Have you always dreamed of opening your own coffee shop? A cosy haven where people can gather, relax, and enjoy a perfect cup of coffee? If you have, our ultimate guide on how to open a coffee shop in 2023 has got you covered. From sourcing equipment and supplies to staff training and the big launch, we can help you create a cafe that customers keep returning to.
Table of Contents
- KNOW YOUR BRAND AND YOUR BUSINESS
- WHO ARE YOUR COMPETITORS?
- DEVELOP AN ONLINE PRESENCE
- HAVE A SOLID MARKETING STRATEGY
- DESIGN YOUR SHOP
- CONTENT DEVELOPMENT
- GET THE PAPERWORK DONE
- GET AN ACCOUNTANT
- INVEST IN THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
- FIND YOUR OWN COFFEE BLEND
- THINK SUSTAINABLE
- FIND YOUR DREAM TEAM
- PERFECT YOUR SERVICE
- OPENING DAY
- THE REGULARS
1. Know your brand and your business
The first element you will need to consider before you open a coffee shop is your brand. This can change the game when it comes to running a successful coffee shop. If you don’t have a strong brand identity, the right customers may not find you and you could lose out to the competition. Positioning your brand where you are comfortable is not always going to be the best solution – try to think outside the box.
Develop a brand identify
Brand identity helps you establish a connection with customers, tell a compelling story, and drive business growth. In a competitive market, a strong brand identity sets a coffee shop apart from its competitors. It helps customers recognise and remember your coffee shop, distinguishing it from other similar establishments.
Your brand essence should become clear to customers as soon as they enter your coffee shop and interact with you or your baristas. A well-defined brand identity will allow your coffee shop to carve out a unique position in the market and attract a loyal customer base.
Once you think you have established your brand, conduct a SWOT analysis. This will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your brand, as well as the opportunities and threats it may face at the present moment and in the future. Consider both internal and external factors that may impact your business.
Your coffee shop’s brand is reflected in your company culture. The key to building a strong company culture lies in creating a positive and inclusive environment where employees feel valued and motivated. This not only boosts employee morale and satisfaction but also attracts and retains talented individuals, ultimately contributing to the success and reputation of your cafe. Make sure that you clearly define the vision, mission, and values of your coffee shop to your team.
Have a USP
A big part of branding is having a unique selling point (USP). To identify your USP, consider what sets you apart from the other coffee shops in your area, or what you can bring to your cafe that other business owners may not be able to.
Don’t panic if you can’t find the big ‘bright idea’. Your USP may be something as simple as allowing dogs inside your shop or stocking a variation of coffee beans to cater to different tastes. As long as your USP is executed successfully, it shouldn’t matter how wacky or out-of-the-box it is.
Understand your customer
As part of your branding journey, you will need to have a thorough understanding of your ideal customer. Are they local? Where do they work? How often will they visit your coffee shop? By identifying who your perfect customers may be, you can tailor your brand to suit their needs and appeal to them.
Consider creating customer personas to bring them to life. To help you visualise and identify who your customers may be, talk to other cafe owners or send out a survey before opening.
Nail your business plan
Creating a business plan may seem like a daunting task. However, it is a great way to gather all of your thoughts and ideas about your business and collate them together in one place. A business plan will serve as a roadmap that outlines the goals, strategies, and actions required to achieve success when you open a coffee shop. Include your main objectives, business vision, company location and facilities, marketing strategy and KPIs in your business plan.
2. Who are your competitors?
Understanding who your competitors are and what they do is a vital part of opening a new business. Research the market thoroughly. This may involve online research, conducting street surveys or interviews, and physically visiting different coffee shops in your local area.
You can use your competitors to your advantage. We would recommend taking part in a ‘Mystery Diner’ exercise. Use a Mystery Diner template to see what your competitors are doing and what their shortcomings are. This may involve observing how staff greet customers, how food and drinks were served and what the overall atmosphere of the coffee shop was like.
Using the information you collect, you can position your coffee shop cleverly by focusing on delivering on the key elements that your competitors are neglecting. This will ensure that your cafe is set apart from the competition and has success.
3. Develop an online presence
Nowadays, having a strong digital presence is a must for any successful business. Depending on the size of your coffee shop, you will want to consider setting up a website (or paying someone else to set it up for you) and creating social media profiles across relevant platforms where your audience hangs out.
Setting up your website
Setting up a new website for your coffee shop is an important step in establishing an online presence and attracting customers.
