Best café / salon du thé / bistro mixed business that you have seen?

Hi all,
My dear friend is in the process of buying an old building in the village with 2 apartments upstairs and a huge space down stairs with a shop front.

We’ve been talking for a while now about business ideas that we could do together and she has asked if I’d be interested in us doing some sort of Salon de thé /bistro in the bottom of her new building. It is right in the centre of our village which has only 1 lunch option currently (and the people are horrible so it is used under sufferance by local businesses / tradies etc due to there being no where else). We also have quite a lot of tourists in the summer and we are a good way to the next villages with food / drink options. We feel that it is something that the village could do with and would work. There will be no rent to pay as she will own outright so we feel it is a safe option to give it a try without fear of loosing too much (and I’m guessing sadly probably a lot of inox resto kitchens selling up). It is something that we could choose the hours and work out what works, and so we both had time for our other projects as well. I’m super excited and have a good feeling about it.

We had a first sit down with ideas yesterday and was thrilled that we are totally thinking along the same lines - PROPER coffee machine (I so miss my decent cappichinnos and lattes :rofl: , she lived in Canada for 7 years so totally gets it too - may not be taken up much by tehe French but bet we’d do a roaring trade for the tourists!) , a cosy corner with a woodburner and sofa for coffee and cakes in the afternoons, good lunch food (3 course menu with fresh, home made soups / salads / desserts / coffee / wine). Perhaps evenings in the summer etc. We also think (and we have the space) that it would be a good idea to have other things in there as well for extra income, so maybe a local artisans corner / shelves, gift shop area etc.

Has anyone visited a mixed food and drink / other stuff business and seen anything really good / fun / interesting?

Books to read/flick through/exchange - when we are allowed to again.

Our local café is also a second hand furniture shop, in that you can buy just about all of the furniture and art work. Chairs/tables only change slowly, so not sure how successful it is, but another reason for people to pop in. She also has a very popular games corner, with jeu de société for adults as well as kids. Being over-busy is not an issue so doesn’t seem to matter if 4 venerable women spend 2 hours over a game.

Don’t underestimate the training and bureaucracy involved! And get the mayor on-side.

1 Like

I would certainly use it, especially on the airport run :coffee: :cake:

1 Like

And dont forget to run it the french way, close in august so you can go on holidays :rofl:


If you plan to sell cappuccini take care to get the spelling correct on the menu :wink:

Seriously, I think it sounds like a great idea. A book exchange and artisan corner would be an excellent additional draw too…

1 Like

No rent to pay but still have business tax it all depends what foot traffic this village get no point of having a business that’s only going to cost you money


Hi Tory,

You may care to have a look at this website for some ideas:
These folks do a roaring trade and are not even in what you could call the town center. They don’t rely on passing footfall, but are so popular that all their customers make the effort to come by car to the premises.
The goods that they sell are not cheap, and so are often bought as gifts for others, but they do have a wonderful knack for gift wrapping items at no extra charge.

Good luck, have fun, and I hope it works out for you.

1 Like

Yes Tory go for it.
You did have a proper coffee here from my machine…perhaps you forgot.
Keep the ideas flowing.

1 Like

Sounds a good idea depending on the area you’re in (hardly ever see a cappuccino served in my local bar, nothing but espresso :wink: ) Rent isn’t the only thing to think about; charges sociales can be crippling (unlike the auto-entrepreneur system) :frowning:

1 Like

I had a deli cum cafe in Chiswick London.
it was fun but hard work and so many cups to wash up.
i was just about the first place in London to sell very fancy
fairy cakes, That was about 17years ago.

1 Like

That (and the others) is a great idea.

I know, I’m sure we’ll have to do the food safety courses etc and no end of form filling and box ticking! Mayor won’t be an issue, he is a friend and neighbour!

:rofl::rofl: you’ve obviously worked out where I am :rofl: :rofl:

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: funnily enough I may forgo an August holiday (we dont’ really do holidays anyway!) - I could really break the mold and go the first half of July :rofl: :rofl: . Funnily enough I thought it might be nice to have a cracker of a month with our big village brocante and street market and the tourists!

I knew it wasn’t right when i wrote it but was too tired to work out how to do it! :star_struck:

That is brilliant, just the sort of set up I’m envisaging (although we won’t have as much out door space or light!!).

Yes (now that I have twigged who you are :joy:), that was the only cappuccino I’ve had here that has been any good. Even the one I had at a coffee shop in Bergerac used whipped cream instead of foam!! and the place was packed!

