how to start a coffee business

Coffee Shop Owner standing in shopWhether you want to start a coffee shop, operate an espresso cart, sell beans by mail order or launch a mobile coffee service, there are lots of ways you can make money in this field.

Although a traditional coffee shop is not a home-based business, many people request the information, so we provide it below. Of course, if you like coffee and want to work from home, don’t overlook opportunities where you can open your own online store or run a mobile coffee truck – which still let you run your business from home.

Coffee Shop Design and Layout

Coffee shop owners can create restaurant floor plans in minutes with SmartDraw’s floor plan maker software. In addition to being able to create your coffee shop floor plan, this software creates menus for you, flyers, schedules, catering plans and more.

You don’t have to start with a blank screen either. Designing a layout for your cafe can’t get much easier for do-it-yourself software. There are several restaurant floor plan templates to choose from, including coffee shop floor plans.

Coffee Shop Design & Layout Tips

When designing the layout of a coffee shop, you want to consider placement of equipment, furniture, supply storage, displays and fixtures, but also workflow. The goal is to achieve maximum efficiency out of the space, which means having customers enjoy themselves and employees being able to do their jobs easily in the space provided.

Coffee shop equipment generally includes coffee brewers, grinders, espresso machines, display case, refrigeration space, cash register, etc.. In the customer area, there are typically tables and chairs, a condiment station, restrooms and sometimes special features like an outdoor seating area, internet workstations, a fireplace or sofas.

There may also be certain aspects of the building that the design needs to work around. For example, plumbing and electrical limitations, window and door placement, fire exits and ADA regulations. Often, visiting a variety of restaurants and cafes or even pictures of coffee shops can give you some great coffee shop design ideas for your own business.

Coffee Shop Decor

After designing the floor plan and placement of equipment and your coffee shop furniture, focus on the coffee shop interior design and decor items. At this point, you should have a good idea of who your customer will be and what they want.

Make your coffee shop interior match your customer. For instance, are they looking for an eclectic environment, social scene, peaceful and quiet place to read a book, meet associates for business meetings, bring their kids or pets, etc..

How to Start a Coffee Shop Step-by-Step:

Learn how to open your own cafe with help from successful shop owner Tom Hennessy. Tom has over 25 years experience in restaurant ownership, and has successfully operated his own coffee shop for 12 years. Tom shares his experience – trials and errors – so you can start your business quickly and avoid the costly mistakes that many new cafe business owners make.

  • Coffee Shop Business Start-up GuideStep-by-Step Instructions on How to Get Started. Create a business plan in a snap, know the most profitable location for your cafe and get effective systems for running your daily business, including budgets & bookkeeping with awesome samples and checklists.
  • How to Start with Minimal Cost. How to find financing, hire employees, get discounted equipment.
  • How to Get Customers and Profit Faster. Plus using customer feedback to grow your business, develop a “Frequent Customer” program and reach coffee drinkers through the internet. Get Started Here

Coffee Shop Supplies & Equipment

If you want to open your own coffee shop or cafe, finding coffee supplies and equipment are a big part of getting started. You want to get the most you can for the money you invest – but you also want reliable equipment and supplies that solve problems – not create them.

Equipment can get expensive, and at the end of the day, you want your business to be profitable. You also want to consider reliability and durability, which can make a big impression on customers, not to mention make your coffee shop easier to manage.

That said, when buying equipment and supplies, you constantly want to be thinking, “Will this help me bring customers back again and again?”

To keep expenses from getting out of hand, you can spend more on some items while spending less on others. For example, figure out what will be most important to your customers and invest your money there.

Where to Buy Coffee Shop Supplies at Wholesale

Finding and purchasing quality coffee supplies at wholesale prices can be very simple. Just use the internet. You can do a search in the search engines for “wholesale coffee shop supplies” or “wholesale coffee equipment” or you can use the resources we’ve listed below.

Some suppliers sell wholesale to businesses after they have completed an application – others sell wholesale to the public. This means that you aren’t required to buy in overwhelming quantities.

If you’re on a tight budget just starting out, consider leasing equipment from suppliers like Kaldi (see below). Alternatively, you can buy used coffee shop equipment from some companies like EspressoDealer.com

Coffee Shop Equipment List:

Below is a list of the supplies and equipment typically used in coffee houses. Your business may not require every item on this list, but it’s a good starting point to creating your supply checklist.

  • Coffee Brewing Systems
  • Espresso Makers
  • Tea Brewers
  • Coffee Grinders
  • Smoothie Machines
  • Water Filtration
  • Freezers
  • Refrigerators
  • Display Cases, Racks, Organization Units
  • Dispensers, Carafes
  • Coffee Beans, Loose Leaf Tea or Tea Bags
  • Syrups, Frozen Drink Mixes, Food
  • Drink Condiments
  • Cups, Food Containers, Utensils, To Go Containers
  • Paper Items (ie. napkins)
  • Cleaning Products, Trash Bags, etc..
  • Coffee Shop Menus

Coffee.org
These guys sell wholesale to the public: coffee, brewers and equipment, food and drink supplies, cleaning supplies, tea, frozen drink mixes and more.

Mission Restaurant Supply
This is a huge resource: restaurant supplies, equipment and furniture as well as bar supplies, catering equipment and concession supplies. All products have a rating system, so you can see what other customers think of each item. Mission also offers “web special” pricing.

Barista Pro Shop
They offer wholesale prices on coffee, tea, syrups, frozen drink mixes, coffee making equipment, storage racks, displays, dispensers, cups, food containers, to go containers, utensils, cleaning products and more. Start-ups and existing coffee shops can sign up for an account at their website.

Kaldi Gourmet Coffee Roasters & Equipment Suppliers
Kaldi sells a variety of wholesale coffee (Latin American, African, Indonesian, Estate), espresso, flavored coffee, chai tea and more. They have brewers, grinders, dispensers, freezers, refrigerators and more. You can also purchase or lease coffee equipment from them, they provide on-site installation and complete starter kits.

Creating Your Cafe Menu

LayoutReady.com has a Microsoft Word menu template for a coffee shop business that you can download for about $30. They also have templates for matching take-out brochures, letterhead and business cards. Print them yourself or take to a local printer.

Inkd.com also sells a coffee shop template for $99. it is a fully-customizable design file where you can edit the text, colors and images. You can print them out yourself or take them to a printer.

MustHaveMenus.com has a membership site where you can join and pay $50/year for access to all of their menus. They have over 30 different cafe menu designs which you can edit and add coffee clipart (which they provide). Each cafe menu template includes sample wording, drink items, bakery dishes and more.

If you don’t mind a little extra work, and you’re good with design, there are 25 free restaurant menu templates you can download from the internet. There are few designs specific to coffee shops.

Coffee Shop Menu Boards & Menu Covers

You can get A-frame signs, chalkboard signs, outdoor menu boards, window decals and graphics and more from the companies listed here. Displays2Go.com sells a variety of menu covers

Coffee Business Resources:

FabJob Guide to Become a Coffee House Owner
Step-by-step instructions on how to start your own coffee shop or coffee business
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