To set up a new website for your coffee shop, begin by selecting a suitable domain name that reflects your brand and is easy for customers to remember. Next, choose a reliable web hosting provider and register your domain. Consider the design and layout of your website, ensuring it aligns with your coffee shop’s branding and creates a user-friendly experience. Incorporate high-quality images of your coffee, interior, and menu items to entice visitors.
Get the messaging right. Create informative and engaging content, including details about your coffee shop’s story, menu, special offerings, and location. Make sure to include essential information such as opening hours, contact details, and links to your social media accounts.
Finally, optimise your website for search engines by incorporating relevant keywords, meta tags, and descriptions to improve its visibility in search results. Regularly update your website with fresh content, promotions, and events to keep visitors engaged and encourage repeat visits.
Get on social media
Don’t underestimate the power of social media! By building a strong social media presence, you can connect with coffee enthusiasts, build a loyal community, and attract new customers to your coffee shop.
Harnessing the power of social media is essential for your coffee shop’s success in today’s digital age. Start by identifying the most relevant social media platforms for your target audience, such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok. Create engaging and visually appealing content that showcases your coffee offerings and the unique features of your shop. Share photos of latte art, behind-the-scenes moments, and mouth-watering treats to entice your followers.
Encourage user-generated content by running contests or featuring customer photos with branded hashtags. Engage with your audience by responding to comments, messages, and reviews promptly. Use social media as a platform to promote special events, promotions, and collaborations to create a sense of exclusivity.
If you really want to expand your reach and tap into new audiences, collaborate with influencers or local bloggers. Don’t forget to leverage social media analytics to gain insights into your audience demographics, engagement rates, and popular content, allowing you to refine your strategy over time.
4. Have a solid marketing strategy
Having an effective marketing strategy is crucial to the success of your coffee shop. It will ultimately help you to attract and retain customers. Utilise a mix of online and offline marketing channels to reach your audience.
Make sure to shout about your new website launch! Post on social media, send out newsletters and write a press release for local journalists and bloggers. You may even want to add a countdown to your website before it goes live to get people excited and create a bit of a buzz around the opening. Once it is live, start to implement SEO best practices to ensure that you are findable in search engines. This will also involve creating fresh content for your site on a regular basis.
Consider investing a proportion of your marketing budget in building a sales funnel. This ensures that you keep customers coming back for more. Engage your new visitors through top-of-the-funnel campaigns, showcasing your cafe and product offerings. Consider hosting events, workshops, or coffee tastings to engage potential customers and showcase your expertise. Nurture your existing customers through bottom-of-the-funnel campaigns such as loyalty schemes and exclusive discounts.
Budget and results
In order to execute a successful marketing strategy, you will need to put some budget aside. Monitor spend and analyse the effectiveness of your marketing efforts through metrics such as customer feedback, website analytics, and sales data. You can then adapt and refine your marketing strategy based on the insights gained.
5. Design your shop
What do you want your coffee shop to look and feel like? Do you want it to be modern and minimalist? Or do you want it to be cosy and rustic? Make sure that you consider what best fits your brand and what would appeal to your target market.
The perfect location
Location is everything. If you want to catch the commuters on the way to work in the morning, you will want to set up in an area that has plenty of footfall from nearby offices or the local station.
You will also need to consider whether you are going to set up a brick-and-mortar coffee shop or a mobile shop. The main advantage of a mobile coffee shop is (as the name suggests) its mobility. You can bring your business directly to your customers, whether it’s at popular events, festivals or office complexes. This flexibility allows you to tap into various customer bases and adapt to changing demand patterns. Setting up and operating a mobile coffee shop also typically involves lower overhead costs compared to a fixed location.
A beautiful space to keep customers coming back
Make sure you design and create a space that reflects your brand. A well-defined brand identity ensures consistency across all touchpoints of the coffee shop. From the logo, colour scheme, and typography to the interior design, menu, and customer service. This consistency builds trust and familiarity with customers, making it easier for them to recognise, remember and return to your coffee shop.
When designing a coffee shop, several factors should be taken into account to create an appealing and well-functioning space. Firstly, the layout should facilitate a smooth flow of customers, ensuring easy navigation and minimising congestion.
The seating area should provide a mix of communal and individual seating options, allowing customers to choose their preferred level of privacy. The design should balance functionality, comfort, and aesthetics to create a coffee shop that works for your baristas and your customers.
6. Content Development
When it comes to creating and producing content for your coffee shop, you can either do it yourself or employ the services of a professional photographer/videographer. This is an important stage that shouldn’t be skipped. By having a bank of images and media that you can use across your socials, website and in-store, you can start developing your brand.
