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  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    Oct 2013
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    23

    Questions on starting a Coffee Shop

    Hello,

    I am soliciting advice on the do's and don't(s) of operating a coffee shop. I am am taking over a supposed coffee shop that didn't last two months because of bad ownership. However they didn't offer much. It was more of a glorified convenience store. Anyhow I have had an insurance business for 9 years so I know how to run a business but retail is new to me. I wanted to open a coffee before I started my agency but was in a bad market. The city I am I have been in for the last 6 years is suburb of a major metro area and does not have a coffee shop. My location is good. Things I need help with figuring out are

    1. Coffee distributors?
    2. Coffee equipment. Should I use a pod espresso machine or beans?
    3. Pastry Distributors?
    4. 3 sink work around options?
    5. Retail items that sell?
    6. Good books to read on this subject?
    7. Good websites to buy stuff?
    8. Most common mistakes?

  2. #2
    Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    77
    You can search the forums here and get a lot of good advice that has already been shared.
    From the sounds of it though you are getting started from the ground floor in the coffee / cafe world and I would suggest that you might need some close, in person guidance to walk you through this. My suggestion would be to find a roaster and or an equipment dealer that can help you not just get set up but in the on going stuff that you are going to face in the running of a coffee shop. If you tell us where you are located I'm sure there are many folks here who could recommend local or area roasters / dealers.

  3. #3
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
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    23
    Thx! I am located in the Birmingham, AL Retro area. I have spoken with "Red Diamond". I know there are a few roasters around here. I am not sure if it is cost effective to go with them or the larger companies like Red Diamond and/or Royal Cup.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Michigan, US
    Posts
    1,802
    There are several things you should do before even starting your own coffee shop.

    You should go to the coffee training school for Baristas.
    And also read few books and you can find those on our forum.
    Find out what the difference on your beans.
    I do not think you have to serve the best coffee in the world for your customers to appreciate your coffee. You just need to be better then the guy next door or Starbucks.

    If you do not have any equipment, you should get advise from your coffee distributor. They should have some type of program for that purpose.
    Ask them about the location as well. They do this for living and they are great at giving you advise.

    Good Luck

  5. #5
    Junior Member
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    Oct 2013
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    23
    Thx, I went to a few local roasters and they were sooo helpful but neither provide equipment as they are small. I don't want to go the commerical giants because I want a better produced coffee. So I am having an issue with equipment. I don't want cheap because my product will taste cheap. Do you know anything about the leasing companies? Any suggestions?

  6. #6
    Senior Member
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    Dec 2012
    Location
    Michigan, US
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    Kais. what size roaster are you looking to get?

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Salt Lake City
    Posts
    1,044
    I have to ask, "Why coffee?" It is clear you have no experience, passion, or understanding about the business. You are minimum 1 year away from opening. The fact you think that running an insurance business is any approximation of how to successfully operate or manage a coffee business -- which mind you, is not retail, but restaurant, is very telling.

    1. Coffee distributors? Find a reputable, quality driven local or regional roaster.

    2. Coffee equipment. Should I use a pod espresso machine or beans? Fresh, properly roasted beans. The fact that you asked is scary.

    3. Pastry Distributors? Really? Make your own, or find a local bakery.

    4. 3 sink work around options? There are none. 3 comp. sink is a requirement by all Health Depts. You can ALSO have an auto, but you still need a 3 compartment sink in case the dishwasher is out of service. It's just dishes...wash 'em!

    5. Retail items that sell. Something you shouldn't worry about. Learn about coffee first.

    6. Good books to read on this subject? Take classes. Go to a minimum of 2 trade shows in the next year. Travel! Visit established shops in your area, or in various parts of the US and abroad, AND read... everything you can get your hands on.

    7. Good websites to buy stuff? There's a lot out there. Google is your friend!

    8. Most common mistakes? Not having coffee expertise before opening. Rushing to open. Romance vs. Reality. Undercapitalization. Poor location...etc.

