8 Tips For Opening A Coffee Shop Successfully
An independent coffee shop won’t be an instant success, however. It takes hard work, like any other successful business. Providing good coffee is crucial, but there are other elements to getting your business running. This article will help you learn about the successful elements of a coffee shop.
How To Get Started Opening A Coffee Shop
People go to coffee shops to socialize, unwind, or to get work done on their laptops. A cup of coffee is always part of these activities. Knowing why you want to start your coffee shop can help you align with the needs of your customers.
Before opening a coffee shop, create a business plan. You’ll need to estimate customer demand, competition, and costs. Also, you’ll need to learn about the local ordinances and employment laws.
The business plan will include an assessment of the location, as you’ll need to know about the population and the average age. This will be important when setting the tone for your coffee shop.
Reach out to suppliers for your coffee, other food items, and equipment. Shop around for good prices, but ensure that it’s high quality. Your customers will recognize when the quality isn’t up to standards. Buying cheap equipment will increase the chances of problems.
In addition, you’ll need to factor services such as payment processors, point of sale systems, and wi-fi access. Look for vendors that offer reliable service and great support.
Tips For Successfully Running Your Coffee Shop
The following tips describe the typical activities that a coffee shop owner may need to handle.
1. Focus on Quality Over Quantity
Have you ever been to restaurants that changed the quality of their food or service for the worse? In many cases, you may have stopped frequenting them, or at least, you were on watch to see if it was just an off day. Your customers will stop coming if you fall short on your quality or your service.
Quality is important, especially in the hospitality industry. As coffee will be the staple product, the beans you select must be the highest quality possible. Customers will seek another shop if the quality of the coffee suffers.
The standards should be high for other products you serve. If your coffee is good, but the danishes are dry, for instance, this still could drive customers away. Most people order other items with their coffee. The whole experience should be satisfying.
If you skimp on the quality of your equipment, it may not work during the busiest times of your store. Customers can forgive the occasional disruption of service, but if it happens too frequently, they won’t return.
The best scenario is to have customers raving about the coffee, the food items, and the service. They’ll return with their friends when this occurs.
2. Implement Solid Training Programs For Employees
Part of maintaining quality is having employees know what is expected of them. They should learn the business in such a way that they wouldn’t need you to be there. This requires solid training programs.
As part of your planning process, you’ll want to craft a concept that makes your coffee shop unique. When you define that concept, your employees will be on the front lines to execute it. They’ll need training for this to happen.
Training can not only reinforce your brand concept but also can help retain employees. The cost of losing an employee is high. Training empowers employees to become a representative of your company. It also shows customers you are serious about your business by creating that empowering environment.
To create a training program, you’ll need to think about the operation of the business. If you aren’t clear on your objectives, your training program will reflect that. Set up your training so that your employees never say they weren’t trained on how to do their jobs.
Instead of creating the training courses yourself, you could hire a specialist to create a customized program. Another option is to send your staff on training programs.
3. Incorporate A Customer Loyalty Program
Most likely, you’ve been to coffee shops where they offer a card that gets punched after each purchase. When you reach a certain number of punches, you receive a free coffee or another item of equal value. This is an example of a loyalty program.
Your branding can appear on your loyalty cards. People often go through cards in their purses or wallets. When they see the loyalty card with your brand, it reminds them of your business. It also may indicate that they have a few more purchases to make before getting a free item.
Punch cards aren’t the only form of loyalty programs you can offer to your customers. It’s limited only by your imagination. For instance, you can implement a points system that they can check their balance on your website. This allows you to upsell them with online merchandise with your logo on it.
You could have a contest where the first ten people who come to your shop wearing something with your logo will get a free item or breakfast. Try out different loyalty or incentive programs to see which work best for your shop.
4. Don’t Limit Yourself On Menu Options
The sales of coffee alone won’t be profitable. The coffee may draw customers in, but you’ll need more items to sell to boost revenues. Offer several different types of food items that help increase the bill.
When people go to a deli, they expect a plain cup of coffee. However, they expect specialty coffees in coffee shops. Try out varieties of coffees and combinations of flavors. Your staff will need to be trained on how to make these specialty drinks.
Coffee shops should offer a variety, but too much can lead to wasted food, which lowers profit margins. You can add seasonal foods as an attraction and continue to experiment with your menu. Keep the successful items, but always expand your horizons.
Get feedback from your customers by offering a coupon if they complete an online form. You can also provide in-store feedback cards.
Consumers are becoming more health-conscious, and many pastries offered at coffee shops aren’t considered healthy. Due to this you could capitalize on this and offer a selection of healthy foods for those people.
5. Get Involved With Your Community
A coffee shop is a fast-paced business, so you probably won’t have a lot of extra time on your hands. This can make it tough to get involved in your community. However, getting involved can help your business greatly.
