Planning to open a coffee shop


New member
May 25, 2009
Birmingham, AL
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Hey friends,

I just registered and have already read some great threads. I have found what i believe to be a killer location...on the ground floor of a 15-story office tower, with another office tower next door (that has over 2500 employees), a historic hotel, local public library, city hall, city courthouses, museum of art, school of fine arts, and several other office towers all on the surrounding block. i feel i have my target audience already built in. the office tower i'd move into has NO PLACE in their building to eat or get coffee. they currently have to walk 5 blocks to get BAD coffee.

I'd plan to open 6am-4 or 5pm. Coffee, pastries, and sweets in the morn and deli sandwiches for lunch. i wouldn't be open on saturdays to start because this is the professional district and there's literally no place to live within 5 blocks. i may eventually open on a saturday with a special event planned. i want to roast my beans in-house.

but what i wanna know is...what were your biggest lessons in starting up? what would you have done differently? and if i could get more much did start-up cost?? (you could email me off-list to discuss that obviously) [email protected] Because as i'm formulating my budget and business plan, i'm hovering around $200,000 for start up expenses, first 6 months payroll, $20,000 Roaster, new equipment, construction, etc...
I would add at least 50% to that budget. I don't want to sound negative, but just imagine that for the first six months no one knows you're there and you'll get minimum business. I hope you have agreat business right from the start, but you asked about what we've learned. You'll need that reserve to cover operating expenses.

Roasting... We roast here. I will give you the sam advice somone very wise gave me: Get your cafe up and running and then roast for yourself. You don't need the aggravation of starting your business and learning to roast (or have the learning curb and forgiveness of customers while you learn to roast). You will make yourself nuts. There is some trial and error roasting. I had some expense by buying my beans off of someone, but I felt it worked out better because I was able to take my time with the roasting and it didn't affect my customers.
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Thanks! That makes sense about using someone else's beans as i learn about my roaster.

That's probably been the most consistent advice, is borrowing more than i think i'll need and expecting less than i think i'll attract. so adding another 50% to help recurring operating expenses and initial inventories?
1) Make absolutely sure the location is as great as you think it is. For many people one block might as well be 1 mile.

2) Make sure the 15-story office tower is mostly occupied and tenants are stable and have long term lease. You won't want to start your shop only to find out the largest tenant is moving out. The Starbucks in downtown Hartford is in the largest office building in the downtown district, they were doing a killer business until 2 major tenants moved out. Now the building is about 50% full, and Starbucks appears to lost a lot of business.

3) Ideally, you should have outdoor seating and street side entrance so people from other buildings will notice you immediately. If you are inside the building, folks from the next building may never know you are there.

4) Make sure you design the place with enough flexibility to add and alter your business and equipment need.

5) If you are to roast yourself, how are you going to pipe your exhaust? Do you need an afterburner or other pollution control system? If you do, add more to the $20,000 set aside for roaster.

Here is a link detailing a shop that lasted 2 years.
I hate to be a naysayer, but if you go in planning on not having a lot of business right away, its more realistic than thinking you'll be rich in 6 mos. It would be great if you did fabulously, but I've always erred on the side of caution (or tried to).

And, I agree with EPD... I wouldn't depend on the local businesses very much. People don't have much of a sense of loyalty, either. We are near a convenience store and people will walk right by our place to ge there; creatures of habit I suppose. We are winning them over, but it takes time for the word to get out. Also, we had a potention location in one that we passed on. What made it attractive was that there was a Rite Aid and the wait is always long for prescriptions, which we thought would benefit us. Boy was I was glad I was in another location when they announced all the RiteAids closing in the area. It would have killed our business.

And, I didn't even think of venting for the roaster (it was late for me, anyway). Will the municiplaity allow it and building owner be OK with holes in the building?

As far as the expenses... If I copuld do it all over again I would have at least 6 mos-1 year just for rent, utilities, payroll just to keep the doors open.

No matter how much you plan, get sleep now... plenty of sleepless nights ahead. LOL

Oh, and outlets! You can never have too many outlets!
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Thanks for all the advise guys. I'm still trucking along. Trying to find financing in these tough times has been...tough! I'm meeting with some potential investors next week. My plan is to use their investments as collateral/capital/equity to secure the financing that i'll need.