The coffee shop industry has become a form of art that, when perfected, can bring joy to millions of people worldwide. As simple as it is to make at home, it’s no mystery why so many people faithfully show up to their favorite coffee shop almost daily. From hiring accomplished baristas that can concoct endless variations of the popular beverage, to creating the perfect ambience for people to get cozy in the corner, choose from an abundant supply of plugs, or run quickly in and out on their way, latte in hand: a coffee shop can be quite lucrative when designed just right, and it doesn’t have to get too complicated. The following shares insight on how to start a small, simple coffee shop.
Starting a small, simple coffee shop requires a combination of finding the right location, implementing a unique business concept, and creating a positive atmosphere to brew espresso-based perfection.
The recipe to make this successful combination contains the following ingredients:
Location, location, location
Location is perhaps the most important decision to make when it comes to starting a small, simple coffee shop. Where you sell coffee is almost as important as the quality of the coffee you’re selling. Location determines your potential customer and overall success. Find out more about choosing a location here.
One of a kind concept
A profitable café is not as simple as brewing coffee in a pot, serving it in a cup and hoping someone will pay. Coffee drinkers can brew their own coffee from home, for less money. A one of a kind coffee concept gives them a reason to keep coming back.
Efficiency and consistency
Coffee lovers can be quite particular when it comes to making their drink just right. A consistent, quality experience they can learn to rely on is essential to gaining their customer loyalty. Running a successful coffee shop demands efficiency and consistency.
Customer experience planning
Plan the flow of your layout and management according to the customer’s experience. The way you design your shop and maintain its cleanliness is a direct reflection of the quality of drink you’re going to serve. Optimize your shop through the customer’s eyes.
Positive work culture
More than just delivering a fine cup of coffee, as the owner of a shop it’s your responsibility to cultivate a positive work culture. The environment you create for your staff will determine the brand of coffee you deliver to your customers, on a steady basis.
Keeping things simple isn’t always so simple; a coffee shop is no exclusion. Taking your vision and bringing it to life involves extensive business planning, local market research, and endless shopping around. Starting from the coffee grounds up can take some time to get to the “breakeven point,” after totaling startup costs vs. revenue. This is why building a brand of coffee on a smaller scale has tremendous perks, and it’s not just the caffeine. Let’s look at this recipe for building a small, simple coffee shop a bit further.
Prior to searching for the ideal location, ask yourself these questions:
- How big should your coffee shop be?
- How many customers do you want to handle at a time?
- How many tables, chairs, couches, or other furniture and fixtures will you need?
- Would you rather serve customers on the go, those who stay awhile, or both?
- If they stay, what other requirements will they need: food, facilities, access to power?
- What are your hours of operation?
- Do you serve both night owls and the early birds?
These questions begin to shape and mold the outlines to your business concept and customer. When answering, be sure to keep in mind:
- Bigger isn’t always better; more room makes room for errors.
- The amount of customers handled at a time determines extra labor cost vs. profits.
- No place to sit can turn customers away, while too many can invite them to camp out.
- Decide how long you want your customers to stay, and plan your shop accordingly.
- Get familiar with other potential needs of your customers while they’re in your shop.
- Stay open late to attract a different dynamic customer, along with the morning rush.
- Sometimes a high traffic area can lead to no parking or other dilemmas.
Invest time in considering what you want your average day running your coffee shop to look like, prior to searching for a location. This can save a lot of time and energy, as you write your business plan and build your concept. Be aware from a financial perspective, business perspective, as well as the customer perspective. Evaluating these elements before finding your location allows you to search for areas conducive to your vision. If not planned properly, a small, simple coffee shop can tank within months of opening, so it’s well worth your investment to spend extra time making your business plans.
Visualize what makes your coffee shop so special.
Visualization is a powerful strategy to start the brewing process when brainstorming ideas for a coffee concept. See it in your mind to help you see it come to life. Conjure up the ideal customer experience. How does your coffee bring them the greatest joy?
- Is it the convenience of a kiosk set up in a centralized location for easy access?
- Is it the relaxed atmosphere in a small little café that brings familiarization?
- Is it the modern tech vibe that invites digital nomads to set up, and order espresso?
Visualize a concept that keeps coffee-drinkers loyal; coming back for more. Be realistic with yourself concerning your startup budget, cost, and security. Just like any good coffee bean, stay grounded. The goal is to create a small, simple coffee shop. It doesn’t take the latest high-end espresso machines and grinders, with all the fancy bells and whistles, to make a simple coffee shop a success. What does it take?
- Hiring baristas with a high skill level at creating a quality drink with consistency. (Read more about this here.)
- Creating a delightful customer experience they can’t get from their home.
