How Much Does It Cost to Open a Pet Café? Explained

You love animals and you have experience in the restaurant industry, so you feel like it’s only natural to open your own pet café. These trendy establishments aren’t cheap, but exactly how much money should you set aside to make your dreams come true?

The cost to open a pet café is between $50,000 and $300,000 and sometimes more. The factors that can influence your costs include the size of the café, the type of animals you feature, and whether you buy your equipment new or used.

This article will break down all the costs associated with opening a pet café, providing estimates for what you might expect to pay and offering pointers along the way. Before you write your pet café business plan or begin scoping out buildings, you’re going to want to read this article.

A Breakdown of the Costs to Open a Pet Café

The following prices, while based on real pet and non-animal cafés, are only estimates. The costs you encounter on the road to opening a pet café may be higher or lower. The intention of this guide is to help you financially plan, but don’t take these costs as anything more than projections. 

Buying/Renting a Location - $5,000 to $375,000

The bulk of your costs is going to go towards the building that will become your café. 

First, you have a decision to make. Are you going to rent a location, or do you want to own it outright? 

Renting does have some benefits. Should the cost of your rent get too high, then you can wrap up your commitment and opt not to re-sign. If you own the building, then you have to go through the extra effort of putting it on the market and hoping it sells.

However, owning a building does usually prevent the kinds of price fluctuations that can occur when you’re only renting. Your annual rental fees can sometimes skyrocket if the complex of buildings isn’t doing that well or other factors around the community have caused prices to increase. 

When selecting a location for your pet café, you must have a budget that you can use as your guide. If you don’t have enough capital to pay for the costs of your building, then you can consider taking out a loan with your bank or even finding an angel investor.

Keep in mind that what you take out, you’re usually expected to pay back. Thus, before you put up your house as collateral, be fully sure that you’re not getting in over your head. 

The size and layout of the perfect building should be complementary to your goals of using the building as an animal café. That said, you can modify the building if it’s not perfect right out of the gate. We’ll talk more about this later.

The building also needs to be easily accessible within your town or neighborhood. Ideally, you don’t want many other restaurants or cafés on your street, or at least not direct competitors. 

The good news is that since yours is a café and not a restaurant, you normally don’t need as big of a building. Unless you’re in a premium location such as New York, then a smaller building usually costs less money to rent or own than a larger one.

Monthly Mortgage or Rent - $3,000 to $100,000 a Month

Renting or paying a mortgage on a café isn’t like doing the same for an apartment, condo, or house. Your café is likely significantly larger than those buildings, so you can expect the rent or mortgage to increase in kind.

Your first rent or mortgage payment or two could come out-of-pocket using the money you took out for your café. After that, the point is to begin acquiring money from your pet café to cover the costs of keeping the building in your name.

How do you know how high is too high for rent or mortgage? Take your rent and divided it by at least 10 percent. 

For example, if you had a very high-cost rent or mortgage payment that’s $100,000 a month and you divide that by 10 percent, you get $1,000,000.

Now, that amount is not your monthly sales projection, don’t worry. Rather, $1,000,000 is your annual sales amount. You’d have to make approximately $19,231 per month to keep the lights on.

If that amount seems unrealistic even if your pet café excelled, then your rent or mortgage is too high. Keep looking and don’t sign any contracts yet!

Potential Building Modifications - About $60,000

As we mentioned earlier, your pet café might be too small to start. Your state or country will also have regulations that a pet café must follow that could require you to have to modify the building. 

We should note that you can only extend or otherwise alter your building if you own it. If you’re renting, then you’ll have to hunt around until you find the perfect place for a pet café. 

How much it would cost to modify your building depends on the extent of the work. A few small changes might cost you under $10,000 while adding on new wings or areas can bring the costs up to around $60,000.

Hiring/Paying Staff - $3,500 Per Employee

Once you have your building, it’s time to hire people to work at your pet café.

Investopedia estimates that between putting out listings, interviewing, having follow-up interviews, and training, the cost of one employee is $3,500 if that employee works hourly.

Now, the Investopedia article did not specify an industry in their figure, so you might likely have to spend even more money still to get staff for your pet café. 

How many employees will your pet café need? That depends on the size of your café and your hours.

If you open your pet café for 12 hours and your café isn’t that large, then you can get away with hiring four baristas. Two would cover one shift and two would cover the other. 

It doesn’t hurt to have maybe two additional baristas who are part-time in case your four baristas get sick or need to take personal or vacation time. 

For the sake of this example, let’s your pet café has only six staff members. The costs associated with hiring staff would be $21,000.

Don’t forget that you have to pay your employees too. Barista wages vary throughout the country as is true of any industry, but the estimate is around $25,000 a year. By multiplying 25,000 by 6, you get $150,000 that you’d have to set aside for employee wages.  

Obtaining Café Equipment - $18,250 to $143,600

Besides your building, the area where you’ll spend the most money is undoubtedly on equipment. 

In some cases, you can get lucky. A former café or restaurant owner who left in a hurry might not bring all their stuff, especially the heavier equipment. 

You can also sometimes find deals through former café or restaurant owners who just shuttered their doors.

If the café or restaurant closure happened unexpectedly, then these people will want to offset their equipment to pay for their bills. You can find some great deals despite the upsetting consequences of the sale.

Otherwise, if you’re buying new, here are the projected costs for café equipment.

