It might seem like there’s a coffeehouse on every corner, but there’s still room in the market for indie neighborhood joints if you have the moxie to go up against Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Peets. The key to success in these competitive markets is to brand yourself as unique and find the ideal location near either large residential segments or in business centers. Many small towns across the country don’t attract the big three, so your start-up coffeehouse has a great opportunity to educate the community on the finer points of coffee, past Folgers. And for coffee lovers who are already espresso-savvy, you’ll be the hottest place in town. The first steps in planning your coffeehouse include:
1. Setting the menu and prices.
2. Creating a business plan.
3. Scouting the competition.
Barista trainingThe first essential step in starting up a coffeehouse is to educate yourself on the product and the specific industry training that it takes to be a professional barista.
Find the right beanThe main thing that sets Starbucks and its competitors apart is the taste of the coffee and espresso. Your market research should include what type of roast appeals to the majority of your customer base. This is the fun part of starting a coffeehouse, tasting the possibilities.
Source your products and equipmentIt's important not to purchase equipment until you've decided which coffee you'll serve. Some suppliers of beans provide leased or free equipment as long as you continue to purchase their coffee.
Brand yourselfYour coffee, your espresso and your name should set you apart from the competition. But there's more to branding your coffeehouse than simply a name. You need to decide on the atmosphere you want to create. Some coffeehouses encourage loitering with free Wi-Fi and comfy sofas. Will your coffeehouse cater to this crowd or do you prefer to appeal to business customers who stop in for a quick cuppa and newspaper?
Industry trendsKeep up with industry trends, suppliers and conferences by subscribing to trade magazines and joining coffee trade organizations.
- You'll need to decide if you prefer a semi-automatic or automatic espresso machine. If you plan on constant lines and high volume, then an automatic espresso machine is your best bet. But don't be fooled by the term 'automatic,' however. You still have to steam the milk manually on automatic machines.
- Call your local, county or state department of health when planning the design of your coffeehouse. Since regulations differ from area to area, you may need to incorporate food safety regulations into the design of your kitchen area.
- When planning your coffeehouse, consider offering other amenities such as complimentary newspapers, wireless Internet and food items such as sandwiches and snacks.