Chatty Cafe How To: (a long post!)

So many of you like the idea of Chatty Cafe. Here's the low down. If you want more information feel free to email me.

I am often approached by people in the community about English lessons. As a busy mum with two kids and another business I don't have the time or energy to commit to private lessons. At the same time I see an opportunity to, let's be honest, make some pocket money but also fill a need.

I love to bake and entertain. I'm lucky to have a nice big living room and plenty of parking at my home so it really lent itself to the cafe arrangement.

I started by ordering these postcards from VistaPrint. They're great quality, look professional and are very affordable. I feel confident that they have contributed to the perception of quality with the service. VistaPrint has thousands of templates so you can make your own design very easily. Sign up for an account and you'll receive discount coupons.

I was fortunate to have two or three friends who were interested in the idea from the start. Thanks to them I now have a roll of about twenty people who come when they can. It's all been word of mouth advertising. I offer a discount of 500 yen off the price of 1500 yen for bringing a friend. This has been an excellent promotion, a generous discount, easily offset by having a new person on the roll.

Reservations are made mainly by mobile phone text messages. I'm stunned how tech-oriented the mothers are, text messages go flying constantly. I use this form of communication to accept bookings, confirm bookings and I am very diligent about thanking each attendee, also by text message.

I sometimes plan a date myself and send a blanket invitation. I select people from my roll based on when they last attended and I try to match their abilities. I take a maximum of five people plus myself bringing it to six. This is manageable in terms of providing the food and drink and giving everyone fair chance to talk. Parking works too although some people can walk, bike and carpool.

Other times one of the Chatters will request a date and book either themselves only or a whole group. It's quite flexible. It needn't be the same day or the same group of people each time.

It runs from 10 am to 11.30 am which allows everyone to get settled, gives me time to make the drinks and still have about an hour to chat. For me it goes quickly. I think the Chatters feel it's been a good amount of time (worth their money).

I like baking so I generally make a cake. I have the Dulce Gusto coffee machine (from 7-11) and a selection of teas (from FBC). I print a menu each week to make the choice simple. I have a lot of different cups, plates and serving platters. This contributes to the cafe feel.

Other preparations: Obviously shopping for supplies. I bake the cake the day before. I do my housework. I print the menu. I try to do as much as possible the day before since mornings with children can be unpredictable. After the Cafe I record the names of the attendees and what I baked in my notebook. I also keep records for each Chatter. On their first visit I ask them to complete a personal info card. This doubles as a loyalty card with discounts after the fifth and tenth visits.

Other than these things there is not much to it. I welcome the Chatters, take their orders, offer the cake and we talk. If I have time I jot notes while we are talking so each person has something to take home. Conversation seems to flow since we are all housewives with a lot in common.

So far everyone seems happy.


  1. Thanks for this! I appreciate it. I'm not much of a morning person, so I couldn't do this in the morning, and my school only has one parking spot, so a bit difficult to get a few people, but I really like this idea.

    I've thought about having drop in times for coffee/tea, but I like the idea of having it more organized than that. I also like the idea of getting paid for it! But, you do a lot of prep work for it, so you should be.

    It sounds like a lot of fun for you and your visitors.

    Something to ponder for my little school's future! Thank you :-)

  2. You're welcome Helen. It was fun documenting the process. I'm pleased with it so far and it does suit my lifestyle.

  3. Thanks! Will you give it a try?

  4. Enjoyed this post (I enjoy all of them, of course, but I liked reading your action plan for the Chatty Cafe). Keeping it simple, organized, and following a clear process is key. I hope you continue to have great success with this endeavor. Ellen in Hingham

  5. Ellen, thank you so much. I thought of you when I was writing this post since you gave me such great advice when I first thought up the idea of Chatty Cafe. It means so much to me that you have checked back in, THANK YOU!!! I actually feel a bit teary-eyed after reading your comments. I'm the luckiest person alive to have such great support.


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