- Cultivating a positive, operational atmosphere that meets the coffee industry standard.
Once you’ve constructed your business concept, it’s time to root it with solid, healthy habits. The quality at which you run your shop will set a standard for the quality coffee your customers will expect. The best way to accomplish this goal is by doing some real research into the coffee industry. A coffee connoisseur can sniff out an amateur with even the simple misspelling of “expresso.” Familiarize yourself with the science of the coffee business to create a small, simple coffee shop built on efficiency and consistency.
A small, simple coffee shop can leave a huge impact on coffee lovers within a community. Whether that impact is positive or negative is a direct reflection of the standard you set for how you run your coffee shop. Establish the standard of quality you want your shop to meet, setting rules and guidelines required of each staff member, to ensure an efficient consistency in each customer’s experience, regardless of who is scheduled to work for the day. Some tips to maintain the highest efficiency:
- Take your time to organize a strong team of employees who demonstrate values that resemble the standard you set for your coffee shop. Consider a certified instructor of the Coffee Quality Institute to train your team with maximum quality efficiency.
- Train each worker to know the fundamentals of each workstation, so those assigned to a register understand the drinks being ordered, extra options and alternatives, and those who normally make the drinks can step in to assist the register when needed.
- Create a uniformed taste amongst baristas, so customers don’t get a variety of flavor of the same drink. If one barista is better at making a latte than the next, allow that barista to share their technique, so customers receive top quality, regardless of who makes it.
- Educate each barista on the proper use, calibration, and maintenance of espresso machines and grinders. Teach traditional techniques of steaming, texturing and pouring classic espresso and milk-based blends to create cappuccino and latte perfection.
- Make certain that cleanliness is of top priority. Cleanliness of tables, coffee bars, and facilities will signify to your customers the cleanliness of your machines and stations behind the counter. Keep these areas orderly and well-stocked to prove a high-quality standard.
Managing your coffee shop with optimal tendencies will confirm the integrity of your establishment. Creating these healthy habits will give customers confidence in your product and service. It will gain you their loyalty and return of the business. As a coffee shop owner it’s your job to take your vision for your shop and adjust as necessary to meet the essential needs of your customer. Your success lies in their satisfaction.
Continually view your coffee shop through the eyes of your customers.
Far too often, business owners get trapped in the day-to-day duties that consume them. They begin to overlook important aspects pertaining to the customer experience. Prior to opening your shop, and continuously after, it’s important to take time to walk through your shop with a fresh set of eyes. Better yet, ask friends, family, or actual customers to give you honest feedback concerning their overall experience in your shop. To keep things simple, it’s important for you to utilize your space and design layout as efficiently as possible. As you go through your shop, take notice of the following elements:
- Communication amongst workers – Make sure your customer’s needs are met through superior communication between those taking orders and those preparing them. Closing the distance between the place of order and pickup can improve results.
- Orderly coffee bar – Throughout the business day, and especially after a rush of customers, it’s important to keep an eye on the coffee bar to make sure there’s a sufficient supply of sugar, cream, and utensils as well as to keep it orderly, neat, and tidy.
- Physical layout – Determine the best design for your coffee shop layout. If you want to keep things small and simple, it’s imperative you use your real estate as effectively as possible. Keep walkways clear and prevent customer confusion or blockages.
Observing your coffee shop through the eyes of your customers will help in the overall success of creating a small, simple coffee shop. Following through with small details will lead to a fruitful bigger picture. You can create a quality brand that has future potential for growth and expansion later down the road. No matter how small and simple you want your coffee shop to be, the integrity behind your brand is going to determine your results. Deliberate decisions in building your concept, establishing a standard of business, and hiring skilled employees that maintain your standard will all contribute to building a profit-making, positive working atmosphere that customers will love a latte!
Coffee shops are a sort of sanctuary
The one thing that every person found within a coffee shop shares in common is their love for the hot drink made of roasted, savory beans. Owning a coffee shop is a privileged position within the community that shouldn’t be taken lightly. As the owner, the way you run your shop, the quality of taste you adhere to, and the joy found upon the faces of customers, as well as employees, will determine your ultimate success; it’s an art form. Whether you run a small coffee shop, a coffee stand, kiosk, or cart, these ingredients make the ultimate recipe to take your vision and make it a successful reality.
Frequently Asked Questions
To start a coffee shop, you need to invest in:
●Automatic Drip Coffee Makers
●A High-Quality Espresso Machine
●An Industrial Coffee Grinder
●Containers, Pumps, Miscellaneous Utensils
●Ovens, Toasters, Devices used for cooking
To start a coffee business, you first need:
●Product, i.e. coffee!
●Location, physical or online
To learn more about how to start your own coffee shop, click 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!