So uh… I want to create a Maid Cafe in the US.
Sorry you’ll have to deal with this, but I’ve got another silly idea that I want to make happen. Bear with me, and hear me out at the same time. I’d like to present to you:
Hime Cafe — A Cosplay Cafe (maid cafe) in the New York-New Jersey area that would cater to a broad spectrum of interests. It will serve drinks and treats that will add a nice new touch to the cafe scene that has yet to exist for this very densely populated region of the country. So to help organize my mind, I’m going to try to flesh out what I have thought out thus far in my mind.
What is a Maid Cafe?
For those who aren’t in the know, a maid cafe is a very strange phenomenon. It stems from the world of anime and manga, and is even a very weird activity to indulge in for the Japanese–the land of origin. It is a cafe just like any other; it serves desserts and coffee. However, what makes it far different from any Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts that you may know is that the kick is this: the staff are dressed up as maids! Bizarre, right?
So this idea, to better understand it, shares more similarities with Hooters than Starbucks. Food and beverage are definite selling points for the establishment, but what patrons are really paying for is the experience. What is being sold in a maid cafe is a slice of heaven and fantasy. Where Hooters sells sexy girls in white tank tops and orange short-shorts, a maid cafe sells cutesy and adorable. The maids become personalities like the Disney Princesses are in the amusement parks. What a maid cafe then is, is entertainment more than food service.
That is the general premise for HIME CAFE, except that it has a few other quirks that will customize it for an American storefront. It will be a personalized and unique cafe that you will not find anywhere else!
The Target Demographic
The typical HIME CAFE patron is one that has been around for the past half-century. Their numbers increase and replenish as time goes on, as the characteristic that binds all of them together is the interest in a medium–Anime and Manga. This even extends to the population that finds a particular interest in Japanese subculture as well, since the aesthetic of the Maid Cafe stems from Japan. These are the people who attend anime conventions (think AnimeNEXT, Otakon, Anime Boston, etc…) and potentially those who indulge in the “nerd culture” of the United States (think New York ComiCon). These customers are, sadly, not given many venues in which to devote their spending aside from these several-times-a-year conventions or smaller hobby shops scattered throughout their vicinity locally. The other patrons, in which we hope to accomplish with HIME CAFE, will come from the general population. With their curiosity, the unique allure and aesthetic of HIME CAFE, and the consistent high quality of service and entertainment, the common layman will enjoy what we have to offer.
(Understand that the HIME CAFE experience will be altered greatly, but this is a template)
The primary product that HIME CAFE offers its patrons is an experience unlike any other, under the context and premise of a typical cafe experience. They will come in to enjoy our very friendly and welcoming staff, enjoy the aesthetic of it all (from costumes to the small utensils that they use), the delicious and decadent food and drinks offered, and be entertained by the showmanship and performance aspect of HIME CAFE. Each of these elements will reinforce the overall enjoyment of our patrons as well as the major theme of the cafe: cute, fun, and beauty.
Anchoring the whole experience of the HIME CAFE is its staff. This is the main allure of the theme (thus, MAID cafe) and so this is the most important aspect. HIME CAFE’s staff will be masters of both service (in serving guests in the most accommodating and safest way possible) and hospitality. Each maid will have their own personality (their act) that will cater to the interests of our patrons. We will have the high-and-mighty tsundere, the presidential and commanding kuudere, the silent and mysterious dandere, the flamboyant and ever-happy deredere, the regal and sophisticated himedere, and possibly even consider a much safer version of the yandere. We don’t want any of our patrons being stalked and murdered!
Each maid will also cater to different “looks” as well. This will be indicated through their fashion, their demeanor, and their body types. You’ll have the short “chibi” type alongside the intelligent-looking “megane” type. Variety is the spice of life, and will thus help business boom as each “type” of personality donned by our servers will reach a different patron every time. So a patron may come into the cafe and even order the same things, but leave with a completely different experience. This fantasy look and feel extends also to our other staff. Food runners, cooks, host/hostess… everyone will be putting on a show.
As it stands right now (in the brainstorming stage), the initial staff must be efficient and essentialist in its inception. We cannot be wasteful in our assembly, as the room for error and waste in the beginning stages of HIME CAFE are the most unforgiving. The staff will consist of the following:
- Manager/Host — the ones who run the show, coordinate the flow of work into a reasonable and manageable manner. The manager is the filter, serving as the deciding factor after taking in all the information and variables in an equation. They communicate with the staff, with the patrons, and with the best interests of the betterment of HIME CAFE, go about their daily doings.
- Head Maid — this spot is reserved for my sister-in-law Cindy. This position is essentially the manager of the service staff (the other maids). She is the one who is most comfortable with all the inner-workings of the duties of a maid, and is integral and valued greatly in the hiring and sorting process for the rest of the maid staff. They deal with scheduling, with training, and with the direction of the service staff.
- Head Chef — this spot is reserved for Jason. This position has intimate knowledge of what the kitchen is capable of producing and at what cost. The Head Chef, while does have opportunities to interact with the patrons, is responsible for maintaining the menu of HIME CAFE.
