Updated: Sep 19
8A5E Cafe in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago
As entrepreneurs, we are always thirsty for knowledge. Always looking to improve, tweak, change, and adapt but where do we go to get that know how?
Coffee shops have always been an entrepreneur breeding ground, but usually we are on our computers in our own little world. Boyu Li recognized this, and launched a space that not only naturally attracted early entrepreneurs, but provided on-site tech assistance, a must have for any entrepreneur.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Boyu, talk about his hybrid space - 8A5E Cafe - in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood, what it takes to successfully manage a business, and technology that helps him run his business.
Here are the key takeaways from our conversation with him.
An Intimidating Tech World
With the world becoming more tech centric by the day, it’s reasonable to believe that there are many people getting left behind, and lacking confidence around making technology choices.
Boyu recognized this, and sought to create a communal space that encouraged reaching out for help for even the simplest tech issues. Because every company needs an IT guy, even if it’s a company of one. Illustrating the need for every business owner to seek IT help, however a common roadblock is having the confidence to seek the necessary help.
It wouldn’t be a conversation if we didn’t talk about the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic on 8A5E and the food service industry as a whole. While challenges have been presented, Boyu spoke about the need to diversify your business, pandemic notwithstanding.
By diversifying your offering you protect your business against events such as COVID 19, or any changes in the world that could affect your business.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket - a tried and true proverb that proves right in business as well as life. 8A5E is a prime example of that, blending coffee with tech in a format that innovates on the internet cafe’s so prevalent in the ‘90’s.
To give yourself a fighting chance, be sure to diversify.
Square helps blend everything - a restauranteur’s best friend
The common adage is that business owners wear many hats. While common, it is actually the most true statement of all time. Therefore, we as business owners are always looking out for tools that enable us to streamline our business and handle multiple tasks simultaneously and easily.
When asked what tools he relies on in his business, Boyu mentioned Square. Square was born by creating products that gave entrepreneurs more flexibility, and has evolved to give them even more flexibility.
By not only offering point-of-sale software and hardware, and adding helpful tools such as online ordering, Square is 8A5E’s best friend.
Exciting New Tech for Restaurants - Watch for AI
As it always has and always will, technology is changing rapidly. Therefore in order to not get left behind, one must keep one eye on the future for what’s next.
We asked Boyu what he’s keeping an eye on as it pertains to his business. He’s excited to see what AI learning does for the restaurant industry, as we’re already seeing robot baristas that can do latte art in Japan, with that being the tip of the iceberg for automation.
However, he brought up a good point when it comes to automation in the cafe. That while it’s good to question what we can automate, we should also ask; should we automate?
A guiding principle for Boyu has always been to implement new tech and new concepts only if it promotes a better user experience. Test it with your customers and listen to their feedback.
Big thanks to Boyu for sharing his insights with us and the community, please check him out at 8A5E if you find yourself in Chicago. Just to give you a look into his creativity, he has an InfiKIOSK he uses not as a point of sale, but as a digital billboard.