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An edible cookie dough cafe serves cookie dough, usually without eggs and other pathogen-carrying ingredients. Many edible cookie dough businesses serve their dough in cartons or on cones in a similar way to ice cream cone. It's sweet tooth heaven. Bakers or baking enthusiasts who open edible cookie dough shops help their customers relive their childhood memories—eating cookie dough off the beaters or licking the bowl and spatula clean. They help them escape the hustle and bustle of life and relax in a fun environment.
Who is this business right for?
This business is perfect for professional bakers or baking enthusiasts, stay-at-home moms who are looking to transition back into the workforce, or anyone who is passionate about cooking or baking and has a basic understanding of how a business is run.
What happens during a typical day at an edible cookie dough cafe?
Just like any bakery, an edible cookie dough cafe has a very specific setup and breakdown process for the day. The business owner and/or his or her employees start the day early by prepping their work areas and cleaning all working surfaces.
They perform a basic accounting of existing supplies and stock as well as any overnight shipments. Some shops chill their dough overnight while others prefer to make their product fresh for the day and "quick chill" before serving customers.
Employees take orders, fulfill customer requests, while business owners keep tabs on the accounting books, order supplies, and monitor employees. At the end of the day, everything needs to be cleaned up and put away. It's a hectic business that never stops, which is why it's suited to a specific type of personality.
What is the target market?
The target market for this product is wide, but the core market is young families. Young children tend to love cookie dough, but so do young adults.
How does an edible cookie dough cafe make money?
Cafes make money by charging customers for edible cookie dough.
What is the growth potential for an edible cookie dough cafe?
Growth potential is huge, though many shops remain a small operation. Since this is a niche product, often seen as a specialty item, most business remain one or two-shop operations. Some companies may expand with branch locations throughout a state. Some brands, like Sweet Megan Edible Cookie Dough are shipped all over the U.S., however. Smaller cafes are realizing they can ship nationwide and forego the need for a large chain business.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful edible cookie dough cafe?
Being good at this business means having a keen eye and skill for baking. Professional bakers typically make the best cafe owners (at least in theory), but you also need good business sense. This is especially true if you plan on shipping your product across the country.
What are the costs involved in opening an edible cookie dough cafe?
Costs involved in starting a small cafe are modest. For less than $500, you can buy all or most of the supplies you need and start selling out of your home. Business licensing and permits may be required to do this, however.
What are the steps to start an edible cookie dough cafe?
Once you're ready to start your edible cookie dough cafe, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your edible cookie dough cafe is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your edible cookie dough cafe keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
What are some insider tips for jump starting an edible cookie dough cafe?
Start off by selling product in your local neighborhood, at PTA meetings, and local community events. Family, friends, and business associates or partners may also be a good way to jumpstart sales.
How to promote & market an edible cookie dough cafe
Promoting your business doesn't have to be expensive. Start small and distribute fliers, go to networking events, and run ads in the local paper or online.
Recommended: A website is essential for promoting your business and attracting customers. Weebly is a great tool.
How to keep customers coming back
Retaining customers and turning them into repeat business is simple if you sell a good product and stay in front of them. Consider collecting email addresses from customers. Enter them into a monthly contest for free cookie dough. Then, send out frequent emails reminding them to come back in to try your latest flavors.
How and when to build a team
You will probably need a small team to start out — at least 3-5 people. However, it is at all possible, you may want to start the business alone from home. A small cafe running out of a storefront should have enough staff to cover all shifts, Monday through Friday, minimum. Weekends tend to be busy for this kind of business, so you'll want weekend shifts covered as well. In fact, weekends should be your priority shifts.
Federal Business Licensing Requirements
There are federal regulations regarding what can and cannot be added to, sold as, and processed with food. Attached is a resource from the Food and Drug Administration detailing the process of starting a food business: How to Start a Food Business
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
In most states, it is necessary to obtain a business license. Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a cookie dough business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
An edible cookie dough business is generally run out of a storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to an edible cookie dough business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your edible cookie dough business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
When selling food, you will need licensing from a local health department; all establishments serving food are required to pass a health inspection. Tips for faring well on a health inspections
How much can you charge customers?
This is a premium product, so you can charge between $5 and $7 for a 4 oz serving, or between $8 and $20 for a 16 oz serving.
What are the ongoing expenses for an edible cookie dough cafe?
Ongoing expenses for this business are modest and include costs for maintaining liability insurance, licensing, permitting, and of course supplies. You may find yourself spending between $500 and $2,000 per month for a small operation, up to $10,000 per month for a large operation on these expenses.
How much profit can an edible cookie dough cafe make?
Edible cookie dough has a high markup. While this industry is still new, some businesses have a profit margin between 5% and 10%. A highly profitable business would have profit margins exceeding 10%.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Make your business more profitable by selling related products like various candies and ice cream, sodas, and milkshakes. You could also sell miniature mixing spoons with chilled cookie dough caked on them, similar to an ice cream cone or a "cookie dough on a stick" product concept.