How To Start A Coffee Shop (Tips That Work)

Last Updated on July 21, 2023 by Barry Gray

Many of us dream of starting our own coffee shop, myself included. I can picture the joy on people’s faces as they savor a delicious cup of coffee. Plus, being your own boss is such a fulfilling and lucrative experience.

To start your own coffee shop, you should identify your niche, find great coffee, do your research before launching, create a business plan, find a great location, and know how to make amazing coffee.

With a coffee shop business, you may be surprised at what will work.

I still cling to the traditional combination of old books and coffee, which may have been considered cliché a decade or two ago. Now it could be a practical approach as more and more people want to connect in person.

However, starting a coffee shop is not something you can simply dive into. Instead, it takes some work and preparation, and before I talk about the obvious things, such as a business plan, I want to mention something that I believe will make a difference: niche marketing.

how to start a coffee shop

Niche Marketing for Your Coffee Shop

Coffee shop niches have spilled over into a fantastic array of creativity that spurs people to keep creating better and better cafes. 

Coffee shops with unusual names and offerings are now ‘the thing.’ These smaller private coffee shops are slowly taking a massive market share. 

When starting a coffee shop, it’s essential to consider your target market and the type of community you want to create. Whether catering to early-morning runners, late-night theatergoers, or a specialty market, building a sense of community is essential.

Think of it like hosting a storytime event where everyone feels welcome and included. With the right approach, your coffee shop can become a hub for people to connect and enjoy their favorite brew.

I used to love a particular coffee shop that served a hearty breakfast after my morning run.

I was there like clockwork every day for at least a year. When I moved, I used to commute to one of our major cities and always had a coffee on arrival. I just loved the ambiance of the coffee shop right outside the station. 

Success is frequently attributed to following your passion, which holds true. Nothing is holding you back if you genuinely love coffee and enjoy working with people!

Coffee Shops The Last Frontier of Human Connection 

start your own coffee shop

Close your eyes and imagine a coffee shop that brings people together with the most delicious coffee imaginable.

Inhale the inviting scents of nutty and woody flavors while enjoying the cozy atmosphere filled with the soothing hum of the espresso machines and the gentle buzz of conversation. Coffee shops are the perfect place to connect with others.

But one thing that will enhance that feeling is how you market and position your coffee shop.

Make Your Coffee Shop Unique 

Each person’s vision of a perfect coffee shop is unique, and that’s where the power lies.

Coffee shops should be distinctive. You can share your vision with others and transform your dream coffee shop into a reality.

Your personal touch should be evident in every aspect of your little haven. People will then be drawn to this uniqueness.

Research, Research, And Research Some More 

If you’re anxious about starting a coffee shop, the best first step is conducting thorough research.

This involves determining your vision for the coffee shop, analyzing the competition, and studying successful coffee shops to understand what they did right.

Additionally, you’ll need to become proficient in budgeting, bookkeeping, and profit analysis or hire someone to handle these tasks.

This would be your own unique brand.

Your own business, a part of you brought to life that did not exist before. Coffee sells, and it sells well if you do things correctly. 

Everyone has to start from the same start line. Loads of businesses started with an idea, and you will be no different. 

Now that we’ve established that let’s examine a few crucial steps. We can delve deeper into each of them later on.

What are the Key Steps for Starting a Coffee Shop?

steps for starting a coffee business

I see eight key steps that you must follow to start your own coffee shop. Each step is a piece of the jigsaw puzzle you need to complete to give your business a chance of success.

But to do this, you need to begin at the beginning.

  1. Do your research. To succeed in the coffee shop industry, you need to do research, and understanding is critical. This involves analyzing the market, competitors, and management.
  2. Create a business plan. A business plan is essential for any new business, but it’s significant for coffee shops. Your business plan should include your goals, target market, marketing strategy, and financial projections.
  3. Find the correct location. Finding the right place for your coffee shop is crucial for its success. To attract your target market, choose a high-traffic area that is easily accessible. Different target markets have other preferences. For instance, there’s an elderly gentleman named James who operates a coffee shop near a retirement community. Although he’s not in the city center, he’s doing very well because the retired people around love his coffee shop. His unique decor, design ideas, and fantastic coffee have made his shop a favorite among the older generation. James has successfully created a sense of community lacking in today’s world. On the other hand, the coffee shop I visit in the city center is fast-paced and impersonal, catering to people in a hurry. It serves excellent coffee and is efficient in its service.
  4. Design the space. Your coffee shop’s design is crucial in creating a pleasant environment. Pick furniture, decor, and branding that align with your brand and target audience. If you’re catering to professionals, your shop should have a different appearance than I mentioned earlier. James’s coffee shop has a personal touch, with vintage cups, saucers, tea, snacks, and nostalgic decor. It’s unique and charming.
  5. Source your coffee beans. The quality of your coffee beans is essential for the success of your coffee shop. You need to source your beans from a reputable supplier, and you need to make sure that they are fresh and high-quality. Bad coffee will sink your coffee shop faster than anything. Conversely, word of good coffee spreads like wildfire. 
  6. Hire the right staff. Your staff is the face of your coffee shop. Hence, hiring people who are friendly, knowledgeable, and passionate about coffee is essential. Make sure your staff is friendly, make people feel comfortable, and also make them want to visit again and again. 
  7. Market your coffee shop. Once you’re open, you must let people know you are around. You can market your coffee shop through online and offline channels. If you can afford it, you can hire people specializing in selling new shops and services. 
  8. Provide excellent customer service. Excellent customer service is essential for the success of any business, but it’s crucial for coffee shops. It would help if you made sure that your customers are happy and that they come back for more. Customer service and good coffee are the foundations of success. Everything else pivots on these two things. 

These may sound like big things, but they are all essential for your coffee shop to become a success.

What Is Not to Like About Owning a Coffee Shop?

espresso machine in a coffee shop

One of the perks of this gig is being in charge of your own schedule. Plus, you get to indulge in various delicious brews all day.

That is such a bonus!

If you’ve got a knack for creativity, this job lets you put it to good use. And if you play your cards right, it can be quite the money-maker.

Be Unique, Work Hard, and Love Coffee – The Secret of Success 

But even though the steps I listed above are crucial, there’s a bit more to starting a coffee shop than simply following those steps. So, here are some additional tips that may give your coffee shop business a bit of a boost.

  • Be unique. There are a lot of coffee shops out there, so you need to find a way to set yours apart from the competition. This could mean offering unique coffee drinks, having a specific atmosphere, or providing an exceptional customer experience.
  • Be prepared to work hard. Starting and running a coffee shop is a lot of work. You’ll need to be prepared to work long hours and put in the effort.
  • Be passionate about coffee. To succeed in the coffee shop industry, you must have a genuine passion for coffee and love sharing that with your customers.

Say Thanks to Starbucks 

Don’t feel intimidated by big brands like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. These businesses actually help niche-market coffee shops thrive.

It’s impressive to see how Cereal Killers, a coffee shop in the UK, has achieved so much success with such a simple yet innovative concept – offering a bowl of cereal alongside your coffee.

Their ability to identify the perfect location and target audience is outstanding, and seeing them thrive is inspiring.

Be Unique. Find True Success 

Niche coffee shops must be unique; remember the days of cat cafes when everyone wanted to drink coffee and stroke cats? Well, things have gone far beyond that.

Some cafes and coffee shops offer board games and specialty coffees for early-morning cyclists and runners; others focus on great biscuits to serve with the coffee. 

The only limit is your own imagination, and even that can be sparked by what has been done, leading on to what has not yet been done. 

Ideas for Your Coffee Shop

If you are in a situation where you want to run a coffee shop but unsure as to the angle it should take, then these ideas could help.

Single-origin coffee shops

These coffee shops focus on serving coffee from a single origin, meaning the beans come from a single farm or region, such as Honduras for example.

This allows coffee lovers to taste the unique flavor profiles of different coffee beans. It also encourages local support and is quite different from other coffee shops. 

Coffee shops that focus on brewing methods 

To enhance the coffee-drinking experience, you can concentrate on a particular brewing technique, like pour-over, French press, or cold brew. This enables coffee enthusiasts to savor the unique flavors extracted from coffee beans by using different brewing methods.

Coffee shops that focus on a specific type of coffee 

Some focus on serving a particular coffee, such as espresso, Turkish, or Vietnamese. This allows coffee lovers to experience the unique flavors of different coffee types. This way, you can become a coffee expert and please your customers. 

Coffee shops that focus on a specific dietary restriction 

Give people what they want and need, and focus on serving vegan, gluten-free, or dairy-free coffee. This allows coffee lovers with dietary restrictions to enjoy coffee without compromising health.

Coraline Coffee in Portland, Oregon, is a niche coffee shop doing well. Coraline Coffee is a single-origin coffee shop that focuses on serving coffee from small, independent farms.

The coffee shop also has a focus on sustainability, and it uses compostable cups and utensils. Coraline Coffee has been praised for its high-quality coffee, friendly staff, and sustainability commitment. People are becoming more and more aware of consumerism. 

These coffee shops have all successfully carved out a niche in the coffee shop industry. They offer high-quality coffee, have a unique atmosphere, and are committed to sustainability.

But if the ideas I mentioned above regarding the type of coffee shop you could run has not inspired you, how about these additional ideas?

  • Coffee shops that focus on a specific theme. Pick a theme, such as a library, a garden, or a train station. This allows coffee lovers to enjoy coffee in a unique and immersive environment. Immersive environments are becoming big news. One of my favorite coffee shops was an abandoned railway station house, in Hillcrest, South Africa. They had a little antique shop at the side. They kept all the original features of the station house. It was so charming. 
  • Coffee shops that focus on a specific community. Community coffee shops live in people’s memories forever. They serve the neighborhood, a workplace, or a university. This allows coffee lovers to connect with their community and feel part of something special. Oddly internet is driving people back together as loneliness sets in. 
  • Coffee shops that focus on a specific experience. Some offer a unique experience, such as coffee tasting, cupping, or a coffee workshop. This allows coffee lovers to learn more about coffee and experience different flavors and brewing methods.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless and fun. Finding a niche and doing your research, as well as hiring good staff, is pivotal to your success. Then, of course, supplying great coffee. 

Great Coffee Speaks for Itself!

James and his coffee shop do well to this day.

On Friday afternoon, they have a jazz dance club and a lady’s book club on Wednesday. He mentioned that his life only took off when he opened his Old Times, Good Times Coffee Shop four years ago. 

With the correct research and planning, along with great coffee, I’m sure your coffee shop could do just as well.