Steve and Jen bring you this daily review of the news
Premium Advertiser

News Blog Sponsors

News Links

BBC World Service
The Guardian
Washington Post
Iraq Order of Battle
NY Times
LA Times
ABC News

Blogs We Like

Daily Kos
Digby's Blog
Operation Yellow Elephant
Iraq Casualty Count
Media Matters
Talking Points
Defense Tech
Intel Dump
Soldiers for the Truth
Margaret Cho
Juan Cole
Just a Bump in the Beltway
Baghdad Burning
Howard Stern
Michael Moore
James Wolcott
Cooking for Engineers
There is No Crisis
Whiskey Bar
Rude Pundit
Crooks and Liars
Amazin' Avenue
DC Media Girl
The Server Logs

Blogger Credits

Powered by Blogger

Archives by
Publication Date
August 2003
September 2003
October 2003
November 2003
December 2003
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
Comments Credits
Comments by YACCS
Friday, December 30, 2005

Research is good

Hard work

Bitter Brew
I opened a charming neighborhood coffee shop. Then it destroyed my life.
By Michael Idov
Posted Thursday, Dec. 29, 2005, at 4:15 PM ET


The failure of a small cafe is not a question of competence. It is a sad given.........................

A place that seats 25 will have to employ at least two people for every shift: someone to work the front and someone for the kitchen (assuming you find a guy who will both uncomplainingly wash dishes and reliably whip up pretty crepes; if you've found that guy, you're already in better shape than most NYC restaurateurs. You're also, most likely, already in trouble with immigration services). Budgeting $15 for the payroll for every hour your charming cafe is open (let's say 10 hours a day) relieves you of $4,500 a month. That gives you another $4,500 a month for rent and $6,300 to stock up on product. It also means that to come up with the total needed $18K of revenue per month, you will need to sell that product at an average of a 300 percent markup.


Coffee was a different story—thanks to the trail blazed by Starbucks, the world of coffee retail is now a rogue's playground of jaw-dropping markups. An espresso that required about 18 cents worth of beans (and we used very good beans) was sold for $2.50 with nary an eyebrow raised on either side of the counter. A dab of milk froth or a splash of hot water transformed the drink into a macchiato or an Americano, respectively, and raised the price to $3. The house brew too cold to be sold for $1 a cup was chilled further and reborn at $2.50 a cup as iced coffee, a drink whose appeal I do not even pretend to grasp.

But how much of it could we sell? Discarding food as a self-canceling expense at best, the coffee needed to account for all of our profit. We needed to sell roughly $500 of it a day. This kind of money is only achievable through solid foot traffic, but, of course, our cafe was too cozy and charming to pop in for a cup to go. The average coffee-to-stay customer nursed his mocha (i.e., his $5 ticket) for upward of 30 minutes. Don't get me started on people with laptops.

............ Two highly educated professionals with artistic aspirations have just put themselves—or, as we saw it, each other—on $8-per-hour jobs slinging coffee.

Looking back, we (incredibly) should have heeded the advice of bad-boy chef Anthony Bourdain, who wrote our epitaph in Kitchen Confidential: "The most dangerous species of owner ... is the one who gets into the business for love."

This comment came along with the article:

$7.50/HR - How Generous! A failed coffee shop in New York illustrates your point about the working class. This guy had two workers at $7.50/hr (no benefits, did he even pay SS?) and he's moaning because he can't find someone to make crepes at that price. It's not suprise he failed, that's what happens when you live in a dream world.

First, restaurants have a 60 percent failure rate. There's a new place across the street from me which is going to join them. I spent $8 for my last mediocre meal from them tonight. Everything is either bitter or burnt, the menu too extensive and the owner absentee, unless he's a Latino in a uniform. It's probably some lawyer who thinks he or she is a fucking cullinary genius. It's a shame, because the remodel job was sweet.

But let me tell you how clueless the owner is: there's a new, big deli opening up within a month up the block, there are two delis and a Blimpies on the same block, I eat in what we call the pizza place (even though I don't like their pizza) a couple of times a week or so. Why? They are competent in fixing what I want, even if it's off-beat at times.

But this place, not only has the highest prices in the block by far, but is surrounded by a nursing home, large hospital and two schools, yet doesn't serve breakfast.

Which wouldn't be so bad if their food didn't suck. Not horribly, but just enough to make you to stop giving it chances.

Now, this guy in the article didn't do his research. You know you need foot traffic, you do this before you rent space. You work the number out first.

But I also love the sense of entitlement that while he expected "immigrants" to work for $7.50 with no bennies, less than they pay in Wal-Mart, he was "with his education" outraged to make $8 an hour. Like he was naturally better than his employees.

posted by Steve @ 10:17:00 PM

10:17:00 PM

The News Blog home page


Editorial Staff

Add to My AOL

Support The News Blog

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More
News Blog Food Blog
Visit the News Blog Food Blog
The News Blog Shops
Operation Yellow Elephant
Enlist, Young Republicans