10 Steps to Opening a Coffee Shop in a Small Town

Opening a Coffee Shop in a Small Town

Nowadays, it seems like there’s a coffee shop around every corner and in every shopping center. The fierce competition adds to the pressure of coming up with new and innovative ways to serve coffee. To be among the few who manage to stay afloat, you have to be creative. Interested in opening a coffee shop in a small town?

We’re here to help! We did a lot of research to find the best ways for your coffee shop to grow into a flourishing business.

Let’s get started!

10 Steps to Opening a Successful Coffee Shop in a Small Town

Empty cafe interior with chairs and tables

Below are the 10 essential steps you’ll need to follow when opening your coffee shop.

1. Create a Vision and Mission Statement

Your vision statement should represent your personal goals and ambitions. It should reflect on how you see your business today as well as five years from now.

Mission statements clarify the purpose of your coffee shop. They should provide a clear explanation of your business goals and the steps needed to reach each one over a specific duration.

2. Draw up a Fool-Proof Business Plan

Always start with a thorough business plan. Any business comes with financial risk, and you have to picture the worst-case scenario, so you’re well prepared.

Some people take out small business loans against their homes to get their coffee shop off the ground. There’s also crowdfunding to help you get started. Moreover, you can ask friends and family if they’re willing to lend you some money.

Author Note: If you can’t put up $100,000 to $300,000 to start a full-fledged coffee shop, there’s no need to give up. You can easily find other ways to make your dream come true.

How about getting a coffee truck and taking your business to the people rather than wait for them to come to you? You can also set up a drive-thru coffee kiosk.

3. Get the Necessary Permits and Licenses

Every business has its share of paperwork. Here’s a list of some of the documents you need to apply for.

  • General business license
  • Occupancy certificate
  • Zoning permits if your shop is brick-and-mortar
  • Zoning restrictions if you’re in a kiosk or corner car
  • IRS Employer Identification Number
  • Food handling permits
  • Approval from the Department of Health

4. Learn About the Laws, Regulations, and Health Codes

To find out the laws and regulations in your town, you’ll need to visit the city clerk’s office. You can also find them at the law library.

Health inspections are carried out several times a year. Your coffee shop will get a score based on a set of predetermined health codes. If it’s a poor grade, you can schedule another inspection in the span of 5 to 45 days for a chance to correct any health code violations.

5. Find the Right Area Based on Space and Foot Traffic

An average-sized coffee shop would be between 1,000 to 1,750 square feet. This easily seats about 50 customers. You can do just as well with something smaller in the range of 500 square feet. However, it’ll be more of a drive-thru or pick-up kiosk.

When it comes to foot traffic, think about your target customer. For instance, if you’re focusing more on employees, find somewhere in the business district. If your target customers are students, look for a location near schools or colleges.

6. Plan the Menu

Naturally, the menu will focus on hot drinks, mainly coffee and tea. You’ll also need to include cold drinks and sodas.

Extra add-ons, like whipped cream and syrups, is something your customers will appreciate. It’s also a good idea to add a choice of non-dairy milk.

7. Find Credible Suppliers

Getting the right type of coffee requires going through a trial-and-error phase. A pro tip: never go with the first coffee supplier you come across.

When you’re looking for suppliers, make sure they:

  • Supply a wide range of high-quality coffee
  • Provide reasonable and fair prices
  • Offer good customer-service
  • Cater to your shop’s growing capacity

8. Hire the Right Staff

male waiter standing behind counter in stylish cafe

Running a successful business depends on finding a reliable and proficient group of individuals. This means hiring a competent manager and skillful baristas.

They should also possess certain qualities that make them pleasant to your customers. You want your employees to be friendly, motivated, and attentive.

9. Market and Promote

There are various marketing tactics you can use to promote your coffee shop. Some of them are low cost, such as social media marketing and giving out free samples.

One ingenious way to let people know about your coffee shop is to use it for hosting various events. This can be a fundraiser or Poetry Night.

