Weighing pros and cons helps us to make daily decisions. If you don’t get your morning coffee, you might feel cranky arriving to the office on a Monday morning (con), but at least you won’t have that crash later on in the day (pro).
Speaking of coffee, here are the 5 pros and 5 cons of starting a coffee shop to help you figure out if this specific entrepreneurial path is right for you.
The pros include:
- Being part of something.
- You are on your own time.
- You are fulfilling a dream.
- The feeling of accomplishment.
- The positive perks of your business making money.
The cons include:
- Difficulty staffing the coffee shop.
- Finding the funds for startup costs.
- Lack of work-life balance.
- Possibility of failure.
- The unexpected events.
Many feelings go into each of these pros and cons. You’re either excited at the idea of starting your own business, or possibly, you’re dreading taking that first step.
The good news is that whatever you’re feeling and experiencing is more than likely normal to a major life decision like starting your own business. Let’s start with the cons, because, let’s be honest: we’d rather end on a positive note here after all.
When you think of cons of opening up a coffee shop, staff probably didn’t come to mind, and that’s exactly why I put it first on the list. When owning a business, you’re the boss, which usually means it’s in your hands to fire or let employees go. Do you have it in you to do that? Some people struggle with the idea of being “that guy.” Being the boss is an awfully big weight to put on your shoulders and you just need to make sure you can bear it. Consider if you have the right personality for the job and are capable of the many decisions that will have to be made in the future. In addition to that, what if one of your staff members has a medical condition and needs excessive time off, or if one of your employees walks out during their shift? Are you able to handle the stress that comes with this territory? It’s always a good idea to have back-up protocol set in place for when the unexpected happens, but keep in mind sometimes it’s just that, unexpected.
It was inevitably going to be the largest con on this list and we all knew it. Let’s face it, opening up your own coffee shop will not be a cheap task. Not only do you need finances to open up the shop, hire staff, get equipment, etc., but you also have to find ways to keep the money situation “okay” until the business becomes profitable. Money is a main contributor to why people don’t chase their dreams, whether it’s opening up a third wave coffee shop or being a barista at one. It’s also a good idea not to go over your head in the beginning. If you get the gut feeling that you won’t be able to pay the loan back, maybe sit down with someone who can help you budget and figure out a way to move forward. Actually, on the moving forward note, money is a reason some people shouldn’t open up their own coffee shop. Let’s be frank, it’s not for everyone and that is a-okay.
3. Lack of Work-Life Balance
First things first, note how it says can be consuming, not that it has to be. Opening up a business will obviously take away a lot of your free time, can keep you up at night, and can even take you away from your friends and family. There are ways to schedule your life in a way that it works, and that’s, of course, beneficial to look into, but we want to cover all bases so you’re not surprised when the life of being a coffee shop owner becomes your reality. There are time-consuming things that a lot of people don’t realize before going into this business, including meetings at the bank with investors, visiting other local shops to see their menu and try their coffee, interviews for staff, etc.
There is also no way of getting around the fact that the process of opening up a coffee shop takes time. Ask yourself why you want to do it. Is it your dream to be the owner of a cool, independent coffee shop in a trendy city? Do you like the idea of owning a business for the sole purpose of (hopefully) making a whole lot of Benjamins? Whatever your reason, is it good enough for you that it’s worth exchanging your time for? If yes, great! If no, then consider how you could be a part of the coffee shop world from a different perspective.
4. The Possibility of Failure
This isn’t an easy thing to have to think about, but it is a responsible thing to think about. What if you got all the money needed, the staffing, the best building, and for whatever reason it fails? Will you be able to stomach that? Knowing you put all the work, effort, and energy into opening up the coffee shop in the first place is a win to me. A failing business can be absolutely detrimental to some owners’ mental well-being, not to mention financial well-being.
If it does fail, try your hardest to regain your momentum and try again, if you’re mentally and financially strong enough. Assess why the venture failed, and learn from it more than you already have from the process of opening up a coffee shop.
5. Unexpected Events
I wanted to include a handful of extras that can be a negative part of opening up a coffee shop or just a negative stepping stone that is just inevitably part of the journey.
One thing that might surprise you is dealing with suppliers. This can be less than enjoyable. Sometimes they don’t show up on time, and you’ll be out of pastries for that morning. Guess what that means? Yup, a dig into the sales for a product that day since you won’t have any muffins or croissants to sell…which then can lead to upset guests, stressed-out employees, and so on.
Good communication can help with this, but as we stated earlier, there are always things that can come up unexpectedly. On that note, dealing with upset customers can be difficult. We’ve all heard, been told, or even quoted the saying, “The customer’s always right.” Whether you believe that or not, the guest believes it. Do what you can to diffuse the situation in that moment. Are they upset that you’re out of muffins and screaming about how they’ll just go to a competitor? Offer them a muffin for 50% off on their next visit, or comp their coffee for the day.
Lastly, a con that you will feel as the owner of a coffee shop will be worrying. You will worry constantly in the beginning. Are we making enough profits? Are the customers liking the new spot? Is the staff happy? Will we make rent next month? It’s completely natural because your coffee shop is your baby and the fact that you’re worrying is a sign that you care about it and are invested.
1.Being Part of Something
The coffee community is huge. It’s way beyond what people think it is. Did you know there are world barista championships? There are, and they are like the Olympics of coffee.
