Opening your dream coffee shop – 5 top tips

I recently spoke at a conference for hospitality and catering students. One of them asked me what traits you need to become a entrepreneur. I answered passion, an open-mind, creativity, determination and discipline. Being inquisitive, competitive and always ready to move on to the next thing. But most of all, you have to have vision and ambition.

One of my (many) personal aims is to own and operate seven Heaven Scent coffee shops, and for the brand to be instantly recognisable and highly regarded. Today, I’m a mixture of delighted, proud and anxious as I open my third outlet at Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries, a simply incredible, award-winning new building which will breathe new life into this former Royal Burgh.

It takes a huge, and I mean HUGE, amount of work to get a coffee shop up and running. Starting a new business is daunting. The dream is fun, taking the leap is adventurous, but the reality can be overwhelming. In among the sexy jobs like choosing your coffee suppliers and beans, sampling cakes, ordering funky crockery and deciding on the decor, there are many, many other things that need to be considered.
So, you need to prioritise, and in my experience the key things to focus on when opening a coffee shop are:
1. Recruitment
Never underestimate how much your staff influence your customers’ experience. A friendly welcome, top chat and all-round excellent service are as important as the eating and drinking. Your staff can create a warm, inclusive atmosphere where people want to hang out. Recruit on personality – warmth, charm and charisma are innate and priceless. Then plan the training so your team is up to speed by opening day.  Well trained staff can create a latte with style and flair, advise on multi-allergen free dishes and know your menu inside-out, filling your customers with confidence and offering a personal level of service that big chains simply can’t match.
2. Create a USP
Coffee shops may be a growing market, but it’s a busy, crowded one and you have to stand out from your competition. Customers expect independent coffee shops to have a more artisan and speciality feel, so know your audience and do your research. Being located in a prestigious building designed for both regular users and to attract visitors will certainly help my new outlet get off the ground, but we’ll still shout about the provenance of our food, our support of local suppliers, our home baking and our imaginative range of multi-allergen-free dishes.

3. Law & legislation
Yup, it’s dull, dull, dull but you don’t want to end up in a world of pain so sort out your paperwork. Insurance, HMRC,  VAT, national insurance, business rates, health & hygiene, invoicing… Get to grips with Food Standards Agency guidelines, learn the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, or HACCP, and ensure you comply with EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU FIC).  And while you’re at it, don’t forget to create a profit and loss sheet.

4. Get to know your suppliers
Like your staff, you need to pick your suppliers wisely. Customers are increasingly discerning about quality, environmental impact and ethical sourcing, and will be keen to know about your suppliers and their products. Keep it as local as possible, get to know your suppliers and look after them – you need them much more than they need you when you’re just starting out.


5. Marketing
It’s never too early to let people know about your arrival of your new coffee shop, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to start raising awareness. Create a Facebook page, advertise in your local press, promote yourself at community events, have plenty of posters and information in your window, and go round businesses and houses in your area with flyers. Passersby will see there’s something going on and be interested, so set up a stall outside with tasters and teasers.
Good luck, and welcome to the wonderful world of being a coffee shop owner!
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Victus Consultancy has many years experience of starting hospitality and catering businesses. If you’d like to realise your dream of owning a cafe, coffee shop, restaurant or hotel, we can help you with all aspects such as staff training, allergens and creating the ideal food and beverage offering. Just call us now on 07732 454 639 for a no-obligation chat.