Depending on where you are in the world, you could quite possibly be very familiar with internet cafés. Found very often in Asia and Africa, these coffee shops with computers in them can also be found in the west. However, are internet cafés still a good business to be in?
Yes, internet cafés are still good businesses. While the success of such a store differs based on your location and your target customer base, internet cafés are also reliant on a good business plan, providing the correct atmosphere, and providing the correct customer incentives.
The location in which you want to set up your internet café will have a large impact on what type of café you want to set up as well as how successful your café will be. This is even true based on the country you live in.
Countries in East Asia are teaming with internet cafés in major cities, in large part because of the robust gaming community that exists in these countries. However, lesser developed countries also have a lot of internet cafés, as people in these countries typically don’t have the internet at home.
One common feature amongst these locations though is that the café is located in a fairly well-populated area. While you don’t need to be located in the middle of downtown to have a successful café, being located somewhere where your café is less than a fifteen-minute drive for around at least one thousand people is a good idea.
The smaller your café is, the smaller population you need to serve. However, if you want to reach as many customers as possible, be located in an area with high foot traffic.
Target Customer Base
A big issue you need to consider before starting your internet café is the kind of customer you want in the café. Typical internet café users can be broken down into three groups: gamers, computer-needers, and social internet users.
- Gamers: This customer base is probably the largest out there for internet cafés in the United States and other well-developed countries. While most of these customers probably have a laptop or computer at home, they don’t have the kind of pc that will allow them to enjoy their gaming to the fullest.
Another attraction to internet cafés for gamers is the fact that they’ll probably have high-speed internet if they go to an internet café. Gamers also like to go to cafés because it allows them to play in the same room as their teammates. While talking through headsets is all well and good, sometimes the best gaming experience you can get is to be able to see the action from every party member’s screen.
- Computer-needers: Some people simply do not have computers at home. While this is much more prevalent in lesser developed countries, there are still people that either don’t have or don’t want a computer at home for various reasons around the world. For such people, having an internet café nearby fulfills all of their needs.
Another subset for this group is people that have a computer at home but own a computer model that has or live in a place that gets crappy internet. For them, going somewhere where the computer works well, the internet is fast, and they’re able to complete all of their tasks quickly is key.
- Social internet users: Some people have a perfectly working internet and computer set up at home, but just want to be out and around others. Some such people are those you see working on their laptops at a coffee shop. They don’t have to be there, but they prefer the warming atmosphere of crowds.
If you fashion your internet café to appeal to as many of these customer bases as possible, you’ll for sure be able to have a successful café.
Check out our article on gaming cafes HERE.
Good Business Plan
As is essential with every entrepreneurial endeavor, having a good business plan is paramount to having a successful internet café. How big of a café do you want? Will the whole café be covered with computers, or will you leave space for people to bring their laptops? What kind of food will you be offering at your café? Making a concrete business plan for how your café will operate is your best chance at café success.
Some other good plans to make for your café us a risk analysis as well as a three-year plan for where you want the café to be in the future. Also, consider making plans for customer care and how you’ll deal with HR needs such as staff amount. Lastly, one of the most important parts of your business plan that will ensure you have a successful café is creating a great marketing plan.
Internet cafés that provide the correct atmosphere for their target audiences are the cafés that do the best. Some areas that you’ll need to think carefully about are your food options and your café design.
- Food options: The type of food you offer can be very influential in determining whether your café is a success or not. Once you’ve determined your customer base, provide food options that will best suit them.
If you are envisioning a gamer café, you’re going to want to offer finger food that doesn’t require attention to eat (for them) but also won’t cause a big mess (for you). Chips could be a good idea because they are easy to eat offhandedly and relatively easy to clean up.
The same goes for a drink. In Asia, drinks have a plastic lid that is sealed to cups which makes them less likely to spill, therefore being more computer-friendly. If your café is more geared towards those looking for a good atmosphere, consider offering a little more upscale food option.
- Café design: The furniture and design scheme for your café is super important in attracting customers. Gamers tend to be loud and into an exciting atmosphere, so making a café that gives off the feeling of being in a game is a good idea. If you’re looking more to service those in need of high-speed internet, you might want a café that gives off a more calm feeling so that they can feel at peace while using the computer.
You can also use the café design to entice the right kind of customers from your customer base into your café. If you’re uncomfortable with people eating at computers but still want gamers, consider making a separate seating area where they can eat between games without putting your computers at risk.
The type of computers you use will also invite different kinds of clientele. A lot of gamers like computers with huge screens that curve, making them feel like they’re in their little universe. People who are doing mundane, everyday tasks are more interested in computers that will allow them to type the fastest and quickly get on and off. Know your target audience then design your café around their preferences.
Making your internet café a successful business includes making the customers happy. This means that you’ll need to include some incentives that will keep your customers coming back to your café instead of going to a competitor’s.
A popular incentive is to offer discounts or free services after customers come in a certain number of times. Another popular incentive is to offer regular discounts, whether it’s weekly or on holidays.
One of the best incentives you can offer is providing top-notch technology that competitors don’t have. For an internet café that’s trying to attract gamers, this means offering a certain game on the PCs that’s popular in your area and that customers might not be able to get elsewhere. For a café that’s trying to assist those in need of a computer, perhaps you have word on all of your computers as well as a printer if needed.
Even if incentives might seem like an extra cost up front, if you’re able to maximize the number of customers that come to your store, it’s worth it.
Frequently Asked Questions
What will be hardest depends on the type of internet café you want to run. However, every internet café can struggle with getting started because of the need to provide computers. If you have an internet café that has 20 brand new, high-end computers in it, you possibly might have spent over $20,000 just acquiring them.
You can also expect to spend a lot of money on computer repair. If you allow people to eat and drink near the computers, accidents might require you to replace computers frequently. For these reasons, the computer aspect of an internet café might be the hardest part of the job.
Typically, a café is only considered an internet café if there are computers in it. Most stores and restaurants offer internet to their customers nowadays. When talking about an internet café, people typically mean a café or place where you can eat that also has computers that you can use for gaming or other needs. However, some internet cafés do have areas where you can just bring in your laptop and use it at the café.
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun
My adventure in coffee began when I first launched my first coffee shop back in the early 2000s. I had to figure out so many things on my own and to make it worse within 2 years of opening two large corporate coffee chains moved in just blocks away from me!
As I saw smaller and even some larger coffee shops in the neighborhood slowly lose customers to these giant coffee chains and slowly close up shop, I knew that I had to start getting creative…or go out of business.
I (like you may be) knew the coffee industry well. I could make the best latte art around and the foam on my caps was the fluffiest you have ever seen. I even had the best state-of-the-art 2 group digital Nuova Simonelli machine money could buy. But I knew that these things alone would not be enough to lure customers away from the name brand established coffee shops.
Eventually, through lots of trial and error as well as perseverance and creativity I did find a way to not only survive but also thrive in the coffee/espresso industry even while those corporate coffee chains stayed put. During those years I learned to adapt and always faced new challenges. It was not always easy, however, in the end, I was the sole survivor independent coffee shop within a 10-mile radius of my location. Just two corporate coffee chains and I were left after that year. All told the corporate coffee chains took down over 15 small independent coffee shops and kiosks and I was the last one standing and thriving.
Along the years I meet others with the same passion for coffee and I quickly learned that it is not only “how good a barista is” that makes a coffee shop successful, but the business side of coffee as well.
Hence why I started this website you are on now. To provide the tools and resources for up and coming coffee shop owners to gain that vital insight and knowledge on how to start a coffee shop successfully.
Stick around, browse through my helpful blog and resources and enjoy your stay! With lots of LATTE LOVE!