Are Cat Cafés Profitable? The Complete Breakdown

Your experience in the restaurant industry has finally inspired you to take one giant leap towards opening your own establishment. You also adore cats, so to you, a cat café seems like the best type of restaurant to open. Before you do though, you have to be sure. Are cat cafés even profitable?

Operating a cat café can be profitable, but you do have some additional risks compared to running a regular animal-free restaurant. In some parts of the world, cat cafés are not as common and thus might not drum up as much business. You must also follow strict health and cleanliness guidelines. 

In today’s article, we’ll examine how much money you might earn running a cat café and then compare that against what it costs to run such a café. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be able to decide with confidence whether opening a cat café is a smart financial move.

How Much Does a Cat Café Make Per Year?

The first question that we’re sure is on your mind is how much money can you make running a cat café?

That’s hard to say, as it depends on so much. 

For example, what price do you have set for your coffees or lattes with the cat-shaped foam? How much do the pastries cost? Do you have just café food, or do you serve breakfast or lunch that’s more substantial and thus could be more expensive?

Factors such as the days and number of hours your café is open also play a role in how much of a profit your cat café could earn.

Unlike traditional cafés, which people can usually enter for free, many cat cafés (and animal cafés in general, really) require you to pay a cover to get in. Then, if you buy food or drink, those costs are extra.

Let’s say that you set your cover charge at $8 per head. It doesn’t sound like much, right? If 10 people come in, that’s already $800 from the cover charge alone. 

Now, despite that animal cafés have existed for decades, there are scant stats on how many people typically visit in a day. 

That said, café resource Start My Coffee Shop mentions that a standard United States café will see about 470 customers a day.

So let’s say your cat café attracts that many people as well. With the cover charge of $8 alone, per day, your café would make $3,760.

Continuing the example, your café is open Monday through Saturday but closed on Sunday. Multiplying that $3,760 by 6 gives us $22,560 per week.

Per month, your cat café could rake in $676,800 just with a cover charge of $8 if you get 470 customers a day. In a year, you could earn $8,121,600. 

When you factor in the costs of food and drink on top of it, your café would be in good shape.

Now, most animal cafés are smaller and more intimate than your average Starbucks. 

Let’s halve the average café attendance per day to 235 people.

If your cover charge was still $8, you’d make $1,880 per day just for people to enter the café to pet the kitties. 

Per week, you’re looking at earnings of $11,280. Each month, you’d bring in $338,400, which would make your grand earnings for the year $4,060,800. 

Again, we have yet to factor in the earnings from food, drink, and merch, which would certainly push your income higher.

The Costs Associated with Running a Cat Café – Would You Be in the Green or the Red?

Now, is that enough money to keep your cat café open? To answer that question, we have to look at the various costs of running a cat café and then tally them up. 

Renting or Owning a Space

Your cat café is just a dream until you have the physical space for it. 

The average coffee shop is between 3,500 and 4,600 square feet. 

Although we said that cat cafés are usually smaller and more intimate than your average café, you still need space. 

After all, your building is split in two with the café and the cat-petting area. The café also needs a kitchen, storage area, and a spot for the cats to eat and sleep. 

If anything, your cat café could be bigger than the average café size.

That said, for the sake of example, let’s use a nice, easy number and say your cat café is 3,500 square feet. 

Leasing a building according to restaurant resource Toast costs $160 a square foot and owning is about $180 a square foot.

That means your monthly rent for your cat café would be $560,000. Every year, you’d spend $6,720,000.

Already, you can see how the earnings from the last section are just barely going to make ends meet.

If you own a building and you pay a mortgage on it, the monthly bill will be $630,000. Your yearly mortgage payments would amount to $7,560,000.

Permits and Licenses

Even though your cat café won’t serve alcohol, you still need a whole slew of permits and licenses, including:

  • Live entertainment license
  • Seller’s permit (if you want to collect sales tax)
  • Employee health permit
  • Building health permit
  • Resale permit (so you can buy nontaxable items like wholesale food and sell it as meals)
  • Music license (to play music at your café)
  • Sign permit (for marketing)
  • Foodservice license
  • Certificate of occupancy 
  • Employer identification number or EIN
  • Business license 

How much money you’ll pay to obtain these licenses and permits varies by state. As an estimate, a business license alone can cost you anywhere from $25 to $7,000.

Insurance

Although insurance might be deemed skippable by some unscrupulous parties, considering your café works with animals, you better be insured. 

Tabak Insurance Agency, which insures restaurants and bars, states that the average cost of restaurant insurance is $180 a month. That’s $2,160 per year.

Insurance fortunately is not a huge cost, but you are tallying it up with everything else.

Utilities

You have to keep the lights on, the refrigerator humming, and the music playing, and that means staying current on your cat café utility bills.

A restaurant that’s 4,000 square feet would pay about $1,000 per month on utilities such as electricity and gas. That’s $12,000 a year. We said before that your cat café is 3,500 square feet, so your utility bill would be slightly lower.

Equipment and Machinery

Your café kitchen must be fully equipped to whip up delicious lattes, fresh croissants, and kitty-themed cupcakes. 

While it varies based on the type of equipment you use the most, the average price of kitchen equipment is $115,655, says business resource Lightspeed

Your equipment isn’t good forever, as time will cause you to have to replace piece after piece. At least for now though, set that $115k aside.

