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  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    Apr 2013
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    Starting Out...new shop.

    Hi all! This is my first post here...hopefully of many. We are in the planning and purchasing stages of a new coffee shop, so I am coming here to hopefully glean info from the multitude of experienced people that I am sure are here!

    I am part of a professional forum for my primary industry (photography), so I know how annoying it is to have newbies show with a million questions (ever heard of a search box??? haha). On my forums, we have a sticky post with tons of "read this info first" stuff, so, I was just wondering if there was a centralized place on here that would be good to read up. Or, is it best just to go through the pages for something that catches my eye. If there is a place I should start, I would love a point in the right direction. Thanks all!

    Joel

  2. #2
    Super Moderator
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    Feb 2008
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    Near Philadelphia, PA
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    Hello "joeltheconner"

    Welcome!

    Besides our handy search box at the top of the page.......Have you found the Forum topic area page yet? It shows a list of the different topic area sections and tells a little about them. You may get some ideas about where to start there.


    http://www.coffeeforums.com/forum/forum.php

    You can ask specific questions within those Forum thread areas, or start a new thread with a new question or comment.

    We hope you have an enjoyable time exploring the Coffee Forums.

    Rose

  3. #3
    Junior Member
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    Apr 2013
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    6
    Thanks, Rose! Somehow I missed that page...this was the one I landed on I am already doing a bunch of reading, and once I have specific questions that I cannot find answers for, I will ask. Thank you so much!

    Joel

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    Dec 2012
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    Michigan, US
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    1,802
    Joel, Thanks for being so considerate... Yes you are absolutely right.... But do ask if you have any questions.... We will try to answer as best as we can.....

  5. #5
    Junior Member
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    Apr 2013
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    6
    Posted this in one of the other forums to no reply...thought I would try here
    __________________________________________________ _______________

    Sorry all...long post ahead!!!


    Ok, so here we go....

    I just got off the phone, and our equipment is purchased. Here is what we have:

    Nuova Simonelli Appia 2 group
    2 Mazzer Manual Grinders
    Fetco CBS 2031 Single Airpot Extractor Brewer
    Bunn g2 bean grinder
    True 3' fridge
    Water line filtration espresso systems
    various other odds and ends and consumables (such as syrups, for example).

    Everything is used, but it was cared for extremely well. It all looks brand new (it's five years old in a low volume use shop). I feel like we got a pretty good deal on it. Factoring out my guess on the cost of the odds and ends and consumables, we acquired the listed equipment for around $4,000. The previous owner had the shop as a hobby and as a second source of income (their family owns another major biz), and she has even offered to come and help us set up the equipment and train us on it for a week.

    We are not sure when we plan to open the shop. We have yet to write out a business plan and see if we truly want to proceed. The opportunity came up for this equipment, and our gut feeling (especially after a little research) was to jump on it. A little background, we already own two businesses with a third one to be passed over to us in the next 10-15 years. We own a photography studio and a screen printing shop, and my family's restaurant (that I grew up in) will be coming to us once my father retires (not likely ever) or he passes. We are not planning to run the coffee shop ourselves. We would partner up with someone (we are hoping it will be one of my brothers, who would be amazing at it), and we would be the financial/management oversight. I do not expect that we would never work there, but it would be the exception and not the rule.

    Our largest overhead and risk will be in the form of wages. Our infrastructure overhead will be tiny. We already have a building and the perfect space for the shop on Main Street with full windows on the busy street, so there will be no rent/lease. The power consumption will only be what the equipment needs, since the building is already cooled/heated. We will need to do a little construction to be able to open...probably $2k-$3k worth (not including cost of installing a counter).

    The location is excellent. We are a 2 minute walk from City Hall, the post office, the courthouse, the school district building, 3 schools, 6 bars/restaurants, and probably 40 local businesses. Our town of 26,000 has absolutely no coffee shops other than the "S" word one.

    Our plan is to serve the basics on the drink sides. Espresso, drip, tea (my wife is a tea lover, so we plan for a huge variety in that), blended drinks (we will need a blender...that was not included in the equipment sale. The former owner could not live without the ability to keep making her margaritas haha), and baked goods (my wife is also an amazing baker)

    Here is the where the rubber meets the road, though. I don't currently drink almost any coffee, and it is not something I love. I do feel that I could grow to love it, though. What I do love is the atmosphere it provides, and I see a massive, gaping hole in our market that is just begging to be filled. The shop would be in the front of the same building as my father's restaurant, so we believe the two would benefit each other. As I said, in order to make this happen, we have to find people to run it, and we are hoping that the manager can be my brother (who is currently out of work and looking). In that, we are considering to offer him an ownership share in the business in lieu of full wages for a yet undetermined amount of time (this is just an idea of something we can do to limit our risks...not sold on it yet). I do not yet know the business side of coffee shops. My wife worked at one for a few years, but that was a decade ago. But, I do know the restaurant biz very well, and I feel like from a lifetime in that, that coffee shops are a stripped down yet more detailed version of what I have known.


