Coffee is not going out of style any time soon. This makes buying a coffee stand a worthwhile endeavor for many coffee lovers. It is a wise alternative to brick and mortar coffee shops, lowering costs and allowing more flexibility.
To buy a coffee stand business, first build a profitable business plan and then find a stand in the most ideal location for an acceptable price. Once you have a plan and a stand, you should hire staff who are gifted in speed and kindness and market yourself to the community.
Buying a coffee stand does not need to be complicated. In fact, once you know what to look for, you will be well on your way to an effective and exciting business model.
Build or Buy?
Before you can determine your business plan, it is important to know if you are buying an already operating coffee stand business or purchasing the materials to create one.
Because it is a small and often mobile structure, building is much less costly and time consuming than building a coffee shop might be. In fact, with a bit of education, you may be able to do it yourself. If that does not sound like something you would be interested in, there are many contractors and builders who would be able to help you with a small project like this with ease.
When buying a coffee stand business, it is important to consider whether you will be purchasing an already established coffee stand, converting another structure into one, or delivering a structure from another location. Each of these are valid options. It may be worth considering whether or not you want to be able to move your structure if needed. You will also need to take into consideration any local ordinances or restrictions.
If you are purchasing an already established coffee stand, take your time to have multiple conversations before signing anything. Sit down with the owner and ask for proof of their success as well as the numbers for any assets or debts that may be part of the transaction. If you do not feel comfortable with these conversations, bring along someone who is.
Before making a purchase, it may be helpful to hear the perspectives of other professionals about this particularly stand. Speak with the following people to understand as much as possible before starting your endeavor:
- Local Authorities
- Tax Professionals
Keep Asking Questions
In fact, the questions should not end with the professionals who will help you purchase your stand, but rather should extend into the community. There is a lot of competition for coffee. You will need to put in the time and effort for quality market research to be fully prepared.
Questions to Ask Your Community:
- What is your favorite coffee?
- What coffee are you most likely to order?
- What time of day are you most likely to order?
- What else, other than coffee, would you enjoy if you were stopping for coffee?
- What are other local coffee shops and stands missing?
Pay close attention to the many ways you can differentiate your business from the competition. If potential customers are interested in baked goods with their coffee, you may need to build that into your business plan. If the other coffee shops in the area do not offer the most convenient hours or ordering system, put everything you have into filling that gap.
Coffee Stand Business Plan Must-Haves
When it comes to writing a business plan, there are a few important considerations that are specific to coffee stands.
Menu and Pricing
Once you know what your ideal customer is looking for, it is time to give it to them. As far as coffee, this may not always mean making the best coffee they have ever tasted. Some people just want a drink that will bring them energy for work and does not leave them with an awful taste in their mouth.
Beyond coffee, this may mean donuts or pastries. It may also mean non-coffee or caffeine-free alternatives. When you are considering additional offerings, decide whether or not you will use a local supplier. It will be helpful to determine whether this will save you costs, build community loyalty, or make things more difficult for you.
Check out this article for more information on designing your menu board!
Staff Make Up
It will be important for you to have an effective staff for your coffee stand business, without overcrowding the small space. Assess ahead of time what your ideal staff arrangement will look like so you can be clear about your needs with any interested candidates.
Similar to staffing, you will want to spend time thinking about how to most effectively utilize the space that you have when deciding on what equipment to purchase. Be sure to buy enough to fill your need, but take extra care not to overspend or overcrowd. Remember to account for extra coffee, food, and cleaning supplies. If you are struggling to fit it all in, assess whether or not your purchases are truly necessary. A piece of equipment that makes your coffee taste slightly better may actually be less valuable than equipment that can store donuts and pastries.
Make it Legal; Keep it Legal
If your stand is just starting out, take care to start it out legally. It may be a pain to have all of the necessary conversations and complete all of the paperwork ahead of time, but it will be even more of a pain to neglect it and have it cause problems later. Create a proper business entity, operating agreement, and obtain a Federal tax ID number. Work with lawyers, tax professionals, and the local government to start off on the right foot.
Location, Location, Location
Have we mentioned that it’s the most important part of buying your coffee stand business? Let’s break that down.
As we’ve alluded to, having the best coffee may not actually be the most important part of your coffee stand business. Having a convent location, however, is an extremely important factor. People who pick up coffee are often on the move. Is your potential stand located along a highly traveled route? Will people see it on their way to and from work? How about if they are out shopping?
Sometimes, it is best to locate your stand within an already thriving environment, such as a shopping center area. This will provide you with a multitude of potential customers who would find it extremely convenient to grab a cup of coffee without even getting back on the main road.
Slightly different than convenience is accessibility. Your coffee stand may be located along a main road, but is it easy for people to get in and out of? Perhaps even more important to consider is where a line might go if there is a high demand for coffee. If it is a drive-thru, is there even room for cars to build up in line without obstructing others from entering or exiting? If it is not a drive-thru, is there adequate parking? How far is the parking lot from the stand?
Giving your people as much space as possible while allowing for multiple access points to your parking lot or drive-thru will increase the quantity of customers who feel comfortable purchasing from your establishment.
While convenience and accessibility are important to running a thriving coffee stand business, it is also important that you can afford it. Do not get starry-eyed at a perfect location that is completely out of your price range. The last thing you want is to be run out of business because you could not meet your rent.
One way to combat high rent, stand prices, or taxes is to shop around in different counties or cities. If one county seems easier or more financially practical for you to work with and is not much farther than the one you were considering, it may be worth the leap.
Need some help deciding on your location? This article has some great tips!
Staff it Right
You can have the best location in the world and the most affordable delicious coffee, but if you have rude and slow staff, you will likely not succeed.
Hire and train staff to treat customers kindly and fill their needs quickly. Most people buying from you will hope to get in and out as fast as possible, so ensure your team is full of fast learners who can adapt to their needs.
It may also be helpful that your staff likes coffee, so they can provide recommendations to customers with authenticity. If they happen to like coffee enough to have worked in a previous coffee stand or shop, take care to monitor any old habits they may be bringing in. You will want your coffee to be consistent and so you will need your staff to be consistent in their service.
Market Like a Coffee Stand
While there are some tried and true methods of marketing that apply to almost any business, such as social media marketing and community outreach, there are also a few tactics that exist specifically for coffee stands.
While you will likely have many regular customers dropping by your coffee stand, you also want to catch the attention of everyone and anyone who is just passing through. Whether on their way to work, shopping, or another state hours away, leave no question in their mind that you exist. This may mean utilizing flashing lights, gaudy signs, or goofy gimmicks. Do not assume you are above these things – you are not here to be classy or clever, you are here to get people to you to drink coffee.
Money talks and, if they are low enough, your prices may be able to do the marketing for you. Remember that you do not necessarily need to have the fanciest coffee to have a successful coffee stand business. If having a slightly less exciting coffee menu means you can afford to make it cheaper and faster, it may be worth the sacrifice.
As with your prices, your service will speak for you. Train your staff to do whatever they can to go above and beyond for your customers. Make a visit to your coffee shop a pleasant experience that leaves customers feeling good about their purchase. Not only will they keep coming back, but they will be sure to tell their friends.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best way to go above and beyond for customers is to anticipate their needs, give beyond what was asked for, and do so joyfully. This may mean offering to add their cream and sugar or providing an extra gift if you see they have a child along. If you have repeat customers, this could mean putting in extra effort to remember their orders. Perhaps you even prepare it ahead of time for them, anticipating their regular arrival.
If after reading this article you are not so sure that a coffee stand is right for you, there are still other options in the coffee business. You can consider purchasing a coffee franchise shop, starting your own coffee shop, starting a coffee bar in established building, or even starting or buying a mobile coffee business.
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!