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Mar 7, 2007
Atlantic City, NJ
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I am opening a coffee roasting/retailing business. The thing is, there is nothing around that serves lunch. Would it be a good idea or a bad idea to add some light lunch items? What would you suggest? My goal is not to be a "restaurant" but to be a coffee business and I don't want to do anything to detract from that.
We are about to open our first coffee shop. We are in a location with 18,000 office employees within a one mile radius, and there are no coffee shops or restaurants within several miles. We intended to just be a coffee shop, but we have received so much feedback from people asking for lunch that we have decided to carry a limited menu. We are going to have sandwiches and wraps, soup, hotdogs, etc as well as typical coffee shop pastries. We will see how it goes...
Good luck.
As a consumer, I like the coffee shops that have a lite menu. If it is something you can do, do it well.

If you add something, make it VERY well! Wraps, soups, chicken salad, and maybe croissants? Not something you would get at a fast food place, but something easy to put together and basically almost ready during lunch hour. Salads would be good, and you could make a basic, and two or three that only your shop makes.

Add a sign for the lunch items that changes from day to day so you don't have to add it to your marquee.

Good Luck!!
Hi again!

I have a favorite little coffee shop downtown and I am passing on what they do, and I really like it (and so do my friends!)

If you have a special each day of one sanwich, one salad, and one soup that is only for that day then you can buy extra of those particular items on that day only. Just put up your lunch sign during lunch hours and while the specials are available! Helps to keep the menu down and greatly reduce expense I would think, while making those items the freshest.

Of course you would always have muffins, scones, etc. But I look forward to this shops daily specials!

I am in the planning stages of a coffee cart in my community college, so I am telling you this on the basis of a consumer and a retailer.

Hope all goes well and let us know how it goes!!

Your initial idea is right to 'not be a restaurant'. Lite sandwiches are ok, pastries are ok, but stay away from soup. Friendly cautionary advice. You don't want customers to ever smell soup when they walk in your place, it should be coffee, or fresh pastries, or more coffee.

Make customers feel included, but I would steer clear of entertaining any of their wants, suggestions, etc. There are reasons why you chose to do X when you started, you create an identity based on your desires, location, cost factors, quality, etc.; you create this identity as a 'coffee shop'. Don't blur the identity. Food is more costly, more wasteful, less profit margin, and ultimately it kills your identity. Keep it light. No soup. Soup starts to mean 'cafe' with one 'f' as in 'diner' rather than 'caffe' with two 'f' meaning coffee/coffee bar. There is a huge distinction. Decide which path you want to take for yourself, but should you blur the line, don't fool yourself into thinking you are one and not the other.

Often many new owners are afraid to take charge of their business because they always had to answer to someone else and they haven't overcome that mode of thinking. Customers mean well, but there's a reason why you're on the business side of the counter. Remember, it's your hard earned money, sweat, dedication, and passion. You have to do what's right for your business long term. Make decisions that improve quality, maintain identity, and grow (long term) profits.

My 3 cents (inflation and all...)
Hi jd and tracy,

I have seen some of the other posts and I know I am no expert in this field other than an expert at picking out the shops that I and my friends like.

The demographic that I am referring to is the college level student and the staff, which is what I am familiar with.

Each coffee shop should have it's own personality. If you ONLY want to serve coffee, then do it. But it seems you have some questions on that because of your location. Don't add a lite menu if you don't want it just because no other food is in your area. But if you think your customers would really appreciate it and you will know if they tell you, then add only what your budget will allow.

If you are just opening you could incorporate a formal or informal survey to your inital offerings and see what your repeat customers would like.

The coffee shop that I love best has lots of food places and restaurants around it, but it has a very specific menu that I mentioned. But think of what will drive people to your location at lunch time. Just coffee? Of course they are coming because of your excellent coffee but will they come there at lunch if they need a lite meal at the same time?

Just a suggestion, but before you take any responses at face value I would suggest that you check out other postings to see their viewpoint and consider that along with the content of that post.

I am interested in following your progress, because as I said I am in the planning stages of opening a coffee cart. I would love to open a cafe in the future with excellent coffee, pastries and a lite menu. I personally think they go very well together. But that is just as a consumer!
Oh, and a comment on the soup idea.

The reason that I first went to this particular coffee shop was because and I quote "They have the best soup. I don't even like soup and it was GREAT!"

Soup is very easy. Soup, sandwiches, salad. Perfect lunch. For me, anyway. But I go there because they also have great coffee. I have a dozen coffee shops to choose from within 10 minutes of each other, including a Starbucks. I love Starbucks coffee, but they don't have food. So lunch time is at the Dripalator!!
I agree with the soup comment - if you don't want to detract from your identity as a coffee shop, don't sell anything that will interfere with your customers smelling coffee when they walk in the door; that means no soup, no hotdogs, basically nothing you need to cook in order to serve. Stick with lighter fare like sandwiches and wraps.
John P

I agree "coffee house" and "cafe" are two different things, stick to what you want to be, only add an item to your menu with alot of thought watch your costs as you increase revenue and keep it simple.
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I took a contractor through the building I am buying. The owner demanded he be present and what a disaster. Of course, the firt question the contractor asked was, "What do you want to do?" I just said, "I want to open a coffee shop." The the owner was going on and on about doing eggs and all sorts of crap. All I could think of was people walking in and smelling bacon. Don't get me wrong... my favorie spot in the next town is a diner, but I don't want to be that. I don't want the seller to know what I am doing in case our deal falls through. I finally pulled the contractor aside and said, "Look, this is what *I* want to do roasting and retailing and maybe offer some lunch items, if that will enhance my coffee business." I don't like refering to my biz as a coffee shop because people think something else, but I guess that's what I'll call it for now.

If I can make some extra bucks selling wraps and sandwiches, great, but coffee is my passion and what I "know"; not being a greasy spoon.

In addition to answers to my menu questions, I guess what I really needed was some morale supprt to encourage me to stay the course. You know, everyone (from the building inspector to the zoning guy) wants to tell you what to do and they think they are experts. Thank you so much for your honest opinions, all of you.
I am opening a coffee roasting/retailing business. The thing is, there is nothing around that serves lunch. Would it be a good idea or a bad idea to add some light lunch items? What would you suggest? My goal is not to be a "restaurant" but to be a coffee business and I don't want to do anything to detract from that.
Maybe there is no demand for it?
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That's a good thought, but no. There are a couple of bar/dinner places that do very well, but no lunches. The area is growing and I could get in before it explodes.
I added a lunch menu and it turned out to be about 30% of my daily take. We do sandwiches including a breakfast sandwich that sells very well, bagels, toast, hamburgers (they are a 1/4 lb precooked flaim broiled patty that actually draws customers) and the dreaded soup :). We are pretty far north and soup, stew and chili sells well around here. We don't have a full kitchen so everything we have is precooked except the eggs, those are steamed. We do however get the premium line of soups and other products wich does set us apart from the competition. We cost a little more but have a much better product and that get the customers in the door. Does that make me a cafe instead of a caffe? Probably, but we still have the best coffee in the area and are becoming a popular stop for people to come, grab a bite to eat and get a great cup of something hot and tasty.

I can understand not wanting to become a resturant, as odd as it may sound after my last paragraph, neither do I but I also don't ignore the potential market for lite food items. It also helps that Minnesota calls any coffee shop that makes food on site (my initial plan had us baking cookies in-house) a type 2 resturant. That allows us to expand and vary our menu for demand and season without having to jump through alot of hoops after theinitial approval.

Anyway those are my ramlings on the subject. Any questions just ask.