I remember I was participating in a throw down once (it’s what the coffee world calls a latte art competition) and I brought a friend with me. There was barely enough space to move around, but there was free food and beer and a very active crowd. I remember my friend saying to me that it was like being at a sports game with people cheering and rooting for others. If you’ve never been to one, go and just watch: it’s captivating!
Along with throw downs, you’ll experience the actual community aspect of your neighborhood. You’ll start seeing regulars pretty quickly and could potentially gain life-long bonds with some of them. You will get customers who treat you like a therapist and dump all their problems on you while sipping a delicious cappuccino and you’ll get regulars that just like to be left alone on their computer with their cup of tea.
I think that’s the beauty of it. The coffee community is so vast and different than anything I’ve ever experienced and is easily one of the biggest pros to this business.
2. You Are on Your Own Time
You’re the boss, which means you’re in control of who’s working what shift and when. This also means you’re in control of when you are needed in the store. Some owners like spending a lot of their time in the store, being as hands-on and involved as possible.
Meanwhile, others like the store to run without them needing to step into the door daily. Being the owner of a coffee shop means you’re on your own time. If you’ve got an important appointment or your daughter has a basketball game, you don’t have to ask anyone to get time off. One of the best things about being on your own time is that you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn (unless that’s your thing). Did you party a little too hard after that throw down last night and your pounding headache says to stay in bed until 10? Cool, you’re the boss, why not make it 11?
Don’t take advantage of this to the point where your staff and shop are suffering. Being the owner means you have to pick up the slack sometimes if someone calls in sick or walks out in the middle of a shift.
3. Fulfilling a Dream
There are far fewer things that feel as good to the human brain than the sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. If everything runs smoothly, even if after a few bumps in the road, there will be a point where you look around at your smiling staff, every seat taken by a customer, and you will feel whole. You will think, “We did it.” This is an amazing feeling that no one can take from you.
4. The Feeling of Accomplishment
The feeling of accomplishment is grand when you start any business. Starting and maintaining a coffee shop demands long hours of work. People drink coffee and might need a pick-me-up any time of day. Staying open during the peak business hours, working through the usual day’s customer rushes, and constantly having to clean up after the mess can be tiresome. However, you’ve completed so many tasks and overcome struggles to open your coffee shop and arrive at where you are now. This is a pro that you should keep in your back pocket on those days before the shop is open when self-doubt creeps into your mind.
5. The Positive Perks of Money
Did you know that you can make some serious bank from opening up a coffee shop? If you budgeted well and made a realistic break-even point, you will be making a profit in no time. Generating profits can fulfill your life in ways you didn’t realize were possible, not to mention they can greatly benefit your shop, thus turning in more profits. Maybe you’ll use some of that extra cash to open a second location, or maybe you’ll go on that dream vacation you’ve been putting off for the last 10 years. You’ll have the opportunity to do more with your life as you gain profits from your own business. This includes making your own schedule to allow yourself to spend the time and money on things or events that are important to you.
Now that you have read through 5 pros and cons to opening up your own coffee shop, you have a glimpse of the reality that could be your future. After reading these, we hope you have a more concrete idea if it’s the right venture that is right for you. Does the money part scare you away? Is that image of fulfilling a dream making you want to start planning for your shop tomorrow? Either way, you’re now more educated about what goes into – and what can potentially come out of – owning your own shop.
Frequently Asked Questions
The challenges of opening a coffee shop include:
● Barriers to entry in the market.
● Finding a niche in the industry that will one-up competitors.
● Finding a profitable location.
● Dealing with local chains as competitors (such as Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, etc.)
The social benefits of coffee shops include:
● Fostering creativity in the community (for example, hosting poetry nights)
● Friends can meet and hang out in between classes or on weekends.
● Business partners can meet in a relaxed setting to discuss professional manners over a cup of Joe.
● They are great date night venues, especially if couples do dessert at your coffee shop.
To learn more on how to start your own coffee shop checkout my startup documents here
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun
My adventure in coffee began when I first launched my first coffee shop back in the early 2000s. I had to figure out so many things on my own and to make it worse within 2 years of opening two large corporate coffee chains moved in just blocks away from me!
As I saw smaller and even some larger coffee shops in the neighborhood slowly lose customers to these giant coffee chains and slowly close up shop, I knew that I had to start getting creative…or go out of business.
I (like you may be) knew the coffee industry well. I could make the best latte art around and the foam on my caps was the fluffiest you have ever seen. I even had the best state-of-the-art 2 group digital Nuova Simonelli machine money could buy. But I knew that these things alone would not be enough to lure customers away from the name brand established coffee shops.
Eventually, through lots of trial and error as well as perseverance and creativity I did find a way to not only survive but also thrive in the coffee/espresso industry even while those corporate coffee chains stayed put. During those years I learned to adapt and always faced new challenges. It was not always easy, however, in the end, I was the sole survivor independent coffee shop within a 10-mile radius of my location. Just two corporate coffee chains and I were left after that year. All told the corporate coffee chains took down over 15 small independent coffee shops and kiosks and I was the last one standing and thriving.
Along the years I meet others with the same passion for coffee and I quickly learned that it is not only “how good a barista is” that makes a coffee shop successful, but the business side of coffee as well.
Hence why I started this website you are on now. To provide the tools and resources for up and coming coffee shop owners to gain that vital insight and knowledge on how to start a coffee shop successfully.
Stick around, browse through my helpful blog and resources and enjoy your stay! With lots of LATTE LOVE!