So You Want to Start a Cereal Bar
Innovative foodie culture has brought us a ton of bizarre and exciting new culinary trends, from weird craft beer to a booming food truck movement. One of the more humble concepts to gain traction lately is the cereal café, a simple concept that gives diners, mostly younger patrons, an opportunity to crunch on a bit of childhood nostalgia. Such a simple concept can be started without the need for a lot of expensive equipment, but choosing what cereal to serve with which milk is only part of the equation. You'll need to make sure you've got a concept that will last and tie up any legal loose ends before you pour your first bowl.
Making Cereal a Sure Concept
A concept as niche as a café that serves nothing but cereal isn't likely to hold a great deal of attention for very long if eating cold cereal is all your establishment offers. You'll need to offer an experience diners can't get eating cereal at home.
The younger crowd you're likely to attract to your cereal café will likely be more motivated to frequent your eatery if you offer some form of entertainment, whether that's live music or something guests can become directly involved in. Hosting an open mic night is a great way to bring in some free entertainment and support local artists. Board games and video games are a good way to encourage social groups to gather and hang out at your café. You might even consider hosting themed events to capitalize on the naturally playful vibes of a cereal café.
Crafting a Cereal Menu
Don't settle for serving only the cereal that guests can find at their local supermarket. Take a cue from one of the original, and still most famous, cereal cafés, Cereal Killer in London, where founders source obscure cereals from around the world in addition to the classics. Craft a cereal menu that serves guests who long for the familiar as well as those who want to try something new each time they visit. Many patrons' favorite childhood cereals aren’t available in national chains anymore, but thanks to the power of the internet, may still be available through online retailers.
Another way to offer an experience guests can't have at home is to create unique combinations of cereal, like the "Cereal Cocktails" you'll find on Cereal Killer's menu. Experiment with combining multiple cereals with different types of milk and mix-ins like candy, cookies, and fresh fruit. Post them on your menu with clever names to pique customers' interest and to build your credentials as a breakfast cereal connoisseur.
Milk is obviously cereal's lifelong companion, but not all of your potential patrons want cow's milk. Provide alternatives like soy and almond milk to make your vegan and lactose-intolerant guests feel welcome. Don't forget to provide a few gluten-free cereal alternatives.
No matter what else your menu features in addition to cereal and milk, you should definitely serve coffee at your cereal bar. We advise you not to settle for run-of-the mill coffee, either. Serve freshly ground, premium coffee sourced from local roasters, if possible. In addition to serving old-fashioned drip coffee, consider investing in an espresso machine so patrons can enjoy cappuccinos and lattes with their Cheerios and Fruit Loops. Building a name as a reliable place to get a good cup of coffee can snag your cereal café a ton of extra business from patrons who wouldn't otherwise stop by.
As far as the law is concerned, the first step in opening any business is to get a general business license. This license is fairly easy to procure and can be obtained by visiting city hall. You may also be able to find the application on your city government's website. Applying for a business license often goes hand in hand with registering for local and federal tax IDs, so be prepared to fill out that paperwork as well.
Most jurisdictions require foodservice operators to have a food handler's license, too. You'll likely be required to register with the health department and undergo an initial inspection before you can open for business.
Zoning laws will determine where you can set up shop, but those should be fairly easy to navigate, especially if the site you’ve chosen has been home to a restaurant in the past. If you decide to take your business on the road as a food truck or vending stand, be sure to research your city's requirements for mobile vendors. Some require separate registration for that type of operation.
We always encourage prospective operators to check out the U.S. Small Business Administration website, which provides tips to help entrepreneurs find success, including information on how to open a cereal bar.
Would a Cereal Truck be a Good Fit?
Nowadays, every type of food is being served from a truck, and the simplicity of cereal makes it particularly suitable for a mobile format. Cereal food trucks have already found success in the hipster capitals of the U.S., including Denver and Portland. Opening a food truck is a great way to get into the business with much lower overhead that opening a brick-and-mortar location. A truck also lets you follow the crowds, taking your operation to events that you think your core clientele might frequent. Finally, opting to found your concept on the chassis of a food truck gives you the opportunity to test the waters and see if there's a market in your area for a cereal bar before you go all-in on a permanent restaurant.
As with any venture, mobile or otherwise, location is a huge factor in how successful your concept can be. Because a cereal concept is more likely to thrive in areas with high concentrations of young people, consider scouting locations near college campuses or in urban centers that attract younger crowds on the weekends.
Once you've hammered out a concept and pulled a plan together to handle the legal technicalities of opening a cereal bar, it's time to start shopping for the equipment you'll need to properly outfit your business.
- Display your most popular cereals prominently with cereal dispensers.
- Keep milk, fruit, and other perishable ingredients fresh with the right commercial refrigeration equipment.
- Keep all those bowls and spoons clean with commercial sinks. Don't forget to install the correct number of hand sinks to let staff members wash their hands. café
- Consider installing an glass door merchandiser for showing off the different milks and bottled drinks you offer, along with your other chilled products.
- If you offer pastries or similar fresh snacks, install a bakery display case or pastry display case to make those snacks visible to guests.
- Stock up on janitorial supplies to keep your facilities tidy and welcoming.
- Serve warm toppings like chocolate sauce and caramel from electric topping dispensers.
- Stock up on tabletop dispensers for things like napkins, condiments, and cups
- Give your customers an opportunity to customize their cereal bowls with add-ins like fruit and candy served from condiment dispensers.
- Essential coffee equipment will include traditional brewers, carafes, and self-serve airpots.
- A griddle is all you'll need to offer additional breakfast favorites like eggs, bacon, and pancakes, but adding equipment that can produce grease-laden vapors will likely require the installation of a hood vent.
- Serve your offerings in bowls that match the theme and décor of your café.