Every year, hundreds of coffee shops across the country flourish–but for every successful shop, there’s another that failed within the first year of business. So what makes for a successful coffee shop? We train many successful Coffeepreneurs® every year and have identified several themes behind their shops’ profitability. Read on to learn how innovation, customer service, and profitability can make YOUR coffee shop thrive.
At Texas Coffee School, innovation and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. Seth Godin writes in his book, This Is Marketing:
“The relentless pursuit of mass will make you boring, because mass means average, it means the center of the curve, it requires you to offend no one and satisfy everyone. It will lead to compromises and generalizations. Begin instead with the smallest viable market. What’s the minimum number of people you would need to influence to make it worth the effort?”
Innovation and your target audience are inseparable. If you cater to everyone, you impress no one. Instead, create a unique business concept geared toward your target market. Not only will you set yourself apart from competitors, but your concept will help build a solid brand, connect with your customers, and create community for a successful coffee shop.
Start with your why.
Why should this coffee shop exist? What are you passionate about? And why coffee and not something else? Pop’s Coffee Company, run by Coffeepreneur® Colin and his business partner, Gordon, was founded next door to their motorcycle repair and fabrication shop. They had three main reasons why a coffee shop just made sense:
- Colin had previous restaurant experience
- Coffee would drive foot traffic to the motorcycle garage
- A coffee shop’s reasonable hours would allow them to be home in the evenings
Their idea was met with impressive success. The duo’s shop welcomes 250 customers per day, 40% of whom go on to visit the garage next door. Colin and Gordon’s why allowed them to create an environment that was friendly to coffee drinkers and motorcyclists alike. Now, they’ve already got their sights set on new locations!
Now, identify your who.
What target audience will identify with your belief system and core values? These are the people you want to target with your marketing, menu, prices, location, and aesthetic. It is less expensive and more fulfilling to go into a market that is already fertile with a population who aligns with your company values. In a good market like this, all you need to do is make the market aware that you exist, and word will spread about your business virally. Look for other locally owned businesses operating in a market that share similar values, beliefs, and customers as you. If you can be the second or third like-minded business to open in the area, it is typically still early enough to find better deals on real estate.
Window Seat Coffee is a “specialty coffee shop and eatery that seeks to capture that special feeling you get in anticipation of going on an exciting trip or vacation.” They target the travelers, the adventure-seekers, and the young families who live in the surrounding neighborhoods on Greenville Avenue. The Coffeepreneur® owners Kristin & Tom created a business concept around traveling that is reflected in the airplane-style windows, bar carts, and wall murals. As a result, they receive a lot of “frequent flyers.” Window Seat is a well-loved staple of the East Dallas area.
You may be able to sling a great cup of coffee, but if customers don’t feel respected and appreciated, their likelihood of becoming a loyal visitor diminishes. Every warm welcome at the door, transaction at the register, and offer to clear their table is a chance to serve with excellence. And since baristas are the primary customer-facing employees, it’s important to hire and train well.
Promptness, friendliness, and availability are three simple attributes of an employee delivering great customer service. Your baristas should be quick on their feet–anticipating customers’ needs and tidying the shop in between customers. They should be friendly–greeting customers with a smile and willing to participate in brief small talk. Moreover, they should be available–behind the counter or moving around the shop, able to take orders and answer questions as needed.
Consider more than an applicant’s experience in the industry when reviewing resumes. You can always teach a person the skills to make coffee, but applicants should bring a natural understanding of the hospitality traits listed above. In your initial interview, pay close attention to body language and how they present themselves. A few interview questions you can ask to gain a well-rounded impression of a candidate include:
- Why do you want to work in coffee?
- Describe the best coffee experience you’ve ever had and what made it the best.
- What does great customer service mean to you?
- Tell me an example of a time you delivered exceptional customer service.
- What do you view as your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?
A successful coffee shop will invest in the three baristas training musts: coffee education, customer service, and an employee operations system + manual with clear standards. These measures will ensure that customers walk away delighted that both they and the coffee have been shown uncompromising respect.
Lastly, a successful coffee shop needs to be profitable. Choosing the right location is a strategic decision that impacts the success or failure of the business. Setting effective menu pricing keeps you within your goal of balancing profit with cost of goods sold. And a 5 Year Financial Plan helps determine your total start-up investment budget, annual projected sales, five year growth, return on investment timeline, and more.
Texas Coffee School teaches you all of this (and so much more!) in our 3-Day Coffee Business Master Class. Since 2010, our Coffeepreneur® program has helped launch hundreds and hundreds of successful coffee shop businesses all around the world! Enroll for a class before the year is over to achieve more capability in less time than any other coffee business course.