Has it always been your dream to open your own coffee shop? One of the most critical steps in making your dream a reality is choosing your shop’s concept. 

What kind of coffee shop do you want to open?

We’re going to explore a few concepts and answer an important question: What do I need to open a coffee shop?

How To Start a Small Coffee Shop

Compared to a large sit-down restaurant, a small coffee shop is easier to launch and run. But it will still require hard work and dedication to make your shop a success.

It’s important to understand what is needed to open a coffee shop, but it’s equally as important to know the market and prepare yourself for the road ahead.

While the logistics of starting a small coffee shop are a bit more complex, we’re going to cover a few of the most important basics. Make sure that you understand your local laws and regulations before you get into the nuts and bolts of planning.

Preparation is Key

If you’ve done your research, then you know how to open a coffee shop business from a legal standpoint. 

But if you truly want to succeed with your coffee shop, then you need to be prepared. Preparation is the key to launching and running any successful business.

First, figure out your:

  • Vision
  • Plan
  • Goals 

Running a business takes guts, persistence, and a willingness to adapt. If you don’t have a vision and a direction, it will be challenging to stay afloat in the months and years to come.

It's all too easy to get swept up in the romance of running a coffee shop. You envision yourself running a swanky coffee shop where everyone knows each other, and you spend each morning chatting with customers. While this dream can become a reality, it’s important to remember that there’s a lot of hard work in between these moments.

At the end of the day, a coffee shop is still a business. 

Before you start thinking about concepts and researching the local market, make sure that you’re prepared for the hard work of running a coffee shop. Ask yourself these two essential questions:

Why Do You Want to Start a Coffee Shop?

People open coffee shops for any number of reasons. But what’s your reason?

  • Are you passionate about coffee and want to share that passion with the world?
  • Are you looking for a creative outlet?
  • Do you love the idea of meeting new people?
  • Do you have experience in the coffee shop industry and want to open a successful shop of your own?

It doesn’t matter what your reason is for starting a coffee shop – you just need to have one. Your reason will keep you motivated and drive you to move forward even when times get tough.

Are You Ready for the Challenge of Managing a Coffee Shop?

Running a coffee shop is a hands-on business, especially at the start. And it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to keep a shop running. Don’t believe me? Step into any local coffee shop during the morning rush and observe the staff. 

Some shops serve hundreds of customers in the early morning hours. That's no easy feat.

More often than not, coffee shops close their doors just as quickly as they opened them because the owner was in over their head.

Experience can mean the difference between success and failure in this industry. 

For this reason, I recommend working in a coffee shop for at least six months before you commit to opening your own joint. The experience you gain will be invaluable and help you learn what it truly takes to run a successful coffee shop.

If you can’t work at a coffee shop, then spend time observing how local shops do things. Observe the customers and staff. Consider the challenges the owner may face. And remember that as the owner, you’ll need to be in the shop each day at 4 am or 5 am – well before staff.

Along with daily operations, you’ll also need to be prepared to handle:

  • Payroll
  • Accounting
  • Banking
  • Ordering supplies
  • Taxes
  • Paying rent and utilities
  • Purchasing business insurance
  • Visits from the health department

We’re not encouraging you to consider all of these questions to scare you away from opening your own shop. The goal is to ensure that you’re fully prepared for the business side of things and all it entails.

Research the Competition and Laws

You have the guts, determination, and passion to open your own coffee shop. But what about the logistics of it all?

Earlier, we talked about the importance of doing your research, and we can’t stress enough how crucial it is to understand your local laws and regulations. 

Find out:

  • What types of licenses you’ll need (if any)
  • What types of permits you’ll need

In addition to local laws and regulations, you need to research the competition. If the local market is saturated, there may not be enough demand to keep your shop in business. 

Choosing Your Concept: Coffee Shop Concept Ideas

We’ve talked about mental preparation, laws, and regulations. But what do you need to start a coffee shop?

Apart from the obvious (a shop and supplies), you need a concept.

What do you envision for your shop?

Here are some ideas:

A Cat Café or Dog-Friendly Shop

Cat cafés are all the rage. Customers can connect and interact with cats over a cup of coffee or latte. They often double as shelters, so you can help your furry feline guests find a new forever home while making customers smile.

If that sounds like too much work, you can make your café pet-friendly by creating a special space where patrons can bring their four-legged dog friends. 

Walk-Up or Drive-Thru Service

Customers love grab n’ go coffee shops. Why not offer walk-up or drive-thru service to serve customers who don’t have time to sit down and chat? 

A Cozy Co-Working Space

Cater to remote workers by offering a cozy little co-working space in your shop. You can serve coffee while offering patrons a quiet space to get their work done. 

Stay Mobile

A mobile coffee truck is a great way to ensure your business is always where the customers are. Coffee trucks are a low-cost way to get your shop up and running, and you can move your shop anywhere food trucks are permitted (check your local laws and regulations).

How Hard Is It to Open a Coffee Shop?

Opening a coffee shop takes time, patience, persistence and, most importantly, vision. You need to have a purpose and a direction for your shop. Choosing a concept is an important early step in getting your shop up and running.