Fitting out a new coffee shop may seem a daunting task, but it’s also exciting. After many months or years in the planning, finally getting the shop doors open may feel like the last hurdle in a long race.
A new coffee shop owner wants to create a business that will offer specialised brews to discriminating customers, revolutionise the way coffee is served in his or her community and spare no expense in achieving those goals. The same old cup of Java just won’t do, even if it requires searching the world for the right beans, sourcing the finest equipment and experimenting until each cup of cappuccino or espresso is exactly right.
So where does an aspiring coffee shop owner begin? There’s no better way to make a business successful than to plan carefully, down to each and every minute detail. First, you’ll have to develop a business plan, which is an essential document for starting up a business. Think about your market and who will be the shop’s customers? Estimate how much they’ll be willing to spend for a cup of the finest coffee that your shop can produce and serve in a relaxing and refined atmosphere. You’ll be aiming for connoisseurs who are willing to go out of their way and pay a premium for the best product and service available — and who will spread the word among others to help the shop gain a loyal following. No matter how well capitalised you are, remember to set aside some contingency funds for the unexpected.
Search around until you find the perfect location in a central place that attracts footfall. If you’re going to be purveying luxury to well-heeled customers, aim for a distinct address where there’s hustle and bustle all day long. Choose a retail district full of the best brands, a well-appointed street in an upmarket neighbourhood or another place where aspirational customers will be coming and going and tempted to stop for a drink, snack, light meal or all three. Give them good reasons to come by your shop.
Think through your floor plan carefully and don’t be afraid to push the boat out if you are confident of future growth. You’ll need ample room and a spacious layout, where customers will have space to kick back, relax, chat, check their email and while away the time as they enjoy great hospitality. Behind the counter, look for adequate space for preparing food and drinks, separate sinks, room for refrigeration equipment, a water heater, closets for cleaning equipment, working plumbing and electrics. Be ambitious if the plan meets your basic needs and specifications, look for ways to improve it. Bring in an architect and builder to help you determine how to optimise the space. Get several estimates for the work and aim for quality to make your shop stand out.
If your finances are in good order, you’ll already have the confidence not to cut corners. To help you make the most of your funds, consult an accountant, who can also act as a business adviser and assist you in drawing up a business plan and budget. An accountant is a professional who can help with such tasks as planning cash flow, paying employees, preparing taxes and enable you to spend more time running the business. Remember that the best thing about investing your own money in a business is that you’ll have a personal and financial stake in its success. If friends, relatives or a local bank have invested their money in the shop, be prepared to answer their questions as they’ll also have a stake in the shop’s success.
Draw up a list of everything the new shop will need. These include, but aren’t limited to, commercial coffee or espresso makers and grinders with the latest technical innovations and high-class finishing touches, sleek upright refrigerators and display fridges, grills, dishwashers, a cash register and point-of-sale system, a condiments station, crockery and glassware, utensils, tables, chairs, napkin holders, sugar bowls, water jugs, bins and trays, not to mention perishables such as coffee beans, milk, sugar, cream, pastry products or sandwich ingredients. Develop a spreadsheet, identify the experts at brewing coffee and get their advice about finding the finest ingredients and top-of-the-line equipment. Keep an eye out for quality and durability so that the products you purchase won’t disappoint or need constant replacement.
Aim to offer your customers the best food and drinks you can, so they’ll continue frequenting your shop and keep coming back. They’re likely to be business people, tourists and coffee connoisseurs who will expect only the best products. Decide whether you want to specialise narrowly on hot drinks or expand to include cold drinks such as frappes, smoothies, milk shakes or juices. Keeping it simple will allow you make a name for the shop but you can potentially widen your market by broadening the menu to include cakes, pastries, muffins, bagels, buns or sandwiches. Find a specialist baker to supply those and they, too, will draw in a wider range of customers. Whatever you offer, the shop’s layout and equipment will have to conforms to health authorities’ requirements for what you serve.
Start marketing early so that you drum up interest and excitement in the shop before its doors open. Try to differentiate your coffee shop from others who are providing the same old products or whose offerings have grown stale. Build a social media presence online, which is free advertising. You can also hook potential customers by giving away cups or samples of coffee to local businesses or individuals at local events. Flyers, vouchers or a small, local direct-mail campaign will raise the shop’s profile and build enthusiasm before the business launches so that you have customers at the door on opening day. Alert everyone you know in the area about your plans for the shop and contact local newspapers or radio station.
Many customers are influenced by their first impressions, so be sure your shop is attractive and stylish. Consider employing an interior designer and decorator and go through paint and flooring choices and fabric samples well in advance so they can give your shop a stunning look and feel that captures customers’ attention. You’ll be obsessing over every last detail but experts who have done it many times before can take a lot of the stress out of decorating. Choose comfortable furniture, dramatic wall art and bring it together in a way that puts customers at ease from the moment they walk in. Don’t overlook the exterior either. The entrance, plants, signs and parking (if you provide it) will be the first things your customers notice, so consider employing a landscape designer to make the most of the site.
Stay positive whatever the situation. No matter how hard you work or how hard everyone on your team tries, things can go wrong. Every business is thrown its share of challenges while getting started, so keep a good attitude when that happens. Make optimism a habit, even if it’s not initially sincere. Eventually, you will learn to stay upbeat and that mindset will carry your shop through any storms it faces.
There’ll be loads of things to do just to open the shop and then to keep it going. You’ll need help taking orders, collecting money, waiting on tables, preparing food and drinks and clearing up. Make sure you have enough staff on hand so that busy customers aren’t kept waiting in long queues and take time ahead of opening day to properly train your team in procedures and customer care. Good help is hard to find, so vet your staff and check their work backgrounds and references closely. Even people who interview well may not ultimately thrive on the shop floor. Be willing to pay an experienced barista or worker a bit more if they’re worth it. Cast a careful eye over the register.
Set high expectations or goals for your staff in everything they do and the shop will run smoothly.
Efficiency and cleanliness will help attract new customers and keep old ones, improve your revenues and the bottom line. Communicate with employees and let them know when they do or don’t meet your high standards. Give them adequate training and coaching when they need it. Avoid meddling in day-to-day tasks too much, or employees may feel they have no stake in their work and resent your presence. No one, including you, likes to be micro-managed. This is your chance to be your own boss but get the balance right and the rewards will be yours.