Internet cafés are quite popular in countries like China and Indonesia, but they also have a presence in the United Kingdom and here in the United States. If you’re not fully sure what this type of business entails, here’s a brief definition:
An internet café, also known as a cyber café, is a business that provides internet access and related services via dedicated computers and other devices. It often offers food and drinks to complement its primary services. Internet cafés differ from coffee shops that offer Wi-Fi in that cafés focus primarily on internet services and provide patrons with the means to access these services.
If you’re considering an internet café launch in the states, be aware of your customer base. In most cases, you’ll be catering to avid gamers, students, and the occasional remote worker. So you’ll want to keep these types of customers in mind as you prepare your launch and make decisions about your business. Keep reading to see what steps you’ll need to take on your cyber café journey.
How to Start an Internet Café: 9 Steps
1. Find the right location.
You know the popular real estate saying: location, location, location. That certainly applies when considering where to open your internet café. Keep three key things in mind when scouting the city:
- Is the area near attractions your customer base frequents?
- Does the area get a lot of foot traffic?
- Is the area safe?
In addition, the building you develop or lease should be highly visible to ensure customers can easily find you.
2. Develop a business plan.
Your internet café business plan should have your complete go-to-market strategy—main goals, the market research you’ve done, details about your internet café’s products and services, how you will market your services, and financial projections. It’s important you record all these aspects to know your next steps once you get started.
3. Obtain relevant business licenses and permits.
Given that a cyber café is a brick-and-mortar business, you’ll need to check with your city to see what permits are needed to operate, especially if you plan on offering food and drink. There are licenses specific to this type of business that will be required. In addition, software licenses will be needed for programs you install on computers.
4. Acquire comfortable furniture.
It’s common for internet café patrons to congregate for hours at a time—some may even spend the entire day there. That’s why you must provide comfortable furniture such as gaming chairs and bean bag chairs so customers can lounge for as long as they like. Length of visit is an important aspect given the typical business model of this type of business.
5. Set up computers and other equipment.
Internet café equipment is a defining aspect of the business, so it’s important to choose the right kind. For example, will you only provide computers, or will you also set up printers and other peripherals?
When deciding on computers, you may need to take the middle road between cost and quality, especially if you have a tight budget. Given how frequently they will be used—and the number of monthly users—the computers will experience a lot of wear and tear. So, you’ll likely be replacing them every few years.
6. Find a reliable internet service provider (ISP).
Now, this is one area you shouldn’t let price play a major factor. Providing internet services is the primary purpose of a cyber café, so it’s critical that you find an ISP with market-leading speeds and is incredibly reliable. The reliability aspect is especially important as patrons value consistent, uninterrupted access.
Spend some time researching several ISPs, reaching out for quotes, and learning about the type of service guarantees they offer. Remember, this isn’t a decision you should make lightly, so do your due diligence in determining which provider would work best for your café. Be sure to have a secondary or backup provider if your first choice doesn’t deliver as you expect.
7. Determine how to price your services.
Most cyber cafés price internet services on a per-hour basis, so that’s what your patrons will expect. That doesn’t mean you have to stick to this typical model, but if you go a different direction, ensure it makes sense to your customers.
If you offer food and drink, decide whether you’ll keep the pricing for these services separate from your internet-related ones or bundle them together. You may choose to keep them separate but also offer package deals that include both.
8. Build a business website.
As with any modern business, you’ll also need to develop a business website so people can find you online. Be sure to lay out your pricing, location, and a list of internet café services that you offer. Don’t forget to include a menu for your food and drink.
9. Market your internet café.
Even if you find the perfect location and your building is highly visible, foot traffic alone won’t be enough. You need to get the word out about your business using digital and offline methods.
For example, you can use geo-targeting for advertising on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram in your local area. Advertising on Google and other search engines is also a viable option. For offline marketing, you can try setting up a campus booth or event with local colleges, as well as encouraging word-of-mouth referrals from patrons. For instance, you may offer a free snack or coffee to customers that bring a friend.
The above steps can make opening a successful internet café much easier than figuring it out on your own. Just make sure you curate an environment your customers will love.