The 11 Reasons Why Coffee Shops Fail (A Practical Guide)

Last Updated on January 5, 2022 by John Moretti

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for coffee shops to fail. In today’s economy, coffee shops need to do more than just serve good coffee to make it as a business.

Coffee shops often fail because they have unreliable suppliers, untrained staff, unfriendly staff, unappealing décor, a negative ambiance, or an unpopular theme. Additionally, coffee shops fail because they are not marketed well, do not offer specials, and open too late/close too early.

Let’s explore the reasons why coffee shops fail and discuss potential ways to prevent the failure of a coffee shop.

why coffee shops fail

Here are 11 reasons why coffee shops fail and tips on how to prevent your coffee shop from failing.

1. Unreliable Suppliers 

coffee shop supplier

Coffee shop suppliers can range from the coffee roasters, the milk suppliers, the sweeteners suppliers, and even the takeaway cup suppliers. If a coffee shop does not have reliable suppliers, it is unable to provide a reliable product.

Customers are unlikely to return to a coffee shop if they visit a coffee shop that has run out of sugar, was unable to provide a lid for a takeaway drink, did not have straws for their iced coffee’s, or could not serve coffee because they ran out of coffee beans.

In this regard, coffee shops fail because they are unable to provide the basic things expected from a coffee shop, which causes customers not to return to the store. 

Additionally, customers who have had a bad experience may even tell other potential customers about their bad experience at the store, consequently using word of mouth to dissuade other customers from visiting the store. 

2. The Coffee Shop’s Staff Are Untrained 

coffee shop staff

When it comes to running a coffee shop, you need to have trained baristas who know how to make a range of coffees and are able to adjust the coffee to suit a customer’s preference. You’re particularly lucky if you’ve managed to land a barista who can make unique coffee art. 

If your barista is able to deliver delicious coffee that looks aesthetically pleasing, customers are more likely to pay your coffee shop multiple visits.

Conversely, customers are unlikely to return to your coffee shop if your barista mixes up orders, doesn’t serve specific beverages in the generally expected manner, or simply produces unappetizing coffee. 

The danger of having untrained staff serving underwhelming coffee is that word of mouth spreads like wildfire. If people start telling one another about bad experiences they have had at your coffee shop, not only are they unlikely to return, but their friends are unlikely to even give your store a chance. 

Given the way word of mouth spreads, soon, people who have not even visited your coffee shop could be telling other people about bad experiences they’ve heard people have had at your store, dissuading people from even giving your coffee shop a try.

3. The Coffee Shop’s Staff Are Unfriendly 

coffee shop staff 2

It does not matter how good your coffee is; if your staff are unfriendly, customers will be dissuaded from returning or discourage others from visiting your coffee shop, which can cause your coffee shop to fail.

Friendly staff can go a long way in promoting the longevity of a coffee shop. If customers form bonds with their baristas and the staff at the coffee shop, they are more likely to return, become regulars, and use it as a hangout spot for friends.

Friendly staff creates loyal customers who will return to the store, helping you have regulars who provide a stable income for your store. Additionally, those loyal customers are likely to recommend your coffee shop to others, indirectly marketing your store for you, drawing more customers to your store. 

If you hire the correct people, your friendly staff will keep customers coming back and help word of mouth spread positively about your coffee shop, drawing more customers to your store. 

4. The Ambiance Of The Coffee Shop Is Not Positive

coffee shop ambience

The ambiance of a coffee shop sets the mood for customers’ experience in your coffee shop. If your coffee shop has a minimalistic, calm, relaxed vibe, then customers who seek tranquility over a cup of coffee are likely to be drawn to your shop.

Alternatively, if your coffee shop has a vibrant ambiance, it may attract people looking to enjoy a cup of coffee amongst friends in a lighthearted, welcoming environment. 

Regardless of whether your coffee shop’s ambiance is tranquil or peaceful, the most important thing is that customers have a positive perception of the shop from the moment they walk in. The music you play in your store and the décor of your store plays an influential role in how customers perceive your store.

If customers do not enter the store and feel positive energy when they enter, this may negatively impact their experience, causing them to not enjoy their time thoroughly, and not come back again, which can cause your coffee shop to fail.

5. The Coffee Shop Is Too Dark

dark coffee shop

Many people enjoy coming to coffee shops for their various aesthetically pleasing qualities. There is no specific design that you need to follow; however, there are various factors that can affect how customers perceive your coffee shop.

The color scheme of your coffee shop plays a big role in the mood your customers adapt as they walk into your store. If your coffee shop is painted using dark colors, it can set a somber mood. 

Since coffee is usually something people enjoy in the morning when they’re already in a somber mood, the last thing you want is for your coffee shop to be associated with furthering that somber mood.

Instead, you want your coffee shop to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Using bright colors can be quite overwhelming. Therefore, it’s suggested that you choose pastel colors that light up the room without having an overwhelming effect. 

Additionally, you want to ensure that your shop is well-lit in general. Well-lit coffee shops help customers feel as if they are in a clean, spacious area. 

Generally, customers are drawn to well-lit spaces as they enable the customer to see everything clearly, which invokes a feeling of safety. Having good lighting in your store will draw passers-by into the store thanks to its welcoming appearance.

