Reaching out to all of you that changed concepts drastically.
We are buying an existing coffee shop/bake shop that has a nice clientele following. Which also could be because there was another coffee house there for twice as long. They use automatic machine at the moment. We are going in, and keeping their concept until we get our feet wet. Then we are switching over to our concept, with a new name, our machine and a change in menu.
Has anyone done this? What are your suggestions? I feel that we should switch over as soon as possible. Or should we take our time, get everything ready and tested?

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Why are you buying an existing business? AND Specifically why are you buying this business? I feel like I would need more information to give you any opinions.
It was cheaper buying an existing cafe. It actually is an asset sale. However, it is profitable as is, and there is a nice steady flow of locals. After looking at several places, this was the one that really felt right. However, it is more of a bake shop with no concentration on coffee. Coffee tastes pretty bad, and the automatic machine is pretty bad. Our concept is more concentrated on coffee and quality coffee, latte art. I am a chef so I see a lot of baked goods that are made here can be a lot better.
The shop will close on Saturday with old owner and open on Monday with us as new owners. The reason we are not flipping it over to our name and look right away is our capital funds. We have enough to run the shop for quite a while but not enough to redo signs, furniture and look.

Jarred Hoffpauir said:
Why are you buying an existing business? AND Specifically why are you buying this business? I feel like I would need more information to give you any opinions.
If I were you, I would operate as the old business for couple of months (since you said it is a profitable venture) to learn the clientele. I hope that you have a solid vision and plan in mind for the coffee service you implement because that's what's going to guide you. Learn your customers. Chat with them, get to know them, develop a rapport, earn their trust.

Then start the change slowly. Meaning, if they have a drip brewer, change the standards of brewing that matches your profile. Let the customers taste the quality. Give them the opportunity to earn their trust.

Once you've really figured out the current clientele base, make the change and work with the clientele to show them that your "new" was is actually better tasting.
we recently changed the concept of our own cafe VERY drastically.. and it was hard because we were the same people, doing everything completely different. a lot of our changes, even if for the better, weren't very well accepted. and as we went along, i just learned to tell people that yes, we underwent new ownership. so from my experience, people don't like little changes here and there. if you're gonna make a change, make it a BIG one, make sure you can stand by it/back it up, and have all your changes effective as soon as you put your new name out. that way, all the changes will be made AT ONE TIME, name and all -- and they'll have to get used to it all at that same time.
We just helped Cook St Coffee open, we took a space that had been a Caribou and turned it into a first class cafe. If you have a vision of what you want in your business I highly suggest making a clean break. Closing for a few weeks and making your changes and retraining. If you are retaining any of their employees they should be retrained alongside any new hires as one team.
It really depends on the existing shop, and how different you plan on being. If the shop has a poor reputation or is known for inferior quality and you want to focus on quality, then make a clean break and a focused re-branding effort. If they are customers you would like to keep, make changes slowly. For the most part, I will have to side with Jay, who himself has owned several businesses and knows a thing or two about running a coffee shop. Get to know your customers and earn their trust. Remember, most people fear change.

You say the shop has a nice following. Does that mean that they are your type of customers? If so, then why are you planning a drastic change?

Also, something you said was a red flag for me. You said you had enough money to keep the shop going, but not to redesign it. Since a decent re-branding of a shop can go for as little as 10-30k, I hope you have at least that much set aside as working capital.
Thanks for all the insights. In regards to the capital, we have 30k for operational costs set aside. I feel confident it is enough. I am just afraid, if I take away from it for immediate improvements, that we might suffer. Although, season starts in two months in Florida and the sales will pick up.
Having your input, I feel more confident in making slow changes. We like the crowd that comes there now. The average check at this point is over $7 which I love and the shop is making a decent profit. It just is not selling any coffee - maybe because it is pretty poor.
Our idea was to first change the machine, train everyone on the Simonelli and focus on coffee quality and sales. There is no drip machine, so I wanted to introduce Chemex. Our next step was to improve on food. Third step would be adding soft corner and cleaning up the ambiance feel. We are just not sure, if we should change our name or leave the current shop. It doesn't have bad rep, people actually like it (except brewed coffee). Lots of locals and loyal customers.

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