  • Water filtration systems - $1,500 to $100,000
  • Disposable coffee sleeves, lids, paper cups, and napkins - $400 to $1,500 
  • Refrigeration system - $1,000 to $12,000
  • Crockery - $400 to $1,500
  • Coffee roasters - $3,000 and up
  • Coffee accessories like scales, measuring spoons and cups, frothing pitchers, and espresso tampers - $300 to $400
  • Coffee machines - $500 to $2,500
  • Blenders, toasters, and microwaves - $3,000 to $5,000
  • Espresso machines - $500 to $2,000
  • Three-compartment sink - $300 to $600
  • Underbar sink - $200 to $300
  • Dishwasher - $5,000 to $12,000
  • Ice machines - $1,800 to $3,000
  • Smoothie blenders and frappe machines - $150 to $500
  • Espresso grinders - $500 to $800

Food/Beverage Costs

What makes your pet café the go-to place? Besides the cute animals, it’s all about the adorable, themed food and drinks. 

Food and beverage costs will vary from one café to another depending on what comprises your menu. That said, you can follow a formula to determine what you’ll pay. 

Food prices per dish = Cost of ingredients x weekly amount sold

POS Software - $150 Per Month

All aspiring restaurants and cafés must have point-of-sale or POS software. Your pet café staff will rely on the POS software for bookkeeping, reviewing current food inventory, and tracking cash flow and sales. 

When you purchase POS software, you’ll subscribe to monthly or yearly payments. On the more expensive side, you might pay $150 per month for the software, which would cost you $1,800 per year.

Feel free to try several POS software options before you settle on one. The software must be easy to use so your staff can quickly learn the ins and outs. A free trial or demo will help you decide how useable the software is.

Further, the best POS software for your pet café has a responsive customer service team, little downtime, and features that make your café easier to manage.

Décor and Furniture - $300 a Square Foot

Although the animals are the main attraction at your pet café, you can’t use them to distract from lackluster décor. You want to catch people’s eye in your town or city, and that entails creating an ambiance that’s inviting and warm. 

We can’t tell you what you’ll spend on décor and furniture because it’s very much a personal thing. 

You might walk into a building that will become your prospective pet café and want to change every last thing. Then again, you could walk in and want to make only some minor tweaks.

Where you source your décor and furniture is your choice. You’ll probably have to buy most furniture new unless the pieces were very well cared for. Worn-down, dingy furniture is going to repulse customers and potentially keep them from coming back.

You might take pieces from your own personal collection at home or purchase all new décor.

The average price for café furniture and décor is $300 a square foot. Cafés can be 800 square feet on the smaller side up to 2,000 square feet. 

If your pet café is only 800 square feet, then at $300 a square foot, you’d shell out $240,000 for décor. At 2,000 square feet, your costs are far more substantial at $600,0000!

Permits and Licensing - $25 to $7,000

Establishments such as restaurants and cafés must have a bevy of permits and licenses to legally operate. 

Some relevant examples include seller’s permit, dumpster placement permit, sales tax license, resale permit, live music and entertainment license, building health permit, food handler’s permit, foodservice permit, sign permit, certificate of occupancy, and business license.

Since your café deals with live animals, you may need further permits and licenses still. Expect to pay the higher end of the price estimate here due to the nature of your café.

Obtaining Pets – Free to $1,000+

Now it’s time to get the pets for your pet café. 

We’re assuming for the sake of this article that yours will be a cat or dog café. If your café will feature more exotic pets like hedgehogs, birds, or lizards, then the above costs are not applicable. You can expect to spend a lot more money.

In many cases, you can procure animals for free. We mentioned in a recent article on our blog that the pets featured at animal cafés usually come from animal rescue organizations or kennels. 

When you bring these animals to your café, you’re saving them from potentially being euthanized or killed. That’s a great feeling. 

Should you have to pay for a dog or cat, you can easily spend over $1,000 to several thousand dollars for these furry animals. Breeders will usually charge a premium, especially for high-quality purebreds.  

Pet Vet Bills - $300 to $500 Per Animal Per Year

If you hope to pass health inspections and keep your pet café’s doors open, you must have healthy animals. That’s regardless of the type of animal you’re interested in for your café.

On the lower estimate, you’ll pay $200 to $400 per vet trip for each animal in your possession. That’s assuming that the pet is otherwise healthy, of course. 

The above cost also does account for vaccinations, which puppies and kittens require. These vaccinations are about $100 for all the shots.

As we’ve discussed in another blog post, the average number of animals featured at a pet café is 10 to 15. 

If you have 10 animals in your care, then the cost for vet bills will be $3,000 to $5,000. For 15 animals, now you’re looking at costs between $4,500 and $7,500 a year. 

We again want to stress that these costs are for healthy animals. You can shell out hundreds to thousands of dollars for a sick cat or dog, especially if they need surgery for an injury or illness.

Pet Food - $250 to $700 Per Animal Per Year

The animals at your pet café are going to get hungry, and it’s not good for their health to feed them people food like muffins or scones. Rather, the animals need their own nutritious, balanced diet that includes wet or dry food and the occasional treat.

Per animal, you’ll pay $250 to $700 to keep them well-fed. 

We’ll again use the estimate of your animal café having 10 to 15 cats or dogs. With 10 animals in your possession, you’d pay $2,500 to $7,000 per year to feed them. 

Do you have as many as 15 cuddly animals in your pet café? Now the food costs are between $37,500 and $10,500 for the year.

Pet Care - $420 to $1,000 Per Animal Per Year

While the animals that live at your café will spend lots of time cuddling and playing with customers, their needs must still be taken care of even once everyone goes home. 

You’ll need pet beds, toys, collars, leashes, grooming supplies, and more. Here is an average of those costs.

  • Training classes - $25 to $300
  • Grooming - $300 to $500
  • Collars, harnesses, or leashes - $20 to $50
  • Beds - $50 to $200
  • Toys - $25 to $50

Conclusion

Do you plan to open a pet café? As we’ve proven in this guide, doing so is anything but cheap. Knowing what you’d spend to open and manage your café is half the battle. Now you need to collect your capital and start chasing your dream. Good luck! 

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