    I absolutely hate to see people get in over their head and drown, but your post touches all the key points.
    Wake up! Be patient! You are not anywhere near even thinking about opening.
    John Piquet
    caffe d'bolla
    Salt Lake City, UT
    caffedbolla.com

  8. #8
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
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    23
    Thank you Mr. John P for you advice. I was not aware that you could read so much into my life via a paragraph or two. Nor did I realize that I had to disclose all of my business in order to get an answer to a few questions. However I will answer your question since I didn't appreciate your response.

    Quote Originally Posted by John P View Post
    I have to ask, "Why coffee?" It is clear you have no experience, passion, or understanding about the business.

    How you would conclude that via what you read I have no idea. However if you read my original post you would have read that this was something I attempted 10 years ago. After completing a 28 page business plan (which most shop owners don't do) I didn't have the capitol to start it so I choose to open an insurance agency to build a residual income in order to fund my shop and not have to depend on the income. Secondly, when I was in the process of forming my business plan I traveled to Hondorous and Mexico to visit several coffee farms and worked with the co-ops on bean importing practices for USAID. During that time I "cupped" some of the best coffee in the world. I wonder how many coffee shop owners you know that have been to coffee farms in countries they import coffee from. I would guess not many. During my college years I worked for "Joe Muggs" as a Barista and my daughter has been one for a 1 1/2.

    You are minimum 1 year away from opening. (you couldn't have read. I am a month away from opening)

    The fact you think that running an insurance business is any approximation of how to successfully operate or manage a coffee business -- which mind you, is not retail, but restaurant, is very telling.

    (quite rude) Telling what??? That I had a plan? The insurance industry is one of THE most competitive in the world and I am a top agency. Unless you have owned an SUCCESSFUL insurance agency surely you are not qualified to make that assumption. If I can thrive in this hard economy with the amount of competition out there "tells me" that I know how to run a business. Which by the way is why MOST retail business fail!! Knowing the product is important but running the business is just as important. However it has been 10 years since I planned to open my shop and A LOT has changed such as the introduction to "pods, k-cups and etc". There are better machines now then there were. I also live in a completely different city than I did then.


    I absolutely hate to see people get in over their head and drown, but your post touches all the key points.
    Wake up! Be patient! You are not anywhere near even thinking about opening.
    AND I hate people that rush to judgement. Possibly you could have asked more questions to gain more information as to what my story was before you commented. This is the land of opportunity and SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS OWNERS ARE MADE NOT BORN; therefore we all start with a dream and have a right to question in order to learn.

    With that said can someone answer the question for me that is positive?

  9. #9
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Los Angeles
    Posts
    4
    I feel you, when I first started my cafe 3 years ago, I also had no experience. I didn't even work at any coffee shops during high school. So I learned little by little and grew to 3 locations today. So experience and know-how is not necessary the most important factors I feel.

    Anyhow, we are not too heavy on coffee (more on boba), but I can try to help you with the rest of the questions.

    4. John's right on that one, there's no way around it. You'll also need a mop sink, hand washing sink, and a food prep sink.

    5. This one you'll have to consider your audience. But one insight I can share is that coffee's are not items with high transaction amount, meaning each cup can't sell of that much, even if you had great margins, you'll still need high quantity to make money. So if you are going retail, consider items that have high profit margins, even if you sell only a few a month.

    8. Mistakes are unavoidable, but most commons ones are the ones that are not fixed. Customers are more than happy to give you feedback, so ask them before they go to yelp with it. Everything what John said can be fixed, you'll just have to listen and act.

  10. #10
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Posts
    23
    Thanks Icetzou!! What type of retail do you sell? I have crunched my numbers and I see that retail will be a little cushion. I am located in a suburb that is considered one of the fastest growing in the Birmingham metro and I am the only coffee shop I have been active in city government and my agency has been very visible so I think I can pull enough volume. I am talking with a roaster regarding creating a special blend and bagging it to sell for me, I have a lady who makes organic soaps with coffee and teas, and I am looking for a person who makes coffee scented candles to start. Do you all have any other suggestions?

 

 
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