How to Run a Successful Coffee Shop

by Lisa McQuerrey; Updated September 26, 2017

Running a successful coffee shop requires exceptional customer service skills, quality ingredients and a high degree of efficiency for a fast-paced industry.

Location, Location, Location

Selecting a high-traffic location isn’t always the best choice for a coffee shop. With relatively thin profit margins, high-rent districts eat into profits and can make sustainability difficult. People seeking a caffeine fix will seek out good coffee places, as long as they’re easily accessible and have adequate parking.

The Right Set-Up

Running a successful coffee shop involves a fine balance between expediency and good customer care. Business owner Peter Baskerville suggests designing barista and cashier workstations in such a way that employees have everything at their fingertips to work efficiently while still interacting with customers. This is especially vital if you have more counter service than table service, which in itself, is a good way to limit staffing costs.

The Right Menu

More isn’t necessarily better in the coffee shop biz. Lots of food and drink selections overwhelm customers with too many options and, with perishable goods, can be a costly endeavor. Instead, create a handful of specialty drinks