Have you found yourself thinking about opening your small café? Small cafes can be very lucrative if you start with a well-thought business plan. What do you call a small café, though, and what about the name of your business? The way you refer to your small café is more important than you may know because potential customers need something to put in an online search to find you.
A small café can be called a few different things—a bistro, a brasserie, a snack bar—each having its kind of identity.
The name you choose should tell your audience something about the business through using these tips:
Fitting the neighborhood
Checking the internet
Looking at the design
Let’s start by briefly looking at the types of small cafes there are. Then, we’ll discuss all the considerations for when you’re trying to come up with a name for your small café business.
How to Label a Small Café
The way you label your small café will do a lot for creating an image for your business. If you want, you can just call it a café. Most people will associate the word café with a place they can find coffee. If you want to stress to your audience that you are selling coffee, this may be the best idea.
Consumers often will associate the word bistro with coffee, too. However, a bistro also sells food. Essentially, a bistro is a small dining establishment. If you’re going to label your small café as a bistro, you should have a menu of inexpensive food items, such as sandwiches, soups, salads, and other simple types of offerings. The menu doesn’t have to be very extensive, but it needs to include items that can be considered a meal, not simply bakery items.
Every once in a while, you’ll find a café-like establishment labeled as a brasserie. Often, it turns out to be kind of a misrepresentation of what the business is. Brasserie is a term that originates in France and indicates an open floor plan restaurant that serves alcohol. While many of them do serve coffee, that’s not typically the star of the show.
You can also call a small café a snack bar. We’ll caution against this, though, if you’re wanting to attract people who are looking for a variety of coffee drinks. You may very well be offering snack foods along with your coffees, but labeling your café a snack bar will set an expectation with your audience that will likely cause you to miss out on many of your potential customers’ business because they will misunderstand what your small café is.
What’s in a Name?
The name of your small café will say a lot about you and your business. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating what’s in a name. It’s not as simple as just choosing the first thing that comes to mind. Doing that could confuse, in some cases, and keep you from bringing in some customers that otherwise you would have. We don’t want you to be afraid to choose a name, but just know you need to do a little research and thinking before you land on one.
Now, let’s get into what considerations you need to make first before choosing a name for your small café.
Try to name your café something that will be easy to remember and that will easily convey what your business does. Think about short and to-the-point names. There are many benefits to having a short and sweet name for your business. Some of these include being easier to fit on the storefront, costing less to have made into signage, being easier to recall for consumers, and easily fitting on any merchandise or to-go items.
The other piece of this is for your audience to understand what your business is. You may love roses, but if you name your small café The Rose Garden, that isn’t going to bring people in to drink coffee because they very likely won’t understand you’re selling coffee. Stick to something that has to do with coffee drinking so you can convey consistency in your business’s identity.
Part of owning a successful business is about finding ways to stand out from the crowd. You can start to do that with the name of your small café. You don’t want there to be any confusion between your business and someone else’s or a big chain. If customers come in thinking your café is another business, they’ll be expecting something other than what you have to offer. That can turn out to be bad for your business because it could potentially leave feeling dissatisfied and disappointed.
When you’re brainstorming name ideas, Google them to see what comes up. If your name idea is pulling up three other places in town with the same or similar names, move on.
Try to Fit In
Don’t try to be different than your surroundings. You may think that if you name your small café Mack’s Coffee Shack in the middle of a high-end shopping area that it will help you stand out. That’s not likely going to be the case, though. If a neighborhood is known for being swanky and high class, then the consumers in the area will have a preconceived notion of the type of businesses there are around. If your café doesn’t match the surroundings and another does, you’re likely not going to win over those consumers. Not fitting in with the neighborhood isn’t the way you want to be unique.
Ask the Internet
Quick internet searches will help you a lot in trying to name your small café. Not just to see if there are already other cafes with the same name, but to see what else the name brings up. What do we mean by that and why is this important?
Well, it’s important because many people will potentially be searching for your business online, hopefully. If they try to Google your café and a bunch of other unrelated things come up because you went with something from a movie or a lyric from a song for your business name, then they may just give up and move on to something else.
You might also have a tough time getting the domain name you want if it’s already taken or too much like others that already exist. If you don’t ever ask the internet, though, you won’t know that until it may be too late.
Check out this cool name generator HERE.
Huh? This may be the response you’re having right now. How many businesses do you know of that you refer to by a nickname? We bet there are several.
Your café may come to be known by a nickname that is easily derived from whatever you decide to name your business. You and several other people should sit down and come up with every nickname you can think of for the name you’re considering. If you don’t like the potential nicknames, you should go with something else.
Once nicknames are given, it can be hard to break away from them. There certainly is nothing wrong with getting tagged with a nickname, that can be advantageous, but you want it to be something you’re comfortable with and that isn’t going to deter potential customers.
Look at the Design
Try the different names you come up with in fonts and designs you might like to see on the front of your small café. Have you ever seen a name on a storefront and been unsure of what it said? This is the point we’re getting at here. Sometimes, letters and numbers, specifically in certain kinds of fonts, can look a bit ambiguous. If that’s the case with the name you pick along with the design you choose, you could have a lot of confused customers and even some headaches from always having to answer questions about what your business name is.
You need to choose a label for your small café that matches the type of establishment you’re opening. Just as important is the need to name your café something simple, unique, clear, fitting for the neighborhood, won’t be prone to undesirable nicknames, and will work well with the sign design you want to go with. Keep in mind how much it matters while you choose the name of your small café, staying true to what your business is and who you are.
Frequently Asked Questions
One word you’ll see used in a lot of coffee shop names is “java”. It’s a slang word that most people will recognize to mean coffee. It’s not a bad idea to use it in the name of a café, however, make sure to Google what’s in your area because it is quite popular.
You’ll have to find a good location, create a business plan, secure funding, decide on a menu, get all the necessary permits, and decide on a marketing strategy.
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!