Unless your intention is to create an intimate coffee shop for book lovers to sit by themselves in a poorly lit corner engrossed by a book, it’s best to use attractive colors that will draw passers-by into your store.

6. The Coffee Shop’s Décor Is Unappealing

coffee shop decor

If the décor in your coffee shop is unappealing, it can chase customers away. Even though you may be big on skulls and bones, it’s unlikely that all your customers will be.

Therefore, it’s essential that you use décor that will please most people. Of course, not everyone will enjoy your décor. However, you want to use décor that is socially acceptable. Steer clear from offensive décor or décor that insights fear or negative feelings within your customers.

The décor in your store should invoke feelings of joy, safety, or cause them to reminisce about better times. 

7. The Coffee Shop Has An Unpopular Theme

coffee shop theme

Even though your lifelong dream might be to have a shark-themed coffee shop, unless you’re running your coffee shop a few steps away from the beach, it’s unlikely that passers-by will be drawn to your store.

Coffee shops do not need to have a theme, especially given that their customers are more focused on getting their coffee fix more than anything else. Nonetheless, if the theme of the coffee shop is something that is not valued by the community, it’s unlikely to be a hit.

8. The Coffee Is Not Served In An Aesthetically Pleasing Manner

coffee shop latte

Coffee shops often fail because they fail to deliver their product in an aesthetically pleasing manner. 

In the age of social media, most people are attracted to coffee shops that serve their coffee in a manner that will look good on their Instagram stories. The way you serve your coffee should ideally be attractive for both sit-down and takeaway beverages. 

By offering an aesthetically pleasing sit-down coffee experience, you are encouraging customers to post pictures of your coffee shop’s beverages on social media; therefore, indirectly marketing your coffee shop. 

Additionally, when your takeaway beverages are served in appealing takeaway mugs, your customers carry around coffee representing your brand. If your takeaway mugs are appealing, it is likely to draw the attention of others who will be drawn to visit your coffee shop.

Using exciting coffee art and unique cups and saucers can go a long way in drawing customers to your coffee shop.

Given that our sense of taste and sight often go hand-in-hand, when coffee shops offer good coffee in an unattractive manner, their customers are unable to truly appreciate the coffee, unless they’re true coffee lovers. 

9. You Have Not Marketed Your Business Adequately 

coffee shop signboard

Coffee shops often fail due to a lack of advertisement. It is no use you have a stunning coffee shop where you serve delicious coffee made by incredible baristas, but no one knows where you’re located. 

While it is likely that a passer-by might stop by and give your coffee a try, you cannot rely on this alone. In the age of social media, it is no longer sufficient to hand out a few fliers or stick up a pamphlet on a notice board.

Ideally, you should pursue various marketing avenues when advertising your coffee shop. Ensure that your business has an account on all major social networks such as Instagram, Facebook, and Tiktok. 

On your social media accounts, it will be valuable to post pictures of the coffee you serve, videos of how the coffee is made, customers interacting with the staff or one another, or simply photos of customers sitting on their laptops enjoying a cup of coffee while they work.

Additionally, you want to have a website that portrays your coffee shop in an aesthetically pleasing manner, posting pictures of your coffee and the store, and perhaps posting blogs to inform readers about various types of coffee or interesting facts about coffee. 

Your website should contain your location and contact details so that customers can find your store easily. While having a website might seem unnecessary for a small business, it can be valuable in instances where customers or tourists use a search engine to find coffee shops nearby. 

Once you have set up your social media profiles, it will be valuable to advertise your pages on the relevant platforms. While this may be costly, it is likely to bring followers to your page and customers to your store. 

10. The Coffee Shop Does Not Offer Specials

special coffee

Everyone loves a good special. Specials are magnificent tools for drawing in new customers and keeping existing customers coming back for more. 

Many coffee shops offer bottomless coffee as a special. If this seems a bit out of budget, consider offering bottomless coffee at a certain time during the day for a certain amount of hours. 

If you’ve noticed that your coffee shop is particularly empty at a certain time of the day, consider running specials to include the time your coffee shop is quiet. By doing this, you’re likely to draw customers to come during the time your store is generally quiet, ensuring that your store has a steady flow of customers throughout the day.

11. The Coffee Shop Opens Too Late/Closes Too Early

coffee shop open hours

While most people enjoy a cup of coffee to start their day, some people enjoy a cup of coffee with their lunch or feel the need to grab a cup of coffee on the way home to carry themselves through the rest of the evening. 

To meet customers’ coffee needs, your coffee shop needs to be open at the right times. The time that your coffee shop opens will generally be determined by your location. 

Ideally, your coffee shop should be open by the time the first few workers begin their journey to work. 

Similarly, your coffee shop should close around the time most customers have headed home. If your coffee shop opens too late, customers may support other coffee shops nearby, or simply go without coffee. 


To prevent your coffee shop from failing, it is important that you have reliable suppliers, as well as well-trained, friendly staff. 

When decorating your coffee shop, be sure to choose appealing décor that does not invoke negative feelings or portray unpopular societal views. 

Ensuring that your coffee shop is well-marketed will increase your chances of having a successful coffee shop. Additionally, offering coffee specials and meal deals can draw customers to your store which will contribute to your store’s success.

Ensure that your coffee shop opens early enough for early risers, closes late enough for customers to stop by and grab a cup of coffee on the way home.