By Mike Bacile
The most frequent question I get from churches is, “How do we know if our church should build a café / coffee bar?”
A café has so many positive possibilities to offer a church community. However, it should meet three important criteria in order to really produce the fellowship and revenue most churches are looking for.
We always ask churches the following three questions when they approach us to help create their café.
Question #1: What is your weekend attendance on a normal weekend?
Basically, are you large enough to open a café without creating a burden on your bottom line? We have discovered a good rule of thumb: if your church has at least 500 in attendance on a weekend, you can financially support a café if it’s set-up and running correctly. By café / coffee bar, we mean a location that serves espresso drinks, coffee, smoothies and frappes. The attendance number represents total attendance during the weekend; this can be broken up in to many services or just one, as long as there is a total adult and children combined attendance of more than 500.
Question #2: Why do you want a café?
If you meet the size rule of thumb, this is the next question — and, we believe, the most important question of all. Different churches have different reasons for a café, but most of them center around the desire to build fellowship and an opportunity to raise money for missions, projects, etc. A café is a unique aspect for a church because it’s often the only thing in the church that’s designed to build revenue. It’s a business and should be set up and run, to a degree, that way. If it’s running properly, it can build revenue for mission trips and church projects. However, churches that are performing well realize the café is a place to build fellowship. We often train new café volunteers to realize they’re not working in a “café,” but are building fellowship in their community. They are providing a safe space for new visitors to come and enjoy their community.
Question #3: Who in the church supports building the café?
It’s very important that the entire community understands and supports the café. When the entire church — from the pastor to the volunteers — understands the value of the café as a tool to build community, that’s when you will see the most success. If the café is only seen as a financial tool, it can be difficult to build success, especially with fellowship. Projects that we work on are the most successful when everyone sees the value of the café as more than just dollars in a cash drawer.
If your church has the attendance, the vision and the support, then adding a café might be right for your community. There are many other items that must be considered of course — location, volunteers versus paid employees, what to do about free coffee, and more. These are all very important components; but, without a solid foundation, it will make it tough to be successful.
In return, our questions ultimately lead to the two questions churches ask the most.
The first is: “How much does it cost to build a café”? On average, churches that have attendances from 500 – 750 get an equipment package between $18,000 – $21,000. If attendance is between 750 – 1,000, we will generally estimate $28,000 – $31,000 in equipment. Churches with weekend attendance over 1,000 will often do equipment packages of about $30,000 – $34,000. Please note: This does not include buildout of the space, including cabinets, plumbing and electric. However, this will make your location rival any coffee house in town, and give you the equipment you need to make anything that your local Starbucks might sell, only better.
The second most common question asked of us is: “How much money can the church expect to raise in profits off the café?” Obviously, the size of your attendance, your layout, equipment, training, products and even service schedules affect this number. However, I have found it equally important to consider if your community understands why you have a café. If they understand the café’s purpose, then most churches should expect that 20% to 30% of their weekend attendees will purchase something from the café. An average café drink produces about $2.50 in profit, and drip coffee produces about $1 in profit (for a 10– or 12-ounce drink). If you add quick food items (nothing you have to make), then you can gain even more revenue.
The key to a financially successful café is efficiency! A quick, easy menu with key drinks and an assembly line volunteer group will be able to produce the speed, quality and fellowship your café is looking to create.
Mike Bacile is owner of The Daily Java, a wholesale coffee equipment and product provider for more than 21 years. He speaks at many conventions around the country about the 25 steps for setting up a successful café. Over the past decade, Bacile’s company has focused on making church cafés a successful part of their communities, and The Daily java has been labelled the “church coffee house experts.”