Creating your menu
One of the most important types of content development you will undertake is the creation of your coffee shop’s menu. Decide what you would like to offer customers. Are you planning on specialising in just coffee? Or are you going to serve baked goods and cakes too? Considering your product offerings will dictate what you will need to invest in later in the process of opening your coffee shop.
The look and feel of a menu hold more importance than you would think. It is often the first thing customers see or pick up once they walk through the door. Would you like a menu mounted on the wall? Or would you like a physical menu in brochure form that you can give to visitors? Whatever you decide on, make sure that the design reflects your brand.
The importance of video
As video content is certainly king in the digital world at the moment, consider creating short-form videos to attract customers to your shop. Check out trending videos on social media, such as TikTok and Instagram. See if you can record similar content (make sure you get your employees involved!) to increase and encourage engagement. This will also give a face to your brand.
Having professional photographs of your cafe is really beneficial. When you open a coffee shop, you will need promotional material, such as business cards, that you can share. Adding photos of your shop to this material (not using stock images) will make your business stand out and encourage people to visit.
7. Get the paperwork done
When opening a coffee shop, handling the necessary paperwork and legal requirements is crucial for success. Although it can be tedious and involve ticking a lot of boxes, it is an essential part of opening a coffee shop and should be prioritised.
As a business owner, regularly reviewing and updating your paperwork is good practice. This will ensure ongoing compliance with changing regulations, enabling you to focus on what you do best: delivering quality coffee experiences! Here are some of the steps you’ll need to follow:
Registering as a company:
Choose a suitable legal structure (e.g. sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation) and register your coffee shop with the appropriate government authorities.
Tax obligations (HMRC)
Obtain a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Familiarise yourself with tax obligations, including VAT (Value Added Tax), PAYE (Pay As You Earn), and business rates.
Licences and permits
Research and acquire the necessary licences and permits, such as a food business registration, premises licence, and alcohol licence (if applicable).
Employment and payroll
Understand and comply with employment laws, including minimum wage requirements and employment contracts. Set up a reliable payroll system for accurate employee payment and tax deductions.
Health and safety
In order to create a safe and relaxed environment for both customers and employees, health and safety must be considered.
Customer and employee well-being
Ensuring health and safety compliance is crucial for safeguarding the well-being of both customers and employees. A safe environment can boost customer satisfaction and employee morale.
Food Safety and Hygiene
Adhere to food safety regulations, including proper food handling, storage, and preparation techniques. Create a regular cleaning schedule among your employees to ensure the environment stays clean and tidy at all times.
Preventing Accidents and Injuries
Maintain a hazard-free workplace to minimise the risk of accidents and injuries. Provide proper training for staff on equipment usage, emergency procedures, and fire safety.
8. Get an accountant
Financing a coffee shop involves numerous considerations. Sometimes it can get overwhelming and the help of a professional is needed. Hiring an accountant with hospitality accounting experience can streamline your financial operations significantly, taking some of the stress off your shoulders!
Finding the perfect accountant
We know that it is not easy trusting someone with your same vision and mission when it comes to business. However, with the right accountant, you shouldn’t have to worry.
When searching for an accountant for your coffee shop, prioritise professionals with hospitality accounting expertise. Look for accountants who specialise in the industry and can provide valuable insights into coffee shop finances, tax regulations, and industry-specific deductions. Additionally, you might want to consider their qualifications, and expertise in tax planning and forecasting, and read client reviews or testimonials to assess client satisfaction.
Accounting software can be a great asset when it comes to managing your business’s finances, but it can also turn out to be a liability and produce more work if you don’t find the right one for your business.
Look for software that offers features such as invoicing, expense tracking, bank reconciliation, and payroll management. Platforms like Xero are known for their user-friendly interfaces and even has an app, meaning that you can check up on your accounts on the go. Opting for cloud-based software means that you can work from anywhere.
9. Invest in the right equipment
Setting up a successful coffee shop requires investing in specialised, commercial-grade equipment. Quality coffee machines are, of course, one of the most important types of equipment you will purchase, but you will also need to consider brewing accessories, refrigerators and storage and choose a reliable POS (Point of Sale) system.
The coffee machines
It goes without saying that a reliable coffee machine is a must for a coffee shop. Without one, you wouldn’t be able to provide a premium taste experience to your customers. We recommend investing in commercial-grade coffee machines. These are specifically designed for high-volume usage and will provide consistent quality.