    I have been reading here for the past few days, and I planning to order some reading material from a book store. My main questions right now would be:

    1) How crucial it is for me to love coffee myself? Do I need to be an expert myself even if I surround myself with those who are experts in that?

    2) I found the Coffee Shop for Dummies, Start & Run A Coffee Bar, and How to Open a Financially Successful Coffee, Espresso, and Tea Shop. Are there other books I should read instead or in addition to these?

    3) Do you see any holes in my equipment list?

    4) Based on all the info I gave, what are the biggest red flags you see?

    Let me just say this...I am a big boy and know how to be spoken to honestly. Please save us all time and be as brutally honest as possible haha I don't want a pat on the back if I would be better off with a slap across the face. We bought the equipment, but if I have to, I will sell it and walk away. i am not looking to make a huge profit on this shop...but I want it for our family, my city, and for the little bit of extra financial security it will hopefully bring with it.

    I know that was a lot to read...thanks so much!

    Joel

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Salt Lake City
    Posts
    1,045
    Joel,

    To answer your questions:

    1) How crucial it is for me to love coffee myself? Do I need to be an expert myself even if I surround myself with those who are experts in that?

    Unless you are willing to pay top dollar to bring in a top notch professional, I think it's crucial. If it's ONLY an investment, with no family members involved, it might be ok.

    How can you tell if someone is an expert if you are not an expert yourself?

    If you don't love it, the best you can ever hope to be is average. It's your job to be critical, set standards, and have the final say.

    2) I found the Coffee Shop for Dummies, Start & Run A Coffee Bar, and How to Open a Financially Successful Coffee, Espresso, and Tea Shop. Are there other books I should read instead or in addition to these?

    Bean Business Basics - Through Bellissimo - is often cited. It has solid information from actual coffee people.
    Positioning by Ries and Trout, perhaps one of the best business books in existence.
    22 Immutable Laws of Branding - Ries and Ries
    Small is the New Big - Seth Godin

    3) Do you see any holes in my equipment list?

    Appia is an "OK" machine. It is not capable of making consistently excellent espresso. This is the most important piece of equipment in your shop. You can't nickel and dime on the espresso machine. If you like NS, I would opt for the much better Aurelia T3. In the scheme of things, $6K or $15K isn't much money. If you are serious, invest in a better machine.


    4) Based on all the info I gave, what are the biggest red flags you see?

    1. Coffee isn't your thing. Honestly, if you don't have a true passion to achieve excellence, the customers will see right through it.

    2. Don't do too many things. Too much variety will kill you. Condense and specialize.

    3. Decide your path. I would not do Blended drinks. Too much labor, compromises coffee quality, over the long term it is bringing in the wrong people. If you want a place for everyone, you will soon have a place for no one.

    Overall great questions.

    As I have mentioned before, don't do it for the "romance of owning a coffee shop" that's a good way to the poor house.

    Also, make sure you and your spouse are 100% committed to the business or it will suffer. I think there are far too many shoddy food/drink establishments because rather than pursuing excellence people are chasing dollar signs. Don't be that guy.

    .... Also don't be consumed with the idea of a coffee house. Explore what other business can go there, something that you ARE passionate about, or something that does not take so much expertise.

    Also, please take the time to read what I have posted previously. It will be worth your time.
    Last edited by John P; 04-12-2013 at 06:54 PM. Reason: clarity
    John Piquet
    caffe d'bolla
    Salt Lake City, UT
    caffedbolla.com

  7. #7
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Posts
    6
    Thanks so much for the good feedback! To address some of your points...

    I have already talked with a number of people I know (they are all either experienced, current or former full-time barristas, or they are just good ol' espresso elitists), and they are going to come in with us and help us do tastings and adjustments. I have not nailed down which roaster we are going to use, but I know it will be a local or trans-local company. When we choose, I fully plan on bringing in one of their experts to assist us in the finer points of their blends. Even though I am not a huge coffee drinker currently, I know that I will develop a taste for it. I will never be an expert at it...mainly because my sense of taste is not that great. But, I do believe that with the level of support (and the horde of taste-testers willing to lend their taste buds), I do believe we will be able to get it to a good place even if I am not a true expert myself. I understand your point about not knowing if other people are experts even if they say they are...but then my thought would be that no one really knows for sure haha. I guess my qualification for an except is someone who has been making coffee like this professionally for years or with intense passion and critical observation. Ultimately, the only "experts" I am concerned with are the ones that decide whether they will shop with us or not.

