Whether you prefer an automatic drip coffee maker or the meditation of a perfect...
Location, location, location. That might sound like the perfect setup for a joke, but it’s the truth when first determining the reality of your coffee shop. You have to do some research and find out what consumers want, what gaps there may be in the local coffee market, and where that places you.
Going to other local coffee shops and asking them general questions about their business is not illegal, though you may not always get answers, no one wants to help their future competition. Taking notes and visiting every other coffee shop will help you to see what you can bring to the market and what isn’t working for other store owners. Personally, I would ask about what brands of coffee they are using to see if you can improve upon their selection. It might be a subtle difference, but if you’re in a city that craves quality coffee drinks, your choice of espresso may make all the difference.
If you’ve determined that the market is not overly saturated, then the next item on your list of things to do is to find a physical location. A word of advice from my own experience: coffee shops, no matter the quality, thrive near book stores and universities. This is a tried and true fact. Where there are people who need coffee, shops will thrive. Then again, if the area already has a coffee shop, you may not want to start there. Find another location and thrive there, then expand and take over the first location!
Mapping out your city or town’s coffee market is a great way to go about finding a gap in the locations of shops. When you find a gap, mailing out a simple survey or going door to door to ask about coffee habits may help you to make your decision. If most of the interviewees seem excited about the idea of a new and closer coffee shop, then a location in that area might be a great move. If the neighbors don’t seem to think that coffee’s all that important, then move on.
One coffee shop that I know of wanted to expand quickly and opened up stands within hospitals. Not only were these stands unprofitable, but they also stretched the resources of the employee base thin. Only one person ran the stand at any given time, so if that person was ill, the stand either closed and lost money, or opened late and lost money. Research the realism of your coffee shop. It’s better to lose money on a well-thought out plan than to go in blindly.
Determining the market value of your service is imperative before going on with your coffee shop venture. If you do not have a customer base, then you will not make money, plain and simple. Research is part of starting any business and there are many places that can help you out, the local chamber of commerce and other business organizations can point you in the right direction.
Next month, Now that I’m here, what do I do? We’re going to go into the initial setup and making a business plan for your coffee shop. How to pick a good espresso bean, milk, and flavoring selection will be covered as well.