Seeking advice in getting started


New member
Apr 1, 2004
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A question for those of you who have started a coffee business.

First a bit of background. I am contemplating starting a coffee business. What I have in mind is a sit-down coffee-house serving espresso based drinks (and a typical variety of other drinks) and perhaps some pastries, bagels, etc - which I would prefer to obtain from a bakery if that can be worked out.

The neighborhood is mixed blue collar/white collar with a wide range of incomes. The location I have in mind is a retail business district with a fairly heavy traffic count (about 23,000 vehicles/day) and it is the main artery for commuters for some distance around. It would be near grocery stores and other retail establishments. There is also a small college (about 3000 students and staff) within 1-2 miles of the target location. I would like to have a drive through if a suitable location can be found (but the pickin’s are slim). There are some businesses, but this is largely a bedroom community.

So far the area has been totally ignored by Starbucks (there are a dozen or so Starbucks in town, but they all blanket the part of the city with the most new construction and a higher per capita income). My gut feel is that the acceptance of premium coffees is broad enough in the general population to be a hit in the area, and establishing a business before Starbucks eventually shows up would enable me to compete when they do.

I have absolutely no experience in retail operations and I believe there is no substitute for experience, so my question is: How did you get started? To answer this question I’ve tried talking to some of the coffee house owners in town but I sense a bit of unwillingness to share experiences. I suspect they regard me as a potential competitor. I probably would too in their shoes.

So can you help?

- Did you just dive in and learn by yourself? Or hire someone experienced?
- Did you have a mentor of any sort?
- Have you purchased any sort of consulting or training?
- What kind of “professional helpâ€


Hi Glen,

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New member
Oct 11, 2004
Portland Oregon
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so it's pretty common knowledge that 7 out of 10 restaurants fail within the first year. If you don't have any retail experience I suggest you go to a school first like western culinary institute in Portland oregon. There you can get a degree in restaurant managment. If your unwilling to go to school first I would spent at least a year working for a company like starbucks. Get yourself into a managment position so you can see first hand how to manage labor and food costs. Those will be your 2 biggest expenses in your restaurant. That an an empty seat. If those 2 options dont make sense to you and you have a whole lot of money (at least 20000 not includint the rest of your opening costs ) to blow on consultants contact Barry Brown at Profit Stratagies. He is a teacher at Western Culinary and a very smart man!!!

My opinion on your concept... It sounds like a good idea to open near a college. A drive through is always a bonus. If you open there, other companies will eventually follow. I would, from the get go, make yourself remarkable. By that I mean, what you described sounded like any other coffee shop. How will yours be different? What will make people drive the entra mile to go to your store instead of Starbucks?