Spilling the Beans on Opening Your Own Coffee Shop

Thursday, February 25, 2016 - 19:00
 Spilling the Beans on Opening Your Own Coffee Shop

Start with a Business Plan

Opening your own coffee shop can be a dream come true… if done right. Many coffee enthusiasts must fantasise with their own inviting little piece of heaven with the aroma of Colombian beans and the sophistication of a Parisian café. But like any dream a reality check isn’t far behind and making your own coffee shop a fact takes a lot of hard work. Coffee is big business; in 2013 the UK coffee shop market turned over an estimated £6.2 billion, with more than 16,500 outlets and sales growth of 6.4%. And the prediction is exceeding 20,500 outlets and turnover £8.7 billion by 2018, making it one of the most successful sectors in the UK economy.

This all adds up to a lot of competition, so before you start picking out your favourite blends, take careful note of the following key components of opening your own coffee shop.

Find the Right Location

With a business so dependent on large volumes of customer traffic, location is vital. Two-thirds of people who buy coffee, do so when they’re on their way to somewhere else so while you’ll rarely be the final destination, you’ll want to be an essential pit-stop on the way. High-traffic areas are expensive though, so you might decide to set up a bigger shop somewhere less busy where you can cater for more customers and work on establishing your venue as a ‘coffee destination’.

Research is crucial: take a lead from the foremost commercial coffee shop brands. The UK’s largest chain is Costa Coffee, followed by Starbucks and Café Nero. Have a look at the areas where these companies have already set up shop. These have been carefully selected to attract the most customers. As a well-run independent cafe, you may be able to draw customers away from a bog-standard chain to your little universe.

Find Premises to Match Your Vision

Before you start looking, ask yourself “what type of premises have I envisioned?” Are you after a grab-and-go kiosk? Are you looking for a larger venue for people to linger on couches? How many covers (people seated) do you feel able to serve at the same time? As a rough guide, a small café (15-45 covers) needs between 500 and 1000sq ft. For 45-100 covers you’ll need at least 1000sq ft. and for more than 100, you’re looking at spaces bigger than 2000sq ft.

See as many potential premises as you can; even those that doesn’t look terribly promising on paper, could be just the ticket. Once you’ve seen an range of options, you might start to develop a real sense of your business’ potential style. If you see a premises that might be interesting, before dashing off to sign any paper, check its commercial classification. If it doesn’t have the correct one, you’ll have to get planning permission from your local authority.

Put Food Safety First

Excited by the idea of your own selection of delicious, smooth and perfectly baked chocolate brownies? Light enticing pastries and sumptuously intricate cakes may already be lining the counter in your mind, but the less fun stuff unfortunately often has to come first.

As with all venues serving food, you need to comply with food hygiene regulations. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is the governing body in this area and has a great deal of resources available, including the publication ‘Safer Food, Better Business’. To ensure you’re ready for any inspection that can come your way, get acquainted with the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point system (HACCP). An internationally recognised and recommended system of food safety management. Once you’ve jumped through a few small hoops you can look to fire up the ovens.

Train for Success

While there are no actual laws for formal training of staff in a coffee shop, having team members who know the difference between making a Macchiato and an Americano can make-or-break your business. Whether you are providing that vital ‘wake up’ cup or the finest artisan coffee’s from around the globe, staff that ‘know their beans’ help you rise a step above the standard coffee shops. This can be the difference between being a convenient stop off and a coffee destination.

When it comes to making the coffee itself, there are lots of barista courses run around the country, of varying intensity and cost. The Beverage Standards Association is a good place to start. There is no point in investing in a great location and top-notch beans if the coffee you’re making doesn’t hit the spot.

And finally…

Be Passionate About Coffee

Does it sound obvious? Maybe, but there’s a massive difference between that lovely Italian espresso you make yourself at home and a five-people queue waiting for seven different beverages. Do you love coffee enough to swot up on grinders, beans, filters and brewing? On occasions when business takes a front seat, passion gets left in the boot. While it will take time and effort to get your operation up and running, don’t get downhearted or discouraged. Remember your passion planted the seed in the first place. 

Lindsay McPhee