Opening a Coffee Shop Business – 5 Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Starting a new business is an act of creation, an act of design. Even if you are pursuing a business model that has been “done before” and therefore proven, the myriad of decisions that you need to make when planning for a new business is mind-boggling. Still, being able to recognize which of those decisions will potentially have the greatest influence on the success or failure of your venture is a skill unto itself.

This is particularly true in the case of starting your own coffee shop business. On the one hand, the coffee shop business model is a proven one, with tens of thousands of coffee shops running successfully across the country. On the other hand, for every successful business that has been able to stay in business for over 2-3 years, there are countless others which failed and had to close down far too early.

When it comes to the coffee business, savvy entrepreneurs and long-time business owners alike know that there are certain pitfalls that need to be avoided in order to help assure success. These items are classified as pitfalls because many novice owners fail to recognize their importance until it is too late to turn things around.

If you are thinking of starting a coffee shop business, here are 5 pitfalls and how to avoid them:

1. Choosing a location for the wrong reasons:

Almost everybody who has read at least one book on the retail and food service businesses knows that one of the most important factors in a successful venture is “location, location, location.” However, many coffee business entrepreneurs choose their new location for the wrong reasons, such as basing the decision on a gut feeling or the fact that it is located near a major road.

Smart location selection takes into account a large number of factors, including coffee shop business concept, area demographics/psychographics, the nature and quality of the nearby businesses, which side of the street the building is on, speed limit and visibility from the road, ease of access, parking, the structural layout of the facility itself, and much more.

2. Assuming that training employees on technical skills is sufficient:

Having strong technical skills – or, how to make an excellent cup of coffee or espresso – is without a doubt one of the marks of a strong barista. However, it doesn’t make the barista.  It comes down to genuine passion for coffee and people, combined with an ability to exude professionalism.  If your employees aren’t “geeked” about coffee, genuinely kind natured, or professional in demeanor, your coffee business will suffer.  It starts with you.  Never hire someone based on skills alone.  Just because a barista can pour latte art, doesn’t make them a great barista, or the right fit for your coffee shop business.  Hire passion, personality/attitude, and professionalism, then train barista skills.  You must also understand that quality barista training is never ending.  Constantly be looking for opportunities to polish your staff’s barista skills, including knowledge about where your coffee comes from, how to care for your equipment, how to treat customers, and how to reinforce your brand image with every customer interaction.

3. Skimping on the details when planning the layout of your facility:

Having a logical, well-designed facility layout is another essential element when creating a successful coffee shop business. Your layout design must take into account operational efficiency, customer capacity, and aesthetic factors.

4. Ignoring the importance of building a strong brand:

Without a strong brand image, you will basically end up as just a decent place to get a cup of coffee. If you are reduced to that, then customers could just as well go anywhere to get their coffee fix. However, to keep them coming back your way, you will benefit from establishing a strong brand identity that is consistent everywhere: from your color scheme to your marketing materials to how your employees interact with customers.

5. Failing to capitalize on the efficiencies to be gained from smart operational planning:

To stay in business for the long haul, you need to get smart about the operational side of things. This includes understanding the quantities and frequencies ideal for ordering and storing your raw materials in a way that balances cost, freshness and customer demand.

The best way to avoid each of these pitfalls is by undergoing a well-designed training course before you start your business. Consider seeking expert coffee consulting help from coffee business experts who know how to get results in this competitive and potentially rewarding business.

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