Purchasing equipment, decorations, and furniture for your coffee shop is an exciting process. You are finally able to build the coffee shop of your dreams! However, when you are researching what you should buy for your shop, be sure to also pay close attention to the items you should never buy for your shop.
The five things you should never buy for your coffee shop are: a cheap espresso machine, too small of a refrigerator, too many chairs and tables, what you want over what the customers want, and unfocused decorations.
By avoiding these five purchases and focusing on only the proper equipment, decorations, and furniture, you will be well on your way to running a successful coffee shop.
A Cheap Espresso Machine
When starting a new business, you will often hear about smart ways to save a couple bucks. Beginning a brand-new business endeavor can be an expensive process and so it is wise to pay close attention to how much you are spending and decrease costs when possible.
However, an espresso machine should not be an area of your budget where you try to cut corners if you are opening a coffee shop. You will need a high-powered machine that can handle the quantity of coffee that you hope to serve your guests.
When purchasing a quality espresso machine, consider buying one new. While a used one may be slightly cheaper, you have no idea the history of the machine if you purchase a used one. It could have come from someone who just fixed it after being broken or just cleaned it after it was collecting dust in the attic. When it comes to your espresso machine, take the safe route and buy one with a warranty and service contract from someone you trust.
Questions to consider when deciding on an espresso machine:
- How many cups of espresso does your machine need to be able to crank out in a day?
- How skilled is the staff you plan to hire?
- What does your budget realistically look like?
- How many other types of drink or food will your staff be serving in addition to espresso?
Each of these decisions will play an important role in determining what type of espresso machine is best for your coffee shop. Take time to answer them thoroughly before making a purchase that you might later regret.
If you still need some help picking out your espresso machine, check out this article for some additional info!
Too Small of a Refrigerator
While the need to purchase the right size would apply to most equipment purchased for your coffee shop, you will especially want to consider your refrigeration due to the large quantity of space it is likely to take up.
Often coffee shops do not have extra space to spare and so refrigeration might seem like a good area to underspend to save every inch you can. However, if you do this and then later realize you need more space, you will find yourself in a problematic situation. It is much harder to completely rearrange your layout once you start your coffee business than it is to simply plan properly the first time.
This is where you must seriously consider how much and what types of food you will offer at your coffee shop. It may even be wise to build some extra space into your refrigerator choice in case you ever decide to start selling more.
Types of refrigeration to consider depending on your needs:
- Reach-in refrigerator
- Reach-in freezer
- Chest freezer
- Open air refrigerator
- Commercial ice machine
- Undercounter (worktop) refrigerator
- Back bar coolers
- Refrigerated display cases
Even if you are completely against serving food at your coffee shop, remember the refrigeration needs you will have with your drink menu. Cold brew, milk, and non-coffee beverages all will need to be kept cool.
Too Many Chairs and Tables
When preparing to invite customers into your coffee shop, you may be tempted to purchase as many chairs and tables for your place as possible. After all, you want to fit as many customers into your business as possible, right? Not so fast.
The Americans with Disabilities Act actually has very specific guidelines written up in the ADA Guide for Small Businesses. This helps restaurants and other small businesses create an environment that is welcoming to all people, especially those who may be physically confined to a wheelchair.
Specific guidelines from ADA Guide to keep in mind:
- “5% of the tables or at least one (if less than 20 are provided) must be accessible, if doing so is readily achievable.”
- “An accessible table has a surface height of no more than 34 inches and no less than 28 inches above the floor.”
- “At least 27 inches of knee clearance must be provided between the floor and the underside of the table.”
- “An accessible route provides access to each accessible table and a clear floor area 30 inches by 48 inches is provided at each accessible seating location.”
- “This clear floor area extends 19 inches under the table to provide leg and knee clearance.”
If you want access to the entire ADA Guide, you can find it here.
While it is important to be welcoming to all people, regardless of their disabilities, it is also important not to overcrowd your space to keep it visually appealing. Too many chairs and tables might look cluttered and deter people. If your coffee shop is too difficult to navigate, your customers may opt to find somewhere else to spend their time.
What You Want Over What the Customers Want
When starting a business of any kind, it is incredibly important to remember the customers’ desires over your own. The coffee shop of your dreams may actually look, taste, or feel a lot different than the one your community most wants to have.
This is where market research comes in. You need to complete market research before you plan your menu or get too far with purchasing equipment, decorations, or furniture. Rather than assuming you want exactly what your future customers want, take the time to ask them. After all, they will be the ones paying you for how well you provide what they want.
Questions to ask through your market research:
- What coffee would you be most likely to order?
- What else, other than coffee, would you be most likely to order with your coffee?
- What kind of atmosphere are you looking for in a coffee shop?
- Do you have any theme suggestions that would be most appealing to you?
- What is most important to you in a coffee shop?
- What are other coffee shops missing that you hope to see?
Once you have asked these questions of a large number of people in the community you will serve, you will have a much better idea of what they are looking for. This will help you provide the best possible service for their needs over your own.
The atmosphere is an important part of any coffee shop. There can be a big difference between a more modern hip coffee shop and an inviting warm space. There are also many atmosphere options in between and beyond those two.
Conducting proper market research will help you understand what type of coffee shop your community is most interested in having. This information will help you purchase proper decorations and equipment to match the style.
It is important that you consciously purchase your decor to fit this style. If you purchase everything that looks neat or fun for the few months before opening your doors, you may find yourself with walls or countertops that are full of mismatched trinkets. This will feel unfocused and will be ineffective about communicating a particular vibe to your customers.
Instead, decide ahead of time and channel your efforts to make your coffee shop the exact style you are targeting in every possible way. This will create a cultivated experience that adds to your charm.
ADA Guide for Small Business: Fixed Seating and Tables. Accessed June 20, 2020. https://www.ada.gov/reachingout/servingcustomers.html.
ADA Guide For Small Businesses, Text Version. Accessed June 20, 2020. https://www.ada.gov/smbustxt.htm.
Frequently Asked Questions
As we explained earlier, the question you should really be asking is, “what type of food does my community want?” The best food to offer is the food your clientele wants, so don’t forget to ask this valuable question of them.
If you would prefer to give them a few options to consider, make sure to include some of the most popular offerings of coffee shops: soups, sandwiches, quick breakfast foods, pastries, and grab and go snacks.
When starting your own business, there is so much to consider. It would be easy to forget something especially important in the chaos of all the other decisions you need to make. Here are a few you will want to remember:
● Security system: While it would be easy to wait to install a security system, it is better to get one installed as soon as possible. This will protect your investment into the space, equipment, and decor without you needing to lift a finger.
● Utensil Organizer: It will be important to keep organized the utensils, napkins, straws, lids, and any other equipment you will offer people. Spend the money to make sure your space is clean and easy for customers to find what they need.
● Music: Take the time to curate or download a playlist of music that fits your coffee shop’s style. People will expect music in the background as they enjoy their experience in your shop.
● WiFi: We might have saved the best for last with this one since many people come to a coffee shop specifically to utilize its WiFi while they enjoy their beverage. You will want to make sure this is set up and ready to go when you open your doors.
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!