How to Start a Coffee Shop

How to start a Coffee Shop
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Where can we all satisfy a burning desire for a cup of coffee, enjoy delicious pieces of crisp pastry and just have a lovely time in a calm atmosphere? You’re absolutely right – in a coffeehouse.

A coffeehouse, or also known as a café or a coffee shop, is a HoReCa (Hotel/Restaurant/Café) type of food service establishments that usually serve various beverage and refreshment including tea, coffee, juice, different desserts, light cocktails, ice cream, sparkling drinks to name a few. These shops are designed for people who look for a place to meet and chill – and this place isn’t that fancy as a restaurant and not so crowdy as an average café. Lots of shops around the Middle East and Asian countries can also have a hookah lounge or just offer a choice of favored tobacco to smoke a hookah in addition to the assortment. Some shops might sell coffee beans or tea leaves.

And you’d better be ready if you want to open a coffee shop of your own – there’s so much you need to know, not to mention that you’ve got to be a real pro when it comes to coffee in general. So, if you’re, just like others, too overwhelmed by the multitude of information associated with the business, this practical guide will break down every step you need to take to start a business.


There are several legendary accounts of the origin of the drink itself. One account involves the Moroccan Sufi mystic Ghothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili. When traveling in Ethiopia, the legend goes, he observed birds of unusual vitality, and, upon trying the berries that the birds had been eating, experienced the same vitality. The drink was primarily consumed in the Islamic world where it originated and was directly related to religious practices. For example, it helped its consumers fast in the day and stay awake at night, during the Muslim celebration of Ramadan.

Coffee was first introduced to Europe on the island of Malta in the 16th century, according to the TV documentary Madwarna. It was introduced there through slavery. The vibrant trade between the Republic of Venice and the Muslims in North Africa, Egypt, and the East brought a large variety of African goods, including coffee, to this leading European port. Venetian merchants introduced coffee-drinking to the wealthy in Venice, charging them heavily for the beverage. In this way, it was introduced to the mainland of Europe. In 1591 Venetian botanist-physician Prospero Alpini became the first to publish a description of the plant in Europe. The first European coffeehouse apart from those in the Ottoman Empire and in Malta was opened in Venice in 1645.

Meanwhile, the drink had been introduced to Brazil in 1727, although its cultivation did not gather momentum until independence in 1822. After this time, massive tracts of rainforest were cleared first from the vicinity of Rio and later São Paulo for plantations. Brazil became the largest producer in the world by 1852 and it has held that status ever since. It dominated world production, exporting more coffee than the rest of the world combined, from 1850 to 1950. The period since 1950 saw the widening of the playing field due to the emergence of several other major producers, notably Colombia, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, and, most recently, Vietnam, which overtook Colombia and became the second-largest producer in 1999 and reached 15% market share by 2011.

Source: Wikipedia

Step-By-Step Guide: How To Open A Coffee Shop

You surely need to start a successful business so that your coffee shop could unleash the full potential right from the start. In fact, opening a café that makes a good profit is relatively easy, but opening a really profitable coffee shop needs you to show the best of your commitment. If you keep walking the consistent path, you’ll flourish in no time.

These are your steps to starting a coffee shop:

  1. Analyze your competitors. Actually, when you ‘stalk’ you direct competitors, you can gather accurate information on different nuances such as menus and how to create a great one, price formation, what mistakes to avoid and which mistakes not to start with, how to recruit employees and where to look for them and, most importantly, what makes a thriving café. Grab your pad, take down shops you believe epitomize successful shops, map them out and take this all into account before opening a café. Read reviews on the Internet, get in touch with competitors’ customers to find out hits and misses. You can use, a social crowd-sourced review forum to range places.
  2. Find roasters for your coffee shop. To get the right roaster for your café means a lot, but thankfully big cities are crawling with multiple roasting companies, so you have a choice here. If you happen to live in a small town, then you can find roasting services online. Remember that a good roaster always offers customers to taste their production. Some cafés, on the contrary, roast coffee themselves, but it requires additional expenses – before opening, you have to expand your premises, purchase equipment, study roasting techniques, employ more staff. If you want to open a café that is able to roast coffee as well as sell it, every aspect should be covered.
  3. Write a business plan. When you start a business, you have a comprehensive plan in your head. This plan must be translated to numbers. You describe all the details of starting a coffee shop – financial goals, the size of your market, competitors, market research, start-up cost, general strategy, accurate financial data. It’s mountains of information, so if things seem too hard for you, look for a specialist or two to help you out.
  4. Choose the right location for your café. The best places for a coffee shop, according to the general research, are:
    1. business centers;
    2. crowded streets, busy street-crossings;
    3. near shopping malls, subway and train stations, local markets, institutions;
    4. airports.

Even though it may appear that starting a business in the suburbs has a profitable appeal, coffee shops there don’t grow quickly.

  1. Register your business. You always have to register with the government before you open any café, shop or an entity in general. There’s no knack to it – simple go through the process and start your business as an official entity.
  2. Design the interior of your coffee shop. If you’re suddenly a talented designer, you can tackle the task yourself, but, of course, in any other case ask a professional design studio to do the job.
  3. Purchase furniture. One thing to know about commercial furniture – it has to be durable from the start. You start a business not to buy a new set of tables every month. So try to go deep to find good tables, chairs, sofas, a bar counter, doors, floor coverings that could serve you for a long time.
  4. Purchase equipment. Your ‘shopping list’ starts with coffee machines, a water purifier, grinders, refrigerators, display cases, water heaters, maybe a microwave, mixers, an automatic dishwasher. Whether you need more equipment or not depends directly on the menu – if you’re going to bake, that’s a different story.
  5. Create an effective menu. Some coffee shops sell coffee only and a little refreshment, some choose to enrich the assortment and serve dishes of all sizes and shapes. So the first step is to define how many entries you want to have in your menu. Then you need to take into consideration little details like country where you’ll be starting, mindset, your region’s preferences. ‘City center people’ are all into pastry, locals might be more into proper dining. Some cafés cook themselves while others buy from bakeries.
  6. Get your supplies. You need tableware, cutlery, napkins and napkin holders, packaging, printed menus etc.
  7. Fins suppliers. This step is crucial for those who are planning to open a coffee shop that sells its own production only partially. You can find a reliable supplier for the shop to supply beans, pastry, beverage. But it depends.
  8. Buy a cash register. Consider what your needs and size are, receipt printing options, security features and purchase the right register for your business.
  9. Employ personnel. There’re two options in front of you to start with – recruit underqualified people and then train them or hire experienced bartenders, baristas who know their business.
  10. Do your marketing and advertising. You certainly need a coherent marketing plan that answers the following questions – what your marketing channels are, what communication strategy to choose, what types of advertising suits your needs (TV, online, e-mailing, outdoor). A couple of months before your coffee shop opens, decorate display windows, the entrance with a bright ad that your café is about to open. Besides, create a business account on Google My Business and Apple Map Connect to attract more customers from the Internet.
  11. Arrange a grand opening. This part should be a smashing success, otherwise no one’s going to come to you. So, select a date, choose a special theme (the type of event), provide free food and beverage.

Essential Pieces of Equipment For Your Coffee Shop

Water Treatment

In case you don’t know, water, this essential liquid, makes up almost 98% of your cup. Conclusions? Poor-quality water can become a real scarecrow for your café and turn coffee into a flat and vinegarish experience for the customers. Besides, water quality impacts equipment ‘ life expectancy’, so you want your water to be just perfect. That’s why good coffee shops utilize reverse osmosis filter systems that produce almost distilled water, but diluted a bit with saline water. This helps keep the ratio of minerals and water hardness in balance.

You can’t use either tap or 100% ultra-pure water. First off, tap water has too high mineral content, so your coffee will taste too metallic and acidic – by the way, minerals damage the equipment. Distilled water cannot be a good substitute either because it lacks mineralization, so the drink will be sour.

There’re three important water parameters:

  • Mineralization. You should use water with salinity of 75-175 mg/l. Water with salinity of 100 mg/l is the best choice for your coffee. Tap water is too hard, with salinity around 300 mg/l (feel the difference), distilled one is too soft, with salinity of less than 50 mg/l. Calcium should be around 60±8 mg/l, sodium – 10 mg/l.
  • Chlorine. You water should contain no chlorine at all – total zero.
  • pH. Coffee water criteria suggest a range between 6.5 and 8. Water outside this range makes coffee either acidic (higher level) or bitter (lower level).

Surely you can just buy water from a supplier, but then you have to find a good one that offers all the right water parameters of the production because every water manufacturing company sets their own criteria. Scrutinize chemical composition of water to make sure the supplier requires your water demands.

Coffee Machine

You choose a machine depending on the size and needs of your café, but mostly take into account whether the place is going to be crowded or not. Also, your staff experience matters: why does a rookie need a full-packed machine if they don’t even know how to use it? Every supplier catering for HoReCa shops can give valuable advice and help you choose all the right thing for the café. Some guys might even train you to use the machine for free.

Generally, espresso machines are divided into four major groups according to their automation features:

  • Manual espresso machines, require operators to regulate water pressure and follow the process.
  • Semi-automatic machines, sustain water pressure automatically, yet coffee brewing is performed by an operator.
  • Automatic machines, also sustain water pressure automatically and control the whole process, but an operator still has to watch the process and add coffee beans if needed.
  • Super-automatic machines, these beauties carry out the whole process without any operator – from brewing to grinding beans.

As far as you can guess, the most common commercial models for coffee shops are semi-automatic machines since they give an opportunity to control the taste and have a little bit of automation. They are relatively cheap and make a fast brewer.

Automatic espresso machines are not widespread in cafés and other venues because they can’t make coffee that meets the espresso standards established by the Italian Espresso National Institute. Besides, these machines don’t show the right level of coffee extraction and brewing. Super-automatic machines are widespread for domestic use. Some food service establishments utilize these types of machines as they are able to process large quantities of cups while no proficient operators is needed. In truth, they cost a pretty penny, so not every Michelin-starred restaurant could afford such a device, except for big market sharks like Starbucks or McDonald’s.

To serve traditional Turkish coffee you will need a special copper sand brewer.

turkish coffee machine

Further Reading: Where You Can Gain More Experience

We’d highly recommend you to read «The Professional Barista’s Handbook: An Expert Guide to Preparing Espresso, Coffee, and Tea» by Scott Rao. This book is a Klondike of relevant and factual information on how to make the right espresso, cappuccino, latte and contains a great deal of tips you might find useful. Rao’s ‘coffee novel’ is a great guide to understanding how coffee business works from the inside. His tips are based upon large personal experience in the industry, but Rao did authentic research, too. You’ll find detailed instructions – explicit and well-written that any beginner to coffee may become a pro in a few moments.

Watch this video to learn the keys to start a coffee shop:

Additionally, you can take a specialist course to train yourself or your staff members – courses can teach you how to make coffee and start the business smoothly.

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