We also recommend looking for features such as programmable settings, multiple group heads for simultaneous brewing, and built-in grinders for freshly ground coffee. The Cimbali M39 combines innovative design with performance, making it a great choice for start-up coffee shop owners. To find a machine that suits your specific needs and experience, take this quick quiz.
Point of Sale (POS) System and Till
Invest in a modern POS system that integrates with your coffee shop’s operations, allowing efficient order processing, inventory management, and sales tracking. A reliable till is essential for processing transactions accurately and efficiently.
Choose a commercial dishwasher that can handle the demands of your coffee shop, ensuring proper hygiene and quick turnaround times for clean coffee cups, saucers, and other utensils.
Refrigeration and Storage
Depending on your menu offerings, invest in commercial refrigerators and freezers to store perishable ingredients and maintain freshness. Adequate storage space is essential for organising supplies and inventory.
Purchase quality accessories such as grinders, scales, and timers to ensure precise coffee brewing and consistency.
10. Find your own coffee blend
Today’s ever-popular coffee culture has led to an increase in the demand for speciality coffees. Having a unique product offering is a great way to set yourself apart from competitors. But how do you go about finding your signature coffee blend that represents your brand?
To find your perfect blend, start with a coffee tasting. This will allow you to identify the flavours that you love and that your customers will also enjoy. If you have already established a team of baristas, why not take them along too? It is important for your employees to understand what goes into creating delicious-tasting coffee and the process behind it. It will also ensure they know the flavour profile of your chosen blend.
At Miko, our Master Roaster can advise you on the best origins to match the taste profile that you are aiming for. Your coffee is then roasted to order and delivered the next business day. This ensures absolute freshness and great-tasting coffee that is enjoyable all year round. By offering your customers a bespoke blend, you are adding a touch of exclusivity to your coffee. This will keep your customers returning, as they are unable to get it elsewhere.
11. Think sustainable
While it may be true that the business world is changing all the time, one thing we know for sure is that the future is sustainable. So, get ahead of the curve and think about adopting some sustainable initiatives in your coffee shop. Not only can these changes benefit the environment, but they can also benefit your bank – proven to increase positive brand association. Customers with a desire to be eco-friendly are likely to buy from a business that shares their values.
The B corp logo is known and trusted all over the globe. Essentially, B corps are companies that meet high standards of social and environmental performance. With people becoming ever more environmentally conscious, there are many benefits to becoming one.
Firstly, becoming a B corp holds your business accountable for social and environmental responsibility. People increasingly want to shop at sustainable companies, so becoming a B corp is a great way to attract customers and stand out from your competitors.
Becoming a B corp also means saving money and improving performance in the long term. Joining the B Corp community means that you gain access to a whole host of information on the most cost-effective ways to be sustainable. The certification process itself will also help you to spot where you are wasting money and you’ll be able to adjust your spending accordingly.
Sustainable coffee beans
As the old saying goes…all good ideas start with great coffee. So, why not begin your journey with a sustainable brand like Puro Coffee? Buying sustainable coffee beans is a great first step to becoming a more environmentally conscious business.
By choosing Puro, you are also choosing the planet, making a conscious decision to commit to the environment. Puro Coffee has partnered with the World Land Trust to help protect rainforests, using its funds to purchase land in areas important for conservation and promote sustainable farming. Puro Coffee is also FairTrade, meaning the company works directly with small-scale farmers to ensure they earn a fair wage. Your customers can enjoy a guilt-free coffee experience without compromise!
Another vital step in your journey to becoming more sustainable is knowing where your coffee comes from. While we can’t grow coffee here in the UK, why not make a commitment to using UK Roasteries? At Miko, we roast our coffee in locations across the UK including Cornwall and Scotland and are renowned for being one of Cornwall’s most traditional roasters.
12. Find your dream team
If you are to open a coffee shop that is going to be successful, you will need to find quality staff and skilled baristas. This can be a long but rewarding process, and it is crucial that you get it right.
You should always prioritise quality staff as they are the face of your business. Look to employ baristas with a passion for coffee, excellent customer service skills, and a strong work ethic. You may want to use multiple recruitment channels to find your dream team.
When it comes to conducting interviews, make sure you ask questions related to coffee knowledge, customer service experience, and the ability to handle high-pressure situations. You could even consider practical skills assessments to see your potential team in action!
Experience is not always the most important thing when it comes to creating your team. If you manage to build a skilled and motivated barista team, you can deliver exceptional coffee experiences and ensure the lasting success of your coffee shop!
