Welcome to our series on how to start a successful coffee shop! If you missed our last two posts, you can read our first one on Hours of Operation¬†and our second one on Location and Demographics. Today we’re going to talk about a concept that’s a bit more general for business as a whole, but we are going to tailor it to how we think it applies to coffee shops.

I’ve been to many coffee shops in my time. They come in all different shapes and sizes. At their best, coffee shops are these safe havens that become a community’s heart and soul. At their worst, coffee shops are places to get stale coffee and get unwelcoming blank stares from the staff.

I love coffee shops and I always want them to succeed. It’s sad to me when I watch a coffee shop start to descend as the owner’s passion dwindles and you know it’s just a matter of time before funds run out. It’s sadly a fate that many wonderful shops face. It’s a tough business. You’re selling drinks that cost $2-7, are time consuming to make for your staff (your #1 expense), and yet your customers consistently feel that they are spending too much. So how do we overcome this problem? Is there hope?

There is Hope: We Must Create Value

The concept of “creating value” is somewhat abstract. Simply put, it is the art and science of making something that people actually want. It’s finding ways to solve people’s problems and make their lives better. This is hard to do, trust me. I have to do this consistently in my own endeavors. But when you actually do something that creates value, it’s like fireworks and it’s so worth doing.

Do some thinking

If you are already running your coffee shop, this exercise will be a lot easier. If not, you can still participate. You should have a location chosen (or at least a few options). Look closely at that location, and figure out who you think your customers will be based on your neighbors. Who can walk to you? What is nearby? Offices? Colleges? Try your best to figure out what demographic you’ll be serving.

Now, think through some of these things:

  1. What is your customer’s biggest need? (Don’t just think about it in the context of things you can do in your coffee shop–let your mind wander and get creative!)
  2. How does your customer currently meet that need?
  3. What need are you meeting for your customer?
  4. Why does your customer come to you?
  5. What obstacles come between you and your customer (parking, high prices, lines, etc.)?
  6. What are the dream solutions to overcome these obstacles (drive-thru, magical free labor, etc.)
  7. What are more realistic solutions to these obstacles?

Allow your mind to really focus on the customer so you can figure out exactly how to be a better shop for them.

Really try to let yourself explore those unrealistic options. In the first one, what is our customer’s biggest need? Maybe your primary customers are college kids. Maybe their primary need is to pass their exams. Ok, so you can’t create study guides for them. But you can certainly create a quiet space for them to study!

It’s easy to get caught up in the details of planning for or running a coffee shop. But in order to be successful, it is absolutely critical to take some time to think through how you can create value for those special people who decide to make your coffee shop a part of their daily lives.

Want to work with a coffee supplier who really understands your business? Thinking about starting a cafe but don’t know where to start? Contact us today!

Featured image by Gavin St. Ours.