So, you’re thinking about opening up your own independent coffee shop. And who could blame you? Your own business, where you get to make your own decisions. Of course, with a great business comes great responsibility; you’ll need to consider property leases and business rates, staff costs, marketing, funding and accounting, long hours and hard work. Thankfully, the web provides a vast research resource to help you with each of these areas of starting and running a business – any business.
When it comes to running a coffee shop, we think there are five key areas you need to focus on in order to become the next success story in your town.
1 What kind of coffee shop do you want to be?
A real brew house, where the preparation of coffee is as much part of the customer experience as the delicious drink itself? A coffee house where the style and social atmosphere you create are equal to the coffee, but where there’s less preparation on-site? A general café, where your selection of teas, baked goods or other foodie fancies combine to appeal to a broader market? Or perhaps you’re looking to capitalise on commuters’ coffee urges, with a kiosk or mobile coffee shop. Research your local competition to make sure there’s a niche for what you want to offer.
2 The perfect location
This ties into the kind of business you want to be and the demographics of your town. Do your research to see not just what property is available, but to monitor footfall on each particular street, the sorts of people who typically pass by, and the habits of would-be customers. Outside space adds invaluable capacity in warmer months; sufficient indoor space will maintain custom over winter. Ideally, you don’t want too seasonal a business – consistency is key to good cash flow and a good return on your initial and ongoing investment.
3 Know your coffee
It all starts with the bean, and things can get more complicated than that – if you want them to. Unless you’re looking to serve coffee pretty incidentally to all sorts of other stuff, or are serving coffee in volume to sleepy commuters, when a good quality bean-to-cup machine might be all you need. But to really stand out from high street chain coffee shops and other established independents in the area, you need to know your coffee. If you haven’t actually worked in a coffee shop before, it’s worth getting first-hand experience from the till side of the business – with a coffee shop that offers the kind of experience you want to create. Approach businesses outside of your intended target area, so that you’re not trying to take advantage of your future competition.
4 Source the best commercial coffee equipment for the business
You want a supplier that will never let you down. Your commercial coffee machine is, at the very least, an important part of your business, and may be the very essence of what you’re trying to create. You’ll want to decide between buying your coffee machines or leasing a commercial coffee machine, where you can rely on immediate maintenance and support. Look for other added value your supplier might offer; at Nationwide, for instance, we offer coffee training as well as selling and renting commercial coffee machines, cups, stirrers, sugars and the all-important coffee itself.
5 Thoroughly plan that fit-out
Coffee kiosks and mobile coffee vans are a slightly different proposition to a coffee house; décor and branding may arguably be less important. That said, vintage vehicles in the food and drink world have had a surge in popularity and there’s no sign of the wave crashing yet. But for permanent premises, the overall experience makes almost as much difference as the coffee you serve and the equipment you use.
Plan enough space for staff to work around each other and adequately prepare drinks and food
Plan space for the queue that your high-quality offering is surely going to attract
Invest in great displays – from countertop to wall art, the way you display the goods on sale and the focal points of the room all influence the mood
Think about the seating that will draw in customers and balance comfort with how much space they eat up (the more seats, the more potential customers, but the more utilitarian the seating, the less likely people are to enjoy the experience).
Make the most of space outside, and the view available to people indoors.
Don’t drown out conversation with Radio 1; pick music that supports the vibe you’re aiming to create, and play it at a volume that allows people to work or chat
Consider your target demographic. Aiming at parents with buggies? They’ll need space to manoeuvre and good access from the street. Serving more than just drinks? Make sure the eating space is always adequate. Looking for real coffee connoisseurs? Make sure they can see anything and everything related to the coffee preparation process.
And once you’re ready to throw open the doors, serve every coffee with love and ensure that every interaction with the public is a pleasure for them. Nothing, not even great coffee, keeps people coming back like a warm welcome.