There is no one secret to a successful coffee shop; in fact, most secrets in business boil down to either hard work and extensive experience. Below are a few tips to help you launch your coffee shop and make sure it is profitable in the long run.
This matters so much. Let’s say your store is on a busy street that leads to a freeway on-ramp. Great! But which side of the street? Believe it or not, something like that could make or break you. With coffee, speed is incredibly important, and it’s not just the speed of drink making that matters. If your customers have to spend a long time finding you or looking for parking, they may never even try your product.
When dealing with car traffic, you want to be on the same side of the street that traffic tends to be flowing in the morning hours. If you can get off-street parking, that will help a lot. This is mostly a concern in medium density areas.
Dealing with foot traffic is a bit more complex. If you were looking at a particular corner with lots of foot traffic as a potential location, it would definitely be worth it to spend a couple of days (maybe one weekday and one weekend) near there counting passers-by. If there’s a diner or cafe nearby, hang out there by a window for a while, and count how many people come in. Also, take note of how many people will cross the street then enter the store. This is more of a concern in high-density areas.
Check with your city, county and state planning departments to ensure no major road or construction projects coming up that will obstruct your shop throughout the day for several months, permanently divert your potential traffic to a route that doesn’t pass you, other new coffee shops already in the works.
All the other concerns of starting a food service establishment also apply, of course.
A consistently high-quality product
“Consistently” is definitely a keyword there. You want employees who have integrity about the product they are serving. You want clear guidelines about how espresso shots should pour, and what is acceptable to serve. Milk steaming must be done properly as well. This doesn’t mean micro-managing your workers, but it does mean having exacting standards. Above all, your coffee should taste good.
Almost as important, your coffee should look good. This means cups should be clean, and drinks should be attractive. For example, some customers like to float their espresso shots on top of Americanos so that the drink is creamy on the surface when served. It looks better than just a cup of black. You might or might not require latte art. Just remember that what latte art ultimately communicates is that the milk has been properly frothed. Sometimes coffee is just coffee, and sometimes it’s a treat. When it’s a treat, do small things to dress it up.
Good service in a welcoming environment
There is much advice on what makes good service. To make it simple, your employees should be friendly, attentive to the customers’ concerns, and serve your product efficiently. Everything else boils down to these three fundamentals.
Your store needs to be clean and attractive. What constitutes “attractive” will vary widely by your location and clientele, but clean will not. Even if your store is by a college campus and your store is a bit dark, with hand-me-down sofas and furniture, you still need to keep things clean. Plan a daily and weekly chore list and enforce it.
A simple but flexible menu
Have default recipes, so your baristas don’t need to ask the customer a million questions to get their order. For example, make all your drinks with a double shot, but be willing to serve a single. This kind of thing will speed up the ordering process, and make things friendlier to people who aren’t in coffee shops every day.
Milk variety and alternatives are important. Some high-end coffee shops get snooty about this, and that really has no place in your business. Yes, people can be ridiculous about ordering incredibly sweet enormous drinks, but this is about accommodating people with special dietary needs. Offer soy milk at the very least, and strongly consider adding rice or almond milk (or both.)
Although more and more places have WIFI these days, I think a lot of business owners fail to understand what WIFI can give them. WIFI encourages people to stay, giving the impression that you are successful. If you have WIFI and people aren’t staying, it should be a signal to the business owner that he is failing at one or all four of the first points.
Last but not least, only you can decide if a coffee shop is the best investment or business venture for you. Starting any business requires much planning and research. Reach out to other business owners, seek advice from any acquaintances you may have in marketing and accounting.