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Starting A Coffee Shop: A Bitter Experience Or A Proper Buzz?

Interior of a coffee shop with a barista behind the bar

Starting A Coffee Shop: A Bitter Experience Or A Proper Buzz?

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Coffee shops have become a pretty much permanent fixture in city centres over the last couple of decades, with every shopping park having at least one branch of a mega-chain.

In the UK, where tea always seemed to hold sway, the march of coffee has been relentless; you can get jet-black espressos, reassuring Americanos, and even creamy frappes. Coffee has become such a serious business that there is even coffee for people who don’t like coffee.

It might appear that opening a coffee shop is simply asking for trouble, given the competition that already exists. How on earth do you even begin to compete with the chain outlets? The answer is that you probably shouldn’t – just let them compete with one another.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t space in your area for an independent coffee shop run intelligently by someone who knows their stuff.

Launch Before You Launch

Not every business is as fortunate as a coffee shop – or any food and drink outlet – when it comes to pre-publicity. Between pop-up spaces, covered markets and general public events, you’re unlikely to be short of places where you can offer samples of your coffee, and any savoury or sweet food options before your shop even opens. If you can put your own branding on the samples, then people are likely to remember where they got that delicious frappe and that crumbly biscotti, and will be delighted to see a permanent location open up.

Secure The Necessary Funding

If you’ve already got the money to start up a town-centre coffee shop burning a hole in your pocket, you probably don’t need much in the way of advice from here. Assuming you don’t, you will need to compile a business plan based on meticulous research and ideally a 90-second and a five-minute pitch based on that plan.

Get realistic costings for everything, consulting a coffee machine buying guide for the right commercial machine and figuring out how many lines you can offer. Look into any potential government-backed small business loans, as these will usually have more forgiving terms than private loans.

Scout The Location Closely

A coffee shop needs to be a certain shape, ideally. There should be a counter with room for display cabinets, space for people to queue, and enough room behind that counter for people to move around making drinks.

The best locations are ones which housed past coffee shops, restaurants or bars, as these will be closest to that desired layout. Regrettably, the pandemic has probably meant that there will be a few more of those than usual.

Once you’ve settled on your ideal location, do some extra research – including finding out why the last place went under, which is always useful information.

Network With Local Businesses

When it comes to business, knowing your neighbours is important. A new business moving into an area will always draw attention from the business community, and it will do you no harm to join the chamber of commerce and be on good terms with other businesses in the area.

They’ll be able to offer you advice on the general atmosphere of the business sector where you’re planning to open, and give you some clues on how best to pitch your business towards local customers. Offering good deals on takeaways to other businesses in the area can help spark a mutually beneficial business relationship, too.

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