When you open your doors, your business becomes part of the community. People that come into your store are the hard-working people who pay taxes. Treating them like a transaction will be noticeable and could cost your business lost customers. You can stand out from your competition when people get to know you personally.
Community members will remember the business owner who lends a helping hand when a family experienced a devastating event. They’ll remember the business owner who sets up a club for kids to participate in after school events. Also, they’ll discuss with their friends how that business owner helped in several ways. They may even come in to thank that business owner, and of course, buy something from them.
Community involvement offers networking opportunities, too. When you attend community events, you may discover someone who could serve coffee and other goodies at an event. You would be in a position to present your business as a solution.
6. Clean and Prep
Unsanitary conditions can derail a food establishment. All businesses need to keep their environment spotless, but it’s even more imperative for businesses serving food. Many towns and cities have set up rating systems, and cleanliness is one of the biggest items rated.
The cleaning and prep should be part of the training program, and procedures should be strictly enforced. Most food establishments can expect a visit from state and local officials. When employees are well-trained, they’ll know better than to let any aspect of cleanliness go.
If the food and coffee are adequate, customers may not rave about your coffee shop on Yelp or other rating websites. However, they probably won’t leave bad reviews. It’s almost guaranteed that coffee shops and other food services will get clobbered with bad reviews when cleanliness is a problem.
Coffee shops turnover customers quickly. When a customer leaves, clean and prep the table or space where they ate. Customers entering will want to claim their space immediately after ordering. They don’t want to look at dirty tables while waiting for their order to be ready.
7. Create A “Coffee Shop” Atmosphere
Most of your customers will come to your coffee shop to socialize or to relax. Some people will meet for business, but many will come for the ambiance. The coffee and other food items are important, but the atmosphere is high on the priority, too.
Coffee shops are known for their comfortable surroundings. You can add artwork and plants, along with couches and lounge chairs. You can also set up tables for people who come alone or for the small business gathering. Be sure to include outdoor tables and chairs for the warmer months.
Try to cater to the demographics of your area. If your town is full of young people, you may want to scale back elements exclusively for baby boomers. You want to cater to as many people as possible, but the group that’ll likely spend the most is the one to concentrate your efforts.
Have music playing in the coffee shop, but keep the volume low. People go to coffee shops to have conversations and they don’t want their conversations to compete with loud music.
Designs for businesses like coffee shops are an industry itself. Consider hiring someone to design your coffee shop based on your requirements. A good designer will be worth the price.
8. Find the Most Effective Post of Sale System
Point of sale (POS) systems handle more than just credit card processing. They can also manage your inventory and can tie into your accounting system. A strong feature of POS is the data it provides. You can run reports to learn more about how your business is doing.
If you plan on offering a loyalty program, try to choose a POS system that supports this feature. If not, you’ll have to spend time tying together the data from your POS and the rewards system. This defeats the purpose of the POS, which saves time by automating several tasks.
Some coffee shops want to track the ingredients of the meals served. If this is something you’ll need, choose a vendor with this option.
The options you choose will depend on the size of your shop, the price and fees charged, and the support when something goes wrong. Every solution should be compliant with the latest security procedures.
On particularly crowded days, you may want to have staff take orders while people wait in line. There are POS systems that can tie together with mobile devices. This can be a great way to expedite orders and help accommodate impatient customers.
Additional Tips And Tricks For Coffee Shop Owners
People will notice if you aren’t doing your part to use eco-friendly practices. This negative press can be difficult to shake and adversely affect your business.
It can be more expensive to use eco-friendly practices. However, the pushback from consumers will likely cost you more and take longer to recover. Conversely, if you’re eco-friendly from the start, you’ll attract these customers over your competitors that are not.
- Sell merchandise in your store:
You could sell t-shirts with your logo or coffee mugs for customers to reuse. Give discounts for customers who use your branded mug over the disposable cups.
- Give your baristas a workstation:
Try to set up your coffee stations with everything your baristas need within reach. If they have to go away from their stations to find the items, this will slow down the process.
- Improve your inventory management:
Your business will stall if you don’t have the supplies that your staff needs. Data from your POS systems can help you streamline your inventory process.
- Continue learning about the business:
Join coffee associations and read everything about the business through books and magazines.
Our Final Thoughts
To open a successful coffee shop, you’ll need to define your brand. Distinguish your shop from others by getting your employees on board with the concept. A coffee shop is no different from other businesses in the amount of work required. There are plenty of challenges ahead.
The rewards are substantial when you get the concept of your coffee shop right. It’ll feel like an extended family with familiar faces returning. They will also bring in friends to that great new coffee shop in the neighborhood. Don’t be too surprised when your shop gets profiled in community newspapers and magazines.
If you need funding for your coffee shop, Fora Financial can help. Call one of our Capital Specialists today for a free quote.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.