Now a staple part of many workers mornings and afternoons, with hundreds of drink varieties, beans and flavours, coffee’s ever enduring popularity has made it a potential gold mine waiting to be tapped by creative and ambitious coffee shop owners. In Britain alone a staggering 85% of people visit a coffee shop once a week, which doesn’t even take into account the bean or filter coffee consumed at home. Australians by comparison – according to this 2014 infographic – are not far behind the Brits, making for an area of business ripe with potential for profits, correct?
Well yes and no, even one of the most lucrative businesses can fail due to a mixture of high competition, constantly evolving trends and a need for top coffee knowledge in terms of both taste and production. To equip yourself for the challenges of opening a coffee shop you will need the right mixture of passion, planning, persistence, understanding and luck. We at Nisbets would like to give a quick tip guide to help you along your journey, whether you’re a veteran barista or a newcomer to the grinding field, on some basic but essential points to guide you towards a lively and successful coffee shop.
When you want that fresh cuppa to kick off your day, you’re not going to want to go several miles or even streets away to enjoy your morning ritual. Apply this mindset to your customer base and you’ll quickly realise that location can kill or crown your establishment before it’s even opened its doors. Be aware of the type of customer you want to attract and build from there, if you want to grab the business crowd before they clock-in each morning then are you looking near the local business parks, or if you want to attract shoppers have you set your sights near a high street? If you are unsure then sticking to a central location where people are guaranteed to gather is always a safe bet. Luring customers to your cafe with a quality product is one thing but it takes time to establish a reputation to do so, for the starting months you need to offer convenience above everything else.
2. Recognise Quality When You Taste It
Being a coffee shop owner extends further than having a solid business plan and a good working knowledge of the equipment and processes involved, it includes assessing and understanding the balance and taste of every bean you sample. From a coffee’s sweetness, to its balance and acidity you need to know a good cup of coffee before any of your staff or customers do. This requires a passion to learn and develop your personal knowledge of the drink, take accredited courses and strive to perfect your niche as well as your overall understanding. To teach other staff and to become the best in the business, you need to know the facts and when you’ve caught onto the next best bean.
3. Find the Right Equipment
The size and style of your cafe can make a massive difference to the type of equipment you want for your kitchen. If you’re expecting to make coffee for a large customer base then you may wish to invest in a coffee percolator that can match demand. On the other hand if you’re looking for premium quality coffee and a machine that increases your aesthetic, then something built for start-up businesses like the Sanremo Capri Coffee Machine would be a better fit. Speciality machines may be a viable option if you’re addressing a niche market, however acquiring items that can make good quality lattes, cappuccinos and the other core beverages of a coffee shop menu, speaking of which...
4. Stock the Local Favourite
Dependent on what country or city you choose to set your foundations, the staple drink for locals can differ dramatically. Whilst there a variety of reasons for this from pricing standards to the personal history of the area, all you need to know is what drink sells well and what price to set it at. Sample the local competition by probing their menus, trying their lattes, cappuccinos, flat whites and others while paying attention to what other customers are buying. For further assistance this helpful infographic from Hospitality Magazine gives a comprehensive assessment of coffee prices, preferences and sales at both a national and county level. Your business may have a niche market but it’s always good to have the local favourite to fall back on.
5. Know Your Niche
Speaking of niches, what do you want to provide as your specialty? Once you have a solid quality menu, the only thing to truly be distinguished from other high-end coffee shops is to provide something that others don’t. Perhaps you wish to provide a variety of dairy alternative soy and goat milks for the lactose intolerant, or you want to supply cold coffees for the summer crowd. Whatever your preference this requires hard research and attention long before opening day, even if you don’t plan to highlight your specialty until later in the game.
6. Service = Success
A successful coffee shop thrives through one thing alone – a large and loyal customer base. The majority of any shop’s profits and interests are generated by return customers, people who know the business, know the people and above all love the coffee. Ensuring high quality coffee is a core principle for success but your place could be won or lost by something as small as a quick over counter conversation. Get to know your customers and let them get to know you, ensure that that person feels appreciated and wants to come back for more. This also means finding the right staff to match your ethos which takes time, so hire slowly whilst volunteers or friends fill the gap in the short term. Additional elements like music, temperature and lighting can also have a significant effect, balance the three to create a welcoming ambience that customers will be reluctant to leave.
7. Hit the Market
In order to get the customer into your shop in the first place you need to stir up some excitement before opening day, issuing out leaflets and other marketing material on the day just isn’t going to cut it. Never underestimate the strength of social media as a marketing tool, post images of your special recipes on Instagram whilst tweeting on forums and business pages. Ask local companies to promote your store in exchange for similar services or start providing free samples on market day, when it comes to promoting a brand there is never too much that can be done.
A Few Final Words
These are only snippets of what you may or must consider when preparing to open up shop, and there are numerous other factors that you should mull over before going ahead. There’s the obvious financial aspect of running a business – including providing for the first six months from opening which traditionally don’t turn over a profit – alongside tax and GST. Taking tips from an experienced professional or researching a fellow owner’s business plan can offer essential guidance during the hard beginnings. Our recent blog on ramping up your coffee business for insider tips on improving the services you offer, as well as our blog on naming a restaurant to give you an idea of how a name can enhance as well as reflect your business style. Building a reputable company amidst an already busy and competitive market can be a daunting proposition at first but with ample research, charisma and drive you can achieve all this and more.
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