How to Start a Café Business in Kenya.

The food industry in Kenya has highly been ventured into by many entrepreneurs. Highly because food is a basic need and the market will always be in need.

Food entrepreneurs running profitable restaurants commonly known as cafes and hotels earn a good share of money flowing in the food industry.

The food business in Kenya is ideal for many aspiring entrepreneurs who don’t have a lot of capital at their disposal. The little money you save up can get you somewhere and start your own café.

Starting a café in Kenya, regardless of the location and capital calls for proper business planning to set the café off on the right footing.  This planning includes preparing to run a business that complies with the Kenyan law.

Understanding the legal requirements for running a business in Kenya and in this case, a food business will save you a lot of trouble.

“There are many people who want to start a café but all they think they need is a space and cooking equipment. That was me 3 years ago. When I started my first café business in shags I didn’t have a permit or a food license. I was forced to close my business by the county council.” Grace Muema.

Starting a small café business.

1.First, do your market research in the area you want to operate.

You already know or have an idea of where you want your business to be located. Doing market research to understand the market in that area is essential. You don’t want to plan and launch a business in any market blindly.

Ask yourself whether there is an opportunity for you in that area and whether you will be able to get customers. In the process, you will know the existing competition in the market, how they run their business, and how customers perceive them.

This way you will be able to come up with strategies to stand out from existing businesses. Either in terms of how you provide your services or the food on your menu. Look for ways to give your competitors a run for their money.

2.Find an Ideal Location.

Apart from knowing the market, figure out the price ranges of spaces you could use in that area.

You need an ideal location to run a food business, a location that has traffic of foot customers.

“Don’t set up your café somewhere customers cannot notice or where there are no customers at all. Look out for spaces along the roads, a busy market-place, near a university/college or in a shopping center.” Carol Muthoni – Carol’s Delis, Embakasi

Different spaces in different locations go for different prices. But for a small restaurant or café that could spaciously fit 10 – 15 seaters, you could get a space that ranges from Ksh.7, 000 – Ksh.15, 000 in an urban area.

“My small café in Roysambu goes for Ksh.15, 000 per month and can accommodate 15 considering social distancing at the moment.” Brian Makori – Whispering Bamboo, Roysambu

In rural area, spaces are cheaper and a space that goes for Ksh.7, 000 per month in an urban area could go Ksh.5, 000.

3.Legal and licensing To Do Checklist.

a. Register your Café Business.

Before starting your café business, you need to register. This is a way of telling the government you exist and keeps your business legally safe.

Business name registration.

Your business name is your brand name and you need a name that resonates with you and your target customers. Registering your business name legally protects it from being used by others.

“I registered my business name online through eCitizen and all I needed was my National ID and two name searches each costing Ksh.150. Having had a successful search, I received a name reservation for free in my eCitizen account. It was easy and fast than I thought it would.” John Kahuho – Heritage Choice Dishes, Juja

KRA Pin for your business – tax purposes.

Every business is required to have a KRA Pin from the Kenya Revenue Authority. Your small café is required to comply with tax regulations and the only way to ensure it does is through KRA.

“Getting a KRA pin for your business is very easy nowadays as everything is online now. I acquired mine through the KRA iTax portal and the process was easy. First, I registered my own KRA Pin and National ID details as the business owner. I then applied for my café’s pin and submitted my acknowledgment receipt and received my café’s KRA pin.” Carol Muthoni – Carol’s Delis, Embakasi.

b. Get your county Business Permit and licenses.

After registering your business and obtaining your KRA Pin, you now need to get your county business permit. Additionally, as a café business, you need to acquire mandatory licenses to operate your café.

Single Business permit

What you pay for your business permit will depend on your café size and location. Some will pay more and others less.

A county officer might have to visit your café to confirm the size.

“I applied for my business permit at City Hall and an officer visited my café. After paying Ksh.10, 000, I was given a receipt and collected my permit certificate about a week later.” Brian Makori – Whispering Bamboo, Roysambu.

Food/health Certificate

The food industry goes hand in hand with health. How you handle and store yours is very important. Proper food handling and storage is crucial in your café as the opposite can cost you and your customers.

“Two weeks before I opened my business, I applied for a health certificate because I was told it’s mandatory. A health officer inspected my cooking area, eating area, and my storage area and certified my café. I then paid Ksh.1, 000 and received my certificate a week later.” Grace Muema – C-zones, Ruiru

Fire Safety Certificate

Your café needs to be Fire Safety certified. A café is more prone to fire accidents and you need to have safety measures in place in case a fire accident occurs.

“Before a fire safety inspector visited my café, I had acquired a fire extinguisher, had fire blankets in my kitchen area. He inspected the place the advised on adding other safety supplies. I was then certified and received my Fires Safety Certificate.” John Kahuho – Heritage Choice Dishes, Juja

4.Business ‘Take off’ Preparation.

After registering your café, it’s time to prepare for the opening. You need to acquire what you need for your café.

Draft your menu.

Your menu is a very fundamental aspect of your business.

“Customers come to your café for food. What you want to put on their plates is important. Your menu tells your customers who you are.” Carol Muthoni – Carol’s Delis, Embakasi

At this point, your menu does not need to be fully developed but you need to know the basics and specials you will be offering. With time, you can add to your menu and draft it in ways to increase your profits.

 “As you come up with your menu, remember your menu can help you stand out from the crowd.” John Kahuho – Heritage Choice Dishes, Juja.

Your menu will also help you know the personnel and how many you need for your café.

Additionally, your menu will help you figure out the equipment you need.

Equipment. Kitchen appliances, Kitchen ware.

Different cooking equipment and kitchen appliances go for different prices and there is basic equipment for your café. Tailor your equipment to what you will be offering in your café.

How much you spend on equipment depends on what you get and where you get them.

Find suppliers

Before you open your café, you need to know where you will be getting your food supplies, etc. “At first, I did not get the best suppliers but with time, experimentation, and experience I have been able to know who to work with.”  Grace Muema – C-zones, Ruiru.

Hiring staff

You definitely people to work in your café.

Your menu will guide you on the kind of cooks or chefs you need. You will also need waiters to help you attend to the customers.

As you start, you might not need many employees. When your café is at its peak and you have more customers, you could hire more.

Approximated Capital.

Capital varies from business to business. Your location, the size of your café, your permit, your equipment, and your preferences will influence your capital.

With a proper business plan highlighting all aspects, you will be able to know how much you need to start your business. You could start with Ksh.20, 000 or Ksh.200, 000.

“My starting capital was Ksh.50, 000 but I had budgeted for Ksh.70, 000. I had to cut my costs by cutting out the excesses and finding alternatives to some.” Grace Muema – C-zones, Ruiru.

“I started my café with approximately Ksh.200, 000. I had preferences and tastes I could not let slide. If I did, I would have spent way less.” Brian Makori – Whispering Bamboo, Roysambu

As you plan to start your café business, you need to know what you need to make your business open ready, and legally ready.