Start a Coffee Shop

The specialty coffee industry is unique. It attracts as many admirers of the product (coffee fanatics) as it does those seeking business investment and likely more. It is human nature to focus on things that are of personal interest. In the case of the coffee fanatic, that is all things coffee! Hey, why not start a coffee shop?

For the good of your business, put down that glossy espresso machine brochure and step back from those roasted coffee samples. Let’s spend the next few moments talking about something even more important than the product: the business of a coffee shop. It will be worth your time, and you can return to the taste testing when we’re done.

A word of caution: this article is not intended to be a paint-by-numbers template. There are many resources online that can help you with the technical aspects of a coffee shop startup. You may be disappointed if you are one of the self-identifying “Dummies” looking for a handbook to start a business. Technical guides may tell you what to do but not why. This article is different. We wrote this article to raise broader conceptual issues for those preparing to make a serious physical or emotional investment. It will not tell you how to do it step-by-step.

Coffee roasters receive inquiries from prospective coffee shop owners such as: “What should I name my coffee shop?” or “Should I pick the San Macaroni 5-group espresso machine or the La Spaghetti?” Although these are legitimate questions, they must address more substantive business issues.

New business owners spend a disproportionate amount of time agonizing over coffee shop gear, logos, and other minutia. These items will impact the appearance of a business but are different from the authentic brand of a business. They are also not the factors leading to its eventual success or failure.

It’s nice to know which chocolate tastes best in a cafe mocha, but the resulting drain of your time from real issues may be more costly than you expect. As you start a coffee shop, you may set a course for failure even before your shiny new La Spaghetti is out of the crate.