    With the Appia, I feel like that is the biggest I want to go at this time. I hope and expect that we will get to the point where a higher end machine will be viable and needed, but at this point, I am not willing to risk that much capital. I know how important first impressions are, and that it is better to give people the best possible out of the gate. Honestly, we have a baby coming (self employed, so paying expenses out of pocket), and I have always tried to avoid debt as much as possible. This is the machine that we could afford while not putting our family at risk, so this is the route we went.

    Another aspect that goes into the overall quality and "perfection" of the art is that, to be honest, the population around us are not the most educated in the finer points of niche food/beverage culture such as this. Based on my growing up here (in the Midwest...not too far from farm country), I feel like I know the people pretty well. I would guess that 90% of the people would not be able to tell the difference between really good and outstanding. In my town, Starbucks is the pinnacle. McDonald's coffee is on the nicer end, and gas station coffee is the default. Heck, there were a few people when I told them of our plans, they said we would be better off just getting a gas station cappuccino machine, because people loooooove that. :-/ Would we have customers able to tell the difference in consistency between the Appia and the nicer one? Probably...but they would likely be few and far between.

    As you said, there definitely is a certain amount of romanticism we feel about the whole process...and that is definitely something we have had (and continue) to talk about. We know it cannot be about having the warm fuzzies...because just like in our other businesses (especially the photography biz), something that you love eventually does become work. But, if we do proceed, it will only be because we are fully committed to going for it.


    As for the blended drinks, why is that something you would avoid? I know you mentioned about more labor...I can see that. As for the people it attracts...not sure what you mean by that.

    thanks again! I will definitely read through your posts.

    Joel

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Salt Lake City
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    1,045
    Joel,

    Good to see you want to forge ahead.

    Don't rush it.

    And people CAN taste a difference, whether it's in downtown Manhattan or somewhere in the out in the Bayou. It's up to you how you communicate that difference, but don't think that it doesn't matter. They might not be able to explain WHY they like it better, just that they do.

    Tasting is about practice and assigning a label to that flavor that you sort of know but can't quite put your finger on. Keep at it, and you will do well.

    And the best advice I can reiterate is either you want to do it right or you just "want a coffee shop". I'd strongly reconsider the Appia. Get a trade show used Simonelli. As the USBC is going on now at the SCAA, I'd give 'em a call and at least get a price on one.

    Out of pocket or not, if $12-$15K would actually put a damper on things, I don't know that you should be opening at this time. If the space is yours then wait, enjoy the baby, and open in a couple of years. Sometimes spending too little is far more expensive than spending more in the first place.
    John Piquet
    caffe d'bolla
    Salt Lake City, UT
    caffedbolla.com

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Michigan, US
    Posts
    1,802
    When we opened our brand new location, we spent $250,000. I was going to purchase used equipment but decided against it. Your espresso machine like John said is the most important piece of equipment and you do not want to compromise the quality of your product or end up fixing the machine. I ended up purchasing two Nuova Simonelli aurelia. One 3 group and one 1 group. I didn't want to have down time if my 3 group decided to give me hard time and that was the best investment I ever made. There was two time I needed to use my one group espresso machine during the routine maintenance ended up taking 6 hours for preventive maintenance. Also gave me flexibility of serving espresso away from the store which came in very handy.

    I think like John said, if have extra cash, invest wisely and take enough time thinking over and open. But I think coffee business became very specialized. If you don't know what you are serving is better then the guy across the street, how can you stand above everyone else.... I have seen many restaurants fail because owner hired great chef and he ended up leaving. I also seen many succeed at very high cost of retaining the key people.
    Good luck with your venture .......I wish you the best of luck....

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Salt Lake City
    Posts
    1,045
    CoffeeJunky,

    Agreed.

    Joel,

    Find the best 2 or 3 machines out there, and then get the best price you can. Don't overspend for the same machine, but definitely don't underspend.
    If you aren't willing to pay for the right machine, just do something else. The Coffee Business isn't for everyone.

    I don't like seeing people fail, so any advice I am giving is to steer you toward the best chance of success.


    Somewhere within our advice you should find both motivation and redirection.

    Again, Best of luck!
    Last edited by John P; 04-13-2013 at 08:10 AM.
    John Piquet
    caffe d'bolla
    Salt Lake City, UT
    caffedbolla.com

 

 
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