Staff

Your cat café can’t operate without people to make it happen. 

The good news is that compared to running a restaurant, a café has a much smaller team. You’ll need someone to process cover charges at the front, then a few waitstaff employees as well as baristas. 

The rule of thumb is that at least 20 percent of an establishment’s gross sales should go towards an employee’s paycheck. Some restaurants and cafés do as much as 30 or 35 percent, but how high you want to go is your choice.

Ingredients

The reason you’re only spending about 30 percent of your cat café income on labor costs is that another 30 or 33 percent needs to go towards ingredients.

Once again, we must note that these are the rules for restaurants, not cafés. You might not need as many ingredients as a restaurant because you don’t get as many people and your menu is a lot smaller. 

Even still, it’s a good idea to have that 30 percent set aside for ingredients anyway. You don’t want to find yourself short on cash in this all-important area!

POS System

A point-of-sale or POS system makes checkouts seamless. 

Your café shouldn’t forego a POS system to save some pennies, as the inconvenience of processing orders will cause too much of a headache.

Toast, in a separate link, notes that the monthly fees for a POS system are between $79 and $150. Since a POS system is software, you do have to deal with recurring fees.

For the year, you’re looking at a total of $948 to $1,800, which is not too bad.

Décor

Cat cafés are not solely about the animals, but the décor as well! You’ll want feline-themed everything and procuring the pieces that decorate your restaurant can cost a pretty penny. 

Per square foot, you could pay anywhere from $85 to $500 to decorate your cat café accordingly. 

Your total decorating costs would be $297,500 for 3,500 square feet and up to $1,750,000.

Cat Furniture

Now we’re moving on to the kitty expenses, which are unique to cat cafés.

The average number of cats in a cat café is between two and 20. To produce realistic prices for the rest of this section, let’s say you have 10 cats.

Cat furniture includes scratching posts and places to climb. Your customers will love walking into your establishment and seeing the cats lounging on the furniture.

A good cat tree costs between $45 and $100. Your total will be $450 to $1,000 for 10 cats.

Cat Toys

Some cats at the café might enjoy wrestling and playing with one another, but more still will prefer the mental and physical stimulation of toys. 

Cat toys are cheap, costing just dollars, and so you can buy lots and lots to entertain all your feline friends.

Cat Litter

You’re going to have to stock up on cat litter with 10 felines running around!

A bag of cat litter costs between $11 and $18. Let’s say that a 30-pound bag runs you up $10.

Cats use about 20 pounds of litter every 30 days. That’s for one cat. Thus, you can estimate that each cat needs its own bag of litter every month.

That’s $100 spent on litter per month and $1,200 per year.

Cat Food

Your kitties have got to eat! 

Healthy cats need a combination of wet and dry food. About every month, you’ll spend between $20 and $40 on quality wet wood and then another $10 to $20 a month on kibble.

That’s between $30 and $60 a month, which is $360 to $720 a year.

Now multiply that by 10 and you get a grand total of $3,600 to $7,200 per year spent on cat food.

Cat Beds 

Some cats will sleep anywhere, but not all. You should provide at least one bed for every cat but possibly even more than that.

If a good cat bed costs $50, you’d shell out $500 so your cats at the café can have sweet dreams. 

Vet Bills 

Finally, there is what could be the most expensive cat charge, and that’s the veterinary bills. 

Wellness Pet Food states that yearly cat vet bills are between $90 and $200 per cat. Your vet bills can be as high as $900 to $2,000.

That’s all assuming, of course, that your cats are healthy and don’t get sick or injured. If they do, then you have to ratchet up the cost of bills substantially higher.

The Risks of Owning a Cat Café

If your theoretical cat café would be in the green after reading that last section, you must keep the following risks of operating the café in mind before you sign a lease for a building. 

Some People Think It’s Inhumane

In some people’s minds, cat cafés are feline prisons. What they don’t realize is that the cats are fed, played with, cared for, and have safe, quiet places to sleep and lounge. 

Now, is that the case for every cat café? Unfortunately, not. However, they’re not nearly as inhumane as they’re often made out to be.

Nevertheless, if that’s the prevailing perception, that could prevent people from stopping by your café. Remember, you’re hinging on at least 235 people coming in each day. If it’s less than that, your café won’t survive.

Cat Cafés Don’t Have a Huge Market in Most Countries

There’s also the fact that unless you’re in an Asian country, animal cafés have simply not caught on in the same way. 

It could be that most people in other countries have ample enough living space to own domestic animals or the assumption above that animal cafés are inhumane.

Either way, although the competition would be sparse, you’d have to work that much harder to get people to choose your café over the local Starbucks.

You Must Pass Health Inspection or You Could Be Shut Down

Every restaurant and café is subject to stringent health inspections, but animal cafés have to pass an even more rigid set of requirements. 

That’s warranted considering that foodservice and animals are nary a great combination. 

However, what this means for you is that your café would have to be spic-and-span at all times. 

We’ve all heard of stories of cat cafés shutting down due to repeat health violations. You don’t want yours to be next!

Conclusion

Owning a cat café is a great way to bring the joy of felines to people in your community while also experiencing good fortune of working around cats all day. 

However, running a café is expensive, and you have additional risks that a non-animal café does not.

We hope this article helps you decide whether you’ll open a cat café!

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