We need to look into all that as we sadly can’t use ME. I didn’t realise the other regimes were even worse though :crazy_face:

I’ll be insisting we have a dishwasher :rofl: :rofl:

yes, the me is a super simple super cheap option, I was the first to sign up in Aurillac back in 2009 when it started, I remember sitting there going through all the forms and leading the woman at the cci by the hand as she didn’t have a clue and couldn’t understand how simple it was :rofl: With the standard regimes, you pay charges sociales regardless of your turnover or lack of it, so you could earn nothing in a year and still have 5k€ of charges sociales to pay :frowning: Worth looking into further but the mark-up on a cup of coffee enourmous (especially compared to a packet of fags!) and I’ve already served a dozen or so this morning :smiley: Vas-y, fonces ! :wink:

1 Like

Do you have space for outside tables Tory? When our local Presse changed hands a few years ago and after the local cafe closed down, the new couple took on board the betting side of things and offered a rather confined space at the back of the shop to serve coffee in.

Then, with the aid of the commune the corner that used to be an Auchan connected mini-market (closed when Auchan opened a small supermarket) they moved right to the centre of the village and transferred the Presse. There was a separate area with much space which became a proper bar. It is extremely popular and in the summer has tables on a boarded pavement extension outside and on the wide pavement opposite.

It is going very well from what I see. Close to the twice weekly market and lots of free parking. So if you do go ahead I think you will be onto a good thing. Think French though, not just tourists, don’t stare open mouthed (like some teenage staff at other places I have visited) if someone simply asks for a ‘petit cafe’.

I wouldn’t know a cappucino from a cup-a-soup and when I have been treated to the gobsmacked expression accompanied by ’ Americano?’ My curt reply is ‘non, petit cafe’. :rage: They think they are putting me down with their eyes rolled upwards, but it is me who is laughing. :laughing:

Best of luck if you go ahead.

1 Like

Eek that is a lot!

As is food - as long as we can get the feet through the door. I was thinking of all sorts of ideas, obviously the lunch crowd (as mentioned so little choice around us), but also could run after school gouté specials with yummy hot chocolates etc and things like that.

Yes there is a very wide pavement and I’m pretty sure the mayor will be fine to allow us onto it as they are keen to see the village thriving too. Plan would be of course to have tables out there.

1 Like

I’m trying to convince a mate of mine, who’s now adjoint, to enlarge the pavement in front of our tabac so I can do exactly that :wink:


A friend of ours has a small business like you are proposing in Cluny.
He does waffles and other things as he only has two rings to cook on.
He sells a large variety of ice cream as well and local Bourguinon produce.
It has become like a little club in Cluny.
He also does stickers for your cars and mugs and glasses with his Bourguinon transfers on.
There was a very successful cafe in Nailsworth in Gloucestershire that outgrew its premises and moved into the local garden centre.
They did soups, quiches, salads, cakes and scones etc. Their salads were wonderful, but nothing what the French think of as salads. Really exciting combinations with texture and, of course, aways a veggie option.
This is really hard work, but I wish you good luck.
When I used to cook professionally I had to take a Food Hygiene exam, so that might very well apply here in France as well.
Also check local hygiene regulations before you design your kitchen , especially with regard to ventilation as this can affect neighbouring premises and nowadays disabled access and toilet.
Try and find professional cookbooks which give guides as to recipes for different numbers of people, as trebling or even more for a recipe is often not what you might think it would be.
Another thought, birthday cards are always difficult to find in France, decent ones, anyway, so a stand with cards on on a sale or return basis might be another adddition.

1 Like

Excellent food, service and ambiance.

They also have a small selection of English specialities (eg Marmite) to purchase.

So popular - with both English and French that it is often necessary to book a table.


That’s a café viennois :grin: I bet I know where you went.
The café I go to in Berg is owned by an Italian and he makes proper coffee.

1 Like

Not that easy to find great coffee here in Dordogne

A decent machine will cost several thousand but possibly they coylld
be rented
Space for seating will be so important. A kitchen would be costly and require local planning
approval possibly,
So why not order your edibles in
Maybe sweet and savoury tarts and easy things which go well with coffee or hot choc, Ice cream
and milk shakes.

But the best cafe ever had to be in Portobello road and the front half of the shop was filled with vintage clothing whilst the back hosted a cafe space with a weeny kitchen.
i worked there for a novelist who cooked and we simply prepared our favourite dishes and sold them.
I remember also a lovely tea room in kings rd chelsea just next to VIVien Westwards shop and along
from Granny takes a Trip.
This was the yogi tea generation and as we observed clouds moving above us in Disney mode we
drank healthy brews.