So, you want to become a business owner. But not just any business owner… you want to open your very own coffee shop! The benefits of starting a café are immense when it’s done correctly. It’s lucrative, interesting, fun, and a rewarding way to bring people together.
There’s just one problem: You don’t know-how. Opening a coffee shop is a huge commitment for anyone — but it can feel like an even greater undertaking if you aren’t an experienced business owner or a coffee aficionado.
Don’t worry too much, though. You’re in luck!
To open a coffee shop with no experience you should:
Create a business plan
Find the right location
Organize your information
Review your finances
Spread the word/market your coffee shop
Evaluate your needs
With some valuable pointers guiding you in the right direction, you increase your chances of owning a café with no experience.
That brings us to your next question: How?
Creating A Business Plan
Developing a business plan is an immensely helpful step when you’re just getting started with your vision. A business plan demands that you look at how your coffee shop will come to life from start to finish, ironing out the details along the way.
Mistakes to Avoid:
A common misconception about a business plan is that it always needs to be extremely formal. In reality, the formality of your business plan depends on what its purpose will be. If you’re pitching your business plan to investors, it is highly recommended that you do follow a formal business plan template. This can be extremely helpful, especially if you’re a first-timer; however, if you already have the capital to start your coffee shop and will not be pitching your idea to anyone, your business plan can be as formal or informal as you desire.
One of the first things you should ask yourself is what you will be offering customers. If you’re opening a coffee shop, it’s quite obvious that you’ll be offering, well… coffee. This probably doesn’t set your café apart from other local cafés, though.
So, how will you stand out? Here are a few questions that may give you some direction while beginning to think creatively about what makes your future coffee shop unique:
- Are you going to have special food or drinks?
- Will you be the only local shop accommodating certain diets?
- Is your coffee shop themed?
- Is the space decorated memorably?
- Are your prices more competitive than other local coffee shops?
No matter what your differentiators are, they are one of the most important aspects of your planning process – and now is the time to figure them out.
Other crucial pieces of your business plan can include relevant research, your marketing/advertising approach, and finances. Keep reading if you’re looking for guidance in these areas.
Location, Location, Location
Now that you’ve done some of the general planning for your coffee shop, it’s time to look into a few specifics. What information are you missing before you can continue your business plan?
One of the answers that may have come to mind is location. You may have a cool theme, products, or features for your shop in mind – but if it’s not in the right location, people may miss out on all you have to offer.
Mistakes to Avoid:
It’s important to understand who your customer base will be before picking a location. If you’re going to create a coffee shop that targets college students, but you rent or purchase space in a business district, you may not get as many customers as you could even if there is high foot traffic in the area.
Looking online for commercial space that suits your needs is a great first step in choosing a location. Getting an idea of what is available in your area will give you general cost expectations, along with an idea of what features you can get for what amount of money.
Some questions to consider while browsing for commercial space include:
- How close by is the nearest coffee shop or competition?
- How much foot traffic does this area get?
- Is this location too far away for people to regularly travel to?
- How small or large is this space, and will this size accommodate your needs?
- Will this location allow you to serve your target population?
Taking note of these topics and the pricing associated with different benefits will help you determine what is best for your circumstances.
Let’s Make a List
After viewing your location options and getting an idea of what you like, you can start researching even more elements of your future coffee shop. Making a list of these things can be a great way to keep all of your information neat and tidy.
Mistakes to Avoid:
Skipping this step can result in feeling unprepared later down the line when you need something to reference — but believe it or not, there is such a thing as too many lists. Focusing on just the necessities here will leave you feeling ready and organized, instead of chaotic and overwhelmed.
Now you may be wondering what the necessities are. At this point in your endeavor, here are a few key categories and examples that can help guide you in organizing your thoughts.
- Equipment needed to start a coffee shop
- espresso machine, coffee grinder, etc.
- Start-up supplies needed
- storage, shelving, syrup pumps, etc.
- Recurring supplies needed
- to-go cups, napkins, stirrers, etc.
- Product ingredients
- coffee beans, syrups, milk, etc.
- Where your materials will come from
- local vendors, national wholesalers, etc.
- Anything else you feel is important! Remember, this is your café. The uniqueness of your vision is what makes it great — so if you want to make a list of types of plants you will have on display or fun quotes you want to be painted on the walls, go for it!
After taking the time to gather this information, hopefully, you’re feeling more qualified to open your coffee shop with no experience.
You’ve done a great job researching and brainstorming, but unfortunately, your coffee shop can’t become a reality without the funds to back it up. Before completing your plan and making your dream of opening a coffee shop with no experience come true, you’ll need to do some calculating. Getting your finances organized is crucial, and includes everything from startup costs, to product pricing, to income goals… and more!