You should always balance demand and staffing. This will control labour costs while meeting customer needs. It is crucial that you offer fair and competitive wages, as well as incentives such as bonuses or other employee benefits. Finally, you should invest in training and growth opportunities to enhance baristas’ skills and job satisfaction.
13. Perfect your service
It is crucial that your team is well-trained so they can perform better. Having a comprehensive onboarding process will outline the basics for each new team member. This should cover policies, service expectations, product knowledge and communication skills.
The training does not finish once your new staff knows how to serve coffee – it is an ongoing process and you must make sure that you offer further training opportunities to refine their skills. This will also keep the team updated on new products, promotions and techniques.
Important service steps
Serving is always a subjective matter and it will depend on your customers and your brand. However, we recommend the following:
Greet and seat
You should start by training staff to warmly greet customers upon entry. This involves making eye contact, and assisting with seating if needed. This will ensure a friendly and welcoming atmosphere from the moment customers arrive.
Teach staff efficient order-taking techniques. Ensure that they listen to customer preferences and dietary requirements, and suggest additional items from the menu where necessary to enhance their experience.
Presentation and delivery
Proper presentation and delivery of orders are key. This includes serving food and drinks with care, ensuring the correct temperature, and using appropriate serving utensils.
Clearing and cleaning:
Don’t forget to instruct your team to promptly clear tables, clean and sanitise surfaces, and maintain a tidy and inviting environment throughout the coffee shop.
Consistency is key to achieving success. Make sure to have standardised processes that your team knows by heart. In addition, you should regularly monitor interactions to identify areas for improvement and provide constructive feedback. Finally, don’t forget that your team is the life of the business! Encourage them to create a supportive environment where they all can work together to deliver consistent and exceptional service.
14. Opening day
The opening day of a coffee shop is an exciting milestone. This is the perfect opportunity to make a lasting impression on your new customers! A well-planned launch party that leverages social media to maximise visibility is a great idea.
Your launch party is a great opportunity to showcase your new business. If you decide to have a party in your coffee shop, you can transform it by decorating it with balloons, banners, and welcoming signage. Offer those who attend exclusive discounts, promotions, or limited-time deals to them to visit again!
You can also provide complimentary samples of your signature coffee or menu items to give customers a taste of what your coffee shop has to offer. Start to create your very own coffee community by personally greeting and engaging with customers, thanking them for their support and introducing them to your shop.
This is a unique opportunity to create valuable relationships. Consider partnering with neighbouring businesses to create cross-promotional opportunities, encouraging customers to explore multiple establishments in the area.
Social Media buzz
You can throw the best party in town, but without the right channels, it will never reach your customers. Therefore it is really important that you create a buzz on social media. Some strategies that you can implement are: teasers and countdowns to build anticipation; promotions that will engage your audience; collaborations with local influencers or coffee enthusiasts to spread the word; encouraging your customers to create user-generated content through branded hashtags.
15. The regulars
You are all set to open your coffee shop! But the hard work isn’t over yet… Establishing strong connections with regular and local trades is crucial for the long-term success of your coffee shop.
Become a local institution
Engage with the local community by participating in events, sponsoring neighbourhood initiatives, and collaborating with nearby businesses. Your coffee shop will soon become a valued member of the community. You can also opt for local advertising channels such as community newspapers and radio stations to promote your coffee shop.
Targeting local audiences ensures your message reaches potential customers who are likely to become regular clients. It is also important to maintain an active presence on social media platforms and community websites to connect with locals, share updates, and respond to customer inquiries. Encourage positive online reviews and engage with customer feedback to build a loyal customer base.
If your clients trust you, you have to ensure that you don’t let them down. One of the most disappointing things is leaving a place without the thing you went in for. This is why you need to ensure a steady supply of coffee. Set up a pre-order to anticipate demand and avoid running low on your best blends!
Regular and local trades play a vital role in the success of a coffee shop. If you create strong partnerships and give your customers great service, you will create a loyal community that will boost your business.
If you are looking to open your own coffee shop and want advice on choosing the right equipment for your space, get in touch with a member of our friendly team of coffee experts.
Latest From Miko
Coffee Guide: What Is An Americano Coffee?
For the uninitiated, coffee shops can be overwhelming places. Choices abound. Lattes, mochas, cappuccinos, flat whites… the list will go on as
What is The Coffee Roasting Process?
There is a complex journey coffee takes before it becomes the flavoursome beverage we know and love. At the heart of this
Claim Your Free Miko Coffee Brochure