- Cook — The duties of the cook is simple: cook. They are responsible for the quality of food that comes out of the kitchen. In its initial stage, we’re looking at maybe hiring one other cook to assist Jason in the duties of the kitchen.
- Maid — This is the most demanding but also the most rewarding position of HIME CAFE. The maids, the servers, are the stars of the show we provide, and must be capable of many things:
-At the core of a maid’s duty is to be a server. To provide food, drinks, and deliver an enjoyable dining experience is essential. Nothing else matters if a maid is incapable of this.
– Presentation is key for HIME CAFE, and so our maids must always take good care of their appearances. This means their uniform, (this will sound harsh, but it is honesty) their physical appearance, and their overall demeanor when it comes to the customers.
– Showmanship is the highest platitude of what makes the maids at HIME CAFE unique and extraordinary. The maids we hire must constantly maintain their performance in this category in whatever creative ways they can. This means working on their character personality, their performance and skits, and also their general aesthetic.
- Expediter — This is the more open-ended position at HIME CAFE. The Expediter is merely just that: someone to expedite the process of HIME CAFE’s daily goings. That can mean helping in cleaning, running food, managing some menial tasks like handling the check, or even something as peculiar as going out to town to run an errand; the expediter is in the flexible role of assistance, which is vital to alleviate the workload for the staff so that they may collectively provide a better experience to our patrons.
As stated in the previous section, the menu will be set after discussing it in greater detail with the Head Chef. We will serve an assortment of food and beverages, each focusing on the overall theme of the cafe in its cuteness and its elegance. Most importantly, the menu served in HIME CAFE will hit on several notes:
- Deliciousness. No other category matters if we cannot deliver on this note. Nobody will order the food if it is not good. Nobody will care for any other aspect of the dish if they cannot stomach it. Our dishes will be good and with the highest priority in taste. While the novelty of the maid cafe will bring our guests in, our food and service will be what will guarantee return customers.
- Simple and Clean. The dishes should all follow this belief. Everything we make must be, for our guest, simple and clean to consume. None of our dishes should involve our guests needing a wetnap or paper towels to clean themselves after. So, unfortunately, no BBQ, no hands-on dishes, and nothing that will cause unnecessary messes for both our staff and our guests.
- Interactivity and Customization. Since the main selling point of HIME CAFE will be the maids, the dishes that we offer to our guests (be they an entree, a dessert, or a beverage) should always maximize the possibilities for our staff to interact. This amazement factor ties into the showmanship of the establishment, and this can be something as simple as allowing our maids to write messages on the food.
- Decadence. The allure of a maid cafe is that the patrons are treated as masters and as royalty, so the food we serve should prop up that notion.
The food of the cafe will consist of the following categories: desserts, beverages, and entrees.
The initial plan for the desserts at least is that the majority of the bakes goods coming into the cafe will be provided through outside vendors. I know of a few friends who are bakers and, as a staff, we could go around to other bakeries to look for interesting and delicious products to buy and then resell to our patrons. We buy in bulk from the bakeries, and we sell at a higher cost to the patrons (we would essentially act as a vetting process for the patrons, deciding what is worthy of being sold and what isn’t). Some expected iconic desserts served at HIME CAFE can be parfaits, crepes, shaved ice, ice creams, and mochi.
The beverages will, for the most part, be prepared and provided in-house. Some very strenuous research must be done in all the different kinds of coffees, teas, and juices that we may provide our patrons at HIME CAFE. While this may not require all maids to be baristas, it may be something that will be necessary coming down the line for the staff. For a cafe to serve terrible coffee is a joke and will cause HIME CAFE to lose a considerable amount of credibility. Some expected iconic beverages served at HIME CAFE can be cappuccino, herbal tea, bubble tea, espresso, coffee, hot chocolate, smoothies, and juices.
For the entrees, our dishes will be an array of both iconic dishes you’d come to expect from a maid cafe and some very original dishes embodying the creative spirit of the establishment as a whole. The latter will be organized primarily with the Head Chef. Some expected iconic entrees served at HIME CAFE can be curry rice, croquettes, omurice, onigiri, and some warm sandwiches (paninis).
Each and every dish served at HIME CAFE must cater to the original points listed earlier, to help push on the consistent theme throughout the establishment.
The Entertainment and Showmanship
While HIME CAFE functions as a normal cafe (where the workers just so happen to be dressed up in a peculiar uniform), there are opportunities for the weird and quirky aspect to stand out. This is the entertainment aspect of HIME CAFE, which will harbor the fun spirit of what we want to do. This is what makes us special; this is what makes us so different.
The most iconic aspect of a maid cafe is its maids, and the easiest way to discern a worker from a patron is their uniform. Without having met nor known any of our staff, our patrons’ first taste and impression (which is vital to how the rest of their experience plays out) of HIME CAFE will be in the appearance of our staff. Our uniforms will set the tone for the cafe, and so must accomplish several tasks:
- They must be practical. If a uniform is actually a noticeable hindrance to our servers from doing their everyday tasks, then it is no good. Each uniform must serve the primary purpose of allowing our staff to work uninhibited; it doesn’t matter how beautiful the uniform may be. They must be easy to clean, easy to maintain, and
- The uniforms are a modern take on the maid outfit. Sleek, elegant, feminine, and classy is the look we are going for. While I make the comparison to Hooters, I do not want HIME CAFE to have that same image. To reiterate, we are selling cute and classy, not sexy. Each uniform should be flattering to the server that wears it, but it must not overexpose.
Each uniform is to be hand-crafted by our Head Maid Cindy. Until the maid reaches that threshold where she has been qualified to her own uniform, she will wear a stock uniform already made and prepared. This custom and unique uniform will be an accolade for our maids, serving as a milestone in their adventure with HIME CAFE.
With each seasonal event, and with just general participation over time, our workers will gain access to the wardrobe of different and unique uniforms provided by the Head Maid (and also by other findings), which will allow our staff to present themselves as unique, so the look of HIME CAFE will be ever-changing.
The Maid Service
Whenever and wherever possible, our staff will seize the opportunity to treat our guests like royalty. When they walk in the door, they will be greeted by the staff as a whole. When the leave, they will be given a valediction. Maids will try hard to remember the names of their customers and even build a healthy and professional relationship with them (as anyone would normally in a restaurant/cafe setting). Chairs will be pushed in for our guests. Napkins will be folded upon their temporary departure from their seat. It may sound strenuous, but this attention to detail will be the impeccable service that patrons will notice and reward. Oh, and the maids will totally call you “goshujin-sama” if you prefer.
This portion is a bit more malleable simply because we need to constantly be cautious about how close to the origin we want our maid cafe to be. We want to make sure we customize the performance and more interpersonal aspect of the maid cafe to the interests of the patronage. Maids are able to play games with the customers, interact with them freely (so the staffing must consider the time necessary for each maid to provide proper service to patrons). Our guests come for the experience, and so everything HIME CAFE does is to adhere to that interest.
Social Media Presence
One of the major outlets for HIME CAFE is in its presence on social media. Through HIME CAFE’s social media account (particularly on YouTube), our maids will embrace their characters and personality types and present it onto the screen. We will produce (for fun) excursions, advertise products, announce all upcoming major events for the cafe, and many more! These small video projects will serve as an opportunity to welcome and encourage patrons who are on-the-fence about visiting to come and meet the cast that we have assembled at HIME CAFE.
The Eventful Cafe
One of the better things that will happen with the cafe is its dedication to the idea that every day is different. With the change of the seasons, with the coming of holidays, and with all the random happenings throughout the year, HIME CAFE will make sure to adapt and capitalize on the high energy of the patrons. Open Mic nights, working for conventions, community service and outreach–HIME CAFE will be very involved in the community and working all throughout the year to include different themes and activities so that our guests will keep coming back for more. This is a very fluid option, as the events we host (be they a karaoke night or a game show night) will not hinder the operation of the cafe normally, but add some extra spice to our schedule. Viewing parties, themed nights; whatever we can organize, we will!
The Giving Cafe
Community service and outreach will be very essential for the cafe’s success. Our hope is not to just have a store open and make some money; what we really want is the success of HIME CAFE as a fixture in the community that the operate in. Part of the jobs of the staff at HIME CAFE is to be performers, and with that comes the responsibility to do good to the world–this is non-negotiable. We will host, join, and participate in community outreach programs. We will join in soup kitchens, we will do our fair share of cleaning our part of town, we will visit nursing and retirement homes, and we will reach out to the schools. This portion is open-ended, but this is part of the philosophy of HIME CAFE–we are a force for good.
The Cafe Layout
This portion depends on the space available to us, but the HIME CAFE needs a sizable space to operate in. The space, whatever size we end up choosing, should be able to accommodate the following things:
- Mixed Table Seating
- Coffee Bar
- Bookshelves/Library to store manga and board games
- Stage for performances
- Dessert station
The Hub for the Anime and Cosplay Community
This might be too ambitious (as is everything else planned here), but the cafe will serve as a hub for the community. We will display (and sell for a commission) artwork created by talented artists from the anime community. Our maids will wear with pride and flaunt costumes created for them from fellow cosplayers. The desserts that we sell, while obviously provided from outside sources, are advertisements for the bakeries that stock us. HIME CAFE can and will serve as a bridge for our target demographic to the things that interest them, and we might even expose them to new things that they may be interested in.
It might sound like I’m living in my head with this, but I am fully aware of many of the obstacles that lie ahead.
I know that I am inexperienced–I have never opened nor managed a small business, let alone a cafe or anything that could compare to a maid cafe. I know that I lack the capital to invest in such a project without digging myself into a great hole. I know of all my faults as a person in heading a project such as this, and the insane confidence I am attuning into the anime and cosplay community as well as in the people that I plan on working with.
Yet for some strange reason, I can’t help but feel a burning desire to make this dream come true.