Other tactics may require that you spend a bit more, such as:

  • Newspaper ads
  • Direct mailing ads
  • Radio ads
  • Signs and posters

10. Develop a Brand

Branding your coffee shop starts with offering a product that people will remember and come back to. Pay attention to your packaging too. This can be as simple as having a colorful cup or a unique sleeve.

Top Tip: Remember to design a memorable logo on the cups and paper bags. Logos help keep your brand’s image in your customers’ minds. Plus, it’s free advertising!

Menu designs are also important. You want to create a menu that grabs their attention even before they start reading. Use contrasting colors in shades that match the style and branding of your coffee shop.

5 Secrets to Running a Successful Coffee Shop

Statistics show that small coffee shops have a gross profit margin between 2.5% and 4%. However, don’t forget that this is in an industry that’s reported to rake in over $5 billion in sales each year.

So don’t let the small profit margins fool you. There’s enough for everyone to enjoy a slice or two of the pie.

The secret to running a successful business boils down to hard work, dedication, and perseverance. Here are a few extra secrets that can help your coffee shop become one of the hottest spots in town.

1. Serve High-Quality Coffee

You probably think this is a no-brainer. After all, what else would we serve in a coffee shop? Yet, you’d be surprised at how difficult it can be to find a top-quality cup of coffee.

So, get the best espresso machine you can. Make sure you equip it with a demineralizer and water purifier. It’ll be the best investment you’ll ever make.

Then, always make sure you buy high-quality Arabica fresh roasted beans. If you can’t find 100% Arabica, go for a mix of 90% Arabica, 10% Robusta.

2. Vary the Food Options

Having both sweet and savory snacks available plays a major factor in the success of your coffee shop. We all associate coffee with sweet desserts. Yet, sometimes you want a sandwich to go with your coffee.

Here are a few snacks your customers will appreciate:

  • Muffins
  • Cookies
  • Croissant
  • Cakes
  • Scones
  • Bagels

3. Create a Welcoming Ambience

The fun part is creating a coffee shop that’s warm and inviting. Provide your customers with a place with lots of natural lighting, good music, and a fun, artistic sense to help them feel comfortable and relaxed.

The way you arrange your seats will largely depend on the space available. Still, there are many great ideas to choose from. You can place couches with cushions, comfortable chairs, or even benches.

When choosing your tables, pick those that are spacious and functional that can double as a work area. You can mix and match between round and square tables to create a unique look.

There’s also the option of setting up standing tables where customers stand around them. These could be near the front door since they’re for customers who aren’t planning on staying for long.

4. Provide Modern Conveniences

Smiling man with apron preparing coffee for customer in his small business

One of the essential things you can have in a coffee shop is electrical outlets. Nothing is more disappointing than walking into a terrific coffee place to find that there’s no access to electricity.

Author Note: Another modern convenience is free, unlimited WiFi. If your customers have a strong internet connection, they’ll probably stay longer and even make new orders.

You can even take it a step further and offer online orders. In this digital age, it’s a sure way to boost sales and build your client base.

5. Show Your Fun Side

The coffee industry is full of ups and downs, especially when you’re just starting. The more creative you are, the higher the public appeal will be for your coffee shop.

Each month has a specific holiday or occasion. Use these events to introduce new products and offers.

Staying dynamic is an excellent way for businesses to prove to their customers that they’re fun and exciting. It can even be as simple as ‘National Oatmeal Muffin Day.’

Another fun way to boost your sales is by using reward systems and loyalty cards. Make sure the cards have your logo in a bright and colorful font. They should also be tough enough to handle the tear and wear.

If you plan right, you can enjoy 12 months of steady customers. They’ll come in to enjoy the positive energy in your shop and, of course, your delicious coffee.

A Final Note

Armed with this information, you now know the ins and outs of opening a coffee shop in a small town. Being a business owner is like being in a marathon. There’ll be obstacles and hurdles to overcome. Yet, with hard work and a love for what you do, you’ll get through them and keep moving forward.

Stay caffeinated friends!

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