In my world

16 July, 2010
Page 18 

Umer Ashraf is a young entrepreneur who owns the Glasgow-based iCafé chain of shops, as well as smoothie and juice bar Paradise Bay, in Oban, Scotland

After the lengthy and bumpy ride of getting the electricity sorted for our new premises, which I wrote about in my last column, we have finally managed to get the shop-fit and the kitchen-fit completed.

The site plan is very simple and, in my view, effective. Instead of going for an industrial unit, which not only would have been too big for our needs, but also remote, I went for a retail unit in a fairly busy street. What's the reason? Well, quite simple actually... The front half of the unit is now an 'iCafé Espressed!', while the back half is the central kitchen. Both areas have separate staff, stock and management. While the iCafé Espressed! concept is launched, we still enjoy and reap all the benefits of a central kitchen.

All the overheads are shared proportionally and the formula, in theory, would mean we have the best of both worlds: a central kitchen to standardise everything and a presence in the south side of Glasgow, which our company has always wanted to enter.

Now, the reality check. Although everything sounds all hunky dory, it isn't the case. We have had to make a commercial decision to postpone the central kitchen opening by another month. The reason is very simple; the overall sales are down by around 15%. This, of course, is partly due to the fact that students go away for the summer. Also, very good weather means people are using the pubs and bars more and going to places located near the park. Of course, if we look at year-on-year figures, there is increased competition as well, which marginally affects our sales.

There is also the big factor of people going on holidays, which reduces the local office trade. The reasons could be many; we cannot try to pin-point all of them. Instead, in our company, while we try and increase sales in this quiet month, we use the time to prepare for the busy month of September. This involves lots of brain-storming sessions and an exchange of ideas whether it's to do with promotions or product innovation. Quieter times should be used in this way. It means we are planning ahead and gives us a clearer mind to come up with sound decisions and plans.

So use the quiet times wisely. Look at your contracts, agreements and other commitments to see when they are due to expire and take a note of them. A busier time demands our full attention on the shop floor and the quiet times offer a great opportunity to look at things we otherwise might just sweep under the carpet.





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