Mistakes to Avoid:
To prevent a financial problem down the line, you mustn’t overlook any pieces of your budget. It’s quite likely that you’ll have to make adjustments as you talk to rental companies, vendors, suppliers, and potential employees – but having a general budget laid out with your expected expenses will give you a great starting point.
While laying out your finances, here are some important numbers to consider:
- Amount of money you currently have to invest in your café
- How much more you need (and where that will come from)
- Costs of repeat expenses, such as labor and restocking supplies
- Product pricing
- Measurable income and profit goals
These points may seem straightforward; however, planning them can become a lot more in-depth than you think. This is an instance where the lists you just created can come in handy.
For example, while calculating how much money you need to open your coffee shop, you have to analyze all of your startup costs – a few of which include supplies, equipment, and ingredients. Are these categories ringing a bell?
You can now reference the lists you’ve made to help calculate how much your total startup cost will be, without feeling like you’re scrambling and forgetting an expense. The same thing applies when calculating any repeat expenses that will come along with restocking your coffee shop.
Spreading the Word
To have a successful coffee shop, people will need to visit… and for people to visit, they will need to know it exists. An advertising and marketing strategy is a practical addition to your business plan that can substantially increase popularity; but when you don’t have any experience with this, you might not know what your options are.
Mistakes to Avoid:
Spending money on marketing can be a huge help in spreading the word about your coffee shop, but depending on how strict your budget is, don’t make the mistake of thinking the only way to advertise is to have a large amount of money dedicated to this. There are plenty of creative ways to communicate with your target population about your cool new café.
Let’s discuss both paid and free marketing options so you can determine what works best for your situation.
Paid marketing options:
Ordering customized business cards is a proven way to bring awareness to your brand and business. You can hand them out, leave them in various places for people to grab, and post them on the bulletin boards of other local businesses (with permission). The same thing goes for any flyers you create or order.
Other paid-to-mark tactics that may be worth looking into include sponsoring a local event, purchasing a print ad, and hiring an expert to help you promote your business.
Bonus option: If you’re creating a website for your coffee shop, utilizing paid search marketing is a very popular choice. You can customize it to work efficiently for you and your business. Understanding things like how to use Google Ads is valuable knowledge to have while trying to grow a customer base. There are even courses you can take to better grasp how to take advantage of this service.
Free marketing options:
As a business owner with no experience, you’d be surprised how much can be done at no cost to you. One of the most utilized and successful free options for marketing is getting into the social media space. You can create a free business account for your coffee shop on most platforms and start sharing content and interacting with potential customers. Hint: Make sure to create a lot of buildup around your opening day!
Other free marketing options include recruiting your friends and family to create word of mouth, cold calling, and creating a blog. If you have the right equipment and creative eye, the business card and/or flyer creation discussed above can also fit into this category.
How to write a business plan HERE.
Evaluate Your Needs
You’ve made substantial progress in preparation for your coffee shop. Our final step is to realistically evaluate what you’ve done, what requires more attention, and what you haven’t done at all.
Mistakes to Avoid:
No one can do everything. Regardless of how much or how little experience someone has while navigating opening a coffee shop, there will be areas where help is needed. Don’t make the mistake of taking on too much by yourself and either burning out or sacrificing quality by doing so.
Asking yourself what you feel your strengths and weaknesses are is the best way to figure out where you will need extra help. Maybe you felt great about organizing your finances but were terrified when it came to talking about marketing. Find support in the areas you’re having trouble with, whether that means using the knowledge of your friends and family or hiring a professional.
Well done! Building a business takes time, but it’s completely possible to achieve your goal of opening a coffee shop with no experience – and you’re now off to an impressive start.
Frequently Asked Questions
Taking out a loan is a common way to acquire enough money to open a small business, including coffee shops. To do this, you will likely need to meet some set requirements and create a formal business plan. It’s important to do your research on different loan options before making any decisions. If you feel comfortable, you can also ask for investments from trusted friends and family.
The number of employees your coffee shop will need is dependent on the size and hours of operation. A small, local coffee shop that is only open from 10 am-3 pm may require only a couple of staff members, while a large, sit-down coffee shop open all day will require more.
Asking your customers to complete surveys is a great way to measure satisfaction. If you have an online presence, allowing reviews on your website or social media pages is another effective way to understand what your customers are thinking. In addition to gathering feedback, the best way to ensure you have happy customers is to listen to what they say and take action based on their thoughts.
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!