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Saturday, March 29, 2008

How to set up an Internet Cafe part 1

High school - I discovered strategy and role playing games (more commonly RPG's). College - I got introduced to my true addiction, MMORPG's.

When ever I recall those days, I can't keep myself from thinking of the endless hours in front of my computer or in the internet cafe clicking away at my favorite game. As I've said in my previous post, I have spent most of my school life, during breaks or whenever possible, on games so much that even my sleep was not spared - yes, I was "driven". Thus, I was exposed to the world of the computer cafe business
On average, I used to spend around 200-400 pesos daily on computer cafe rentals. This excludes my monthly expenditures on prepaid game cards and cafe food. In total, I spent at least 8,000 pesos a month on gaming - good news for the cafe owner. Supposing there were other people like me in the cafe, the cafe owner would be churning a large sum monthly, just from gamers (excluding printing profit, typing jobs, and the like). Pretty soon, I got lured into putting up an internet cafe of my own.

Now, that I am running one now, I want to share some tips for all you out there who wish to enter this venture.

First things first, Site. Where do you plan to put up for internet cafe? I would suggest an area where people pass by on a regular basis; near a school or a densely populated residential area is ideal. Being a gamer myself, I would like to find my favorite cafe near a school exit so locating it will not be a problem. Planting it near some eateries or "carinderia" is not bad (discard this if you plan to serve "real" food to your customers, see bottom for more info). Most pro gamers want to eat at a place right outside or close to their shop.

Next, how many computers do you plan on installing into your cafe? My take on that would be around 15-20 for starters. You may also want to put in less considering your cafe's space and starting budget. More PC's more or less translate to higher income; especially if you plan on starting in a populated area.

Computer Specifications. As a gamer myself, I would like to play without the hassles of lag or slow boot up. Every second counts when you play MMORPG's, especially during guild sieges or other important regular events. I would suggest on going for the latest specs, to give you an edge on other computer cafes. Good specifications give you some breathing time before you would need the next upgrade. Running a technology sensitive business means that in the next month or so, a new hardware would be released to make yours the not-so-latest in the line. So, investing on those highly functional hardware are really an advantage.

However, if you plan on renting your computers to a market composed of students who only wish to type their projects, research on the internet, and the like, you can opt for basic specifications.

Please keep in mind that the key in this business is good service. You need your customers to keep coming for more. Keep your computers up to date with good computer specs. Today, having a dual core processor is ideal. Along with high RAM (1Gb to 2Gb is ideal), and a good video card of 256Mb-512Mb will make a good computer. You won't need an optical drive and a floppy disc drives (which already seems to be outdated with the introduction of USB mass storage devices). You can have a CD/DVD writer combo on the server so you can manage what files you copy to your computers. By doing so, you can also add cd/dvd-burning to your list of services.

Next on the list is good cafe softwares. You can opt for free cafe management softwares like HandyCafe. They allow to take control of your cafe through functions only the server can use. You can regulate the rental time for each customer as well as limit the bandwidth whenever downloads affect the whole network. Cafe management softwares usually have billing systems which automatically computes the total amount you should charge your customers. This is a good thing to use especially if you want to run the cafe yourself. Please click here to download HandyCafe.

Food. Most gamers spend less time on food than they usually do whenever they are online. But they are people, and people do eat. Whenever they feel the need to recharge, you can offer them quick to serve food like instant noodles. But, if you want to add more income to your cafe, you can serve "real" food to your customers. This would mean that they won't have to leave your cafe, thus continue playing their favorite games.

Comfy chairs. I, for one, would like to play long hours in my PC. I don't like getting uncomfortable in my seat while I play. So, I think it is important that along with good service, customer comfort should also be taken into consideration.

Games and Wordprocessors. When you have all these, you can have your technician, or if you can do it yourself, install all your games and word processing applications on your PC. You can use OpenOffice applications in place of Microsoft Office if you have a tight budget. The license for getting these applications can be very expensive, especially their operating systems.

Well, there you have it. I hope you find my guide useful. If you have any suggestions on improving this guide, please feel free to leave your comments.

Please click here to see my second part on starting an Internet Cafe.

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