to include the 6 tables in the entryway. The four tables outside are to be for public use.
This really works for me as I figure the outside tables are least profitable. Here in Iowa they are not used at all during winter and later this summer it will be to hot to sit outside. The tables are metal. I have also stopped maintaining those tables to discourage people from using them! Since they are not part of the lease I feel it's not my responsibility to clean off the bird poop, except for my customers who want to use them, of course!
I highly recommend you meet with your foundation people, they support your shop, yes? and find out what their expectations are for your space. Let them know how detrimental to your business the practice of customers bringing food and beverage into your coffee shop. I know you said you chase them to outside tables, that is good and you must continue to do this. I would encourage you to put signage on your tables letting people know which tables are for coffee shop use exclusively (with the support of the library) and which can be used for the public (hopefully none of them) and be very vocal about enforcing this decision.
I personally told a lady unloading her fast food onto a table the other day that she needed to take it outside. She replied that it was raining (it wasn't!) so I told her she needed to take it inside and she did. I let her know those are my tables and to move on!
Yes the table had signage that said tables reserved for our customers!
Once you let people take over your space they will continue to do so. Most customers appreciate the signs and feel people bringing food in are rude.
Get the support of your library and enforce it!
By the by, I spoke with another library coffee shop and they pay a bit less rent that I do but they only rent the counter and the space behind it so the serving portion of the shop is library property but they still maintain it and ask people to leave if they are busy. They said while they allow people to bring in food and drink it is rare and they really hate it when people leave their trash to be cleaned up! Can you imagine?
Look forward to hearing how you're doing
Thanks for all your comments. I too have used the health department to discourage folks from bringing in outside items. However, when I checked with them the other day I learned they HAVE NO REGULATIONS regarding restaurant seating and tables. They recommend that the tables are cleaned and sanitized a minimum of every 4 hours! Consumers beware! Can you believe that? Behind that counter I practically have to wash my hands every minute and sanitize everything with bleach water after each use, but hey after it leaves the counter you all are on your own! It also turns out that my insurance already covers the outdoor and indoor seating areas so I will meet with the library to see how I can get those tables in the lease for as little money as possible. They are extremely interested in our success and I think are somewhat disappointed in the folks who said "if you build it we will be there". Not that we are struggling but I think that allowing people to bring in food and drink is very detrimental to what I'm trying to accomplish here. I will meet with them next week and keep you posted. For the most part if I ask people to leave they do so as they consider the library tables are something of a picnic ground. They do not know that I pay the library rent, how else would it work? There is another library coffee shop not far away and I know the owner, she has the same problem and I'm going to give her a call and see how she is handling this situation.
Julie, I did check your site and congratulate you on your success. I am interested in how your business is structured. Currently I pay rent to the library and have to pay insurance, to the tune of $1600 + per year, on the space that I rent which is less than 600 square feet. There are six tables just outside my facility and 4 tables outdoors that are not included in the rent. Several times since opening people have brought in food and drinks that have been purchased outside of my business. Lately I have put signs on the tables stating that they are for Cafe del Sol Coffee & Tea patrons only and that product from other sources can be consumed inside the library. I have had a positive response to these signs as customers think it is rude for people to bring food and drinks into areas that I maintain. I have also asked people to take their food elsewhere. Legally I have no right to do this as these are not included in the rent. To include them would be a huge increase, possibly not in rent, but in insurance cost. I feel food and drink being brought to tables that I maintain is rude and extremely detrimental to my business as I offer these items also. Any thoughts or comments on this?
Vicki here! I would be very interested to know what you serve in your coffee shop. We have good loyal customers and all say they appreciate our being there. How many people do you have on staff? To many questions!
This coffee shop is my business. Yesterday a meal, none of it purchased from me, was consumed at tables that I clean and maintain, also sandwiches were consumed and several people walked in with beverages purchased elsewhere. I serve all of these products that could easily have been procured at our location. Now, lets pretend you HeartofGlass, are the owner of my place. You pay employees minimum wage (yes they do need tips). I have just come into your place with a friend and my friend gets a cookie for $1 and I have brought in my own PB & J sandwich, which you can also make for me. I sit there with my friend and use your table, your internet, your napkins and ask you for a glass of ice water to go. How long can you stay in business when you have rent to pay and $50,000 in equipment as well as product to purchase that you hope to sell and employees to pay, utilities etc. After I have lingered a few hours using the net, I decide to leave and now you have clean up the table I used and sweep up the crumbs from the floor where I dropped my sandwich. By the way I also used your bathroom so you need to go clean that up also.
I would be interested in knowing how you keep this business viable.
I'm thinking also of adopting a waitress/waiter style for awhile. Put menus on the tables and have approach customers at tables to see what they'd like to order. I think they'd get the message. Since our place is so small delivering the order to the table is no problem.
Also, lately the tips have been poor. We need a campy statement to put on the tip jar (ex. Tips for poorly paid baristas!) Something to get attention. By waiting on tables more tips might be left.
FYI: We will make you a fresh drip coffee any time. I use the melitta cones. (This for chardonnay who might request this at the current coffee shop) Right now we just place then on top of the cups but if we overfill we don't notice. I know I can get a drip station but they are obnoxiously expensive, take up a lot of room and usually require drainage.
Update on the new location!
Thought I'd pop in with an update on how things are going.
Most of the suggestions above had and will continue to be implemented. We opened the first part of December 2008. Business is continuing to grow and we intend to offer afternoon tea on Sundays.
While nearly all is good the one major dilemma I must now deal with is freeloading. The footprint of my shop is very small, less than 600 square feet. The library provides outside seating and seating in the lobby outside my shop. I maintain tables that the library provides for me. My only responsibility to those areas are keeping the tables clean.
The dilemma comes with people bringing their own food into ALL of the space.
Let me go back a bit. When coffee shops became popular they were something of a unique phenomena. Now we have gourmet coffee being served at every convenience store (similar to mine? NO!) Pushing a button on a machine and having every ingredient magically appear in the cup is not what we do here! Starbucks and Caribou on every corner and all good restaurants in town serving great product, mostly ours! Competition has increased within the business so I feel the need to offer more. We do offer fresh baked goods every day, they are purchased in frozen batter form and we bake them. Also have smoothies, ice cream and we do make fresh sandwiches and soup. Will stop the soup soon and make salads.
People bring in their own food and drinks and use the tables inside and outside that I maintain, they even bring their stuff into my small space. Sometimes no purchase is made and many times the purchase is insignificant (water, a cookies)
Would it be prudent for me to place signs on the tables stating that they are for coffee shop patrons?
People are allowed to take food and drinks into the library and they can play card games or majong (sorry, spelling!) at the tables inside the library.
Help is requested please!
Ok, so please remember that kids get loads of candy for Halloween. Fun size bars can add up to a substantial amount of loot!
When my daughter gets home we put all of it on the table, then we take turns and make out choices as to what our favorites are. At some point we decide we have enough and the rest goes to the office the next day. Remember, some of those people were not home and did not buy treats to hand out, no leftovers, and some don't have kids to snarf their stash, they need that stuff at the office.
I usually throw most of out around Thanksgiving time anyway. It just doesn't get eaten!
Wow, love all your support!
One of the benefits in being at the library is that the wifi is already there and it does work in the coffee shop, I have seen people using it in the space already. Outdoor seating is available and there are only 3 comfy type chairs available in the shop. Other areas, outdoor & extra seating outside of the coffee shop are small tables and chairs. In the library itself there are large tables and comfy sofas and chairs. People will be permitted to take coffee and other beverages into the library but I am not sure about food.
Some comments: in our current location we pay $2000 - rent, $600 -gas & electric, $80 - Wifi, triple net (building taxes, common area costs, lawn cutting or snow removal, and repairs to the building, insurance) - this can range from $600 - over $1,000 per month, insurance for inside the premises - $200, add in the smaller costs (credit card costs are approximately 6.5% of the amount charged) and misc. At any rate, cost is about $4,000 before I open the doors.
I only mention this as our average sale price is less than $5 (credit card companies charge more for small sales). In our current location the majority of our sales are less the $5. Examples: coffee $1.70 - 16 oz. , smoothies - $3.55, tea - $1.70, latte - $3.50. Customers get one drink and proceed to use our space for several hours. Sometimes they only get a cookie - $1.00) While I like the fact that they come to our facility, this business is not nearly enough to keep the place open.
I am certain that this will be different at the library as I will be cutting overhead by 80%.
I only mention this as we have had people come into our coffee shop, bring their own food and drink, use our restroom facility, our Wifi, drink our water, and sleep on our sofa or just use our place without any monetary contribution!
We have served sandwiches and baked goods and we do serve tea and offer soymilk, yes organic. The challenge is serving a consistent product.
Employees each make a sandwich the way they like it and some of them don't make them at all! (they tell customers we are out of sandwich fixings). I originally made healthy whole grain and tasty muffins made from scratch. The public generally buys the huge, fluffy 700 calorie muffins which cost 2 x as much as the healthy option and are also 2 x as large.
I now usually get pre - mixed muffin batter that I thaw and bake. I also have been getting. Cookies are also frozen and baked at the shop. I now get sandwiches in a grab and go carton, chicken salad, tuna salad, ham or turkey with cheese. These are made fresh locally. I am wondering if I need these at all?
Love the idea of the small cups at first, we do have ceramic cups for those who want, and the free juice for the kids is great.
Please continue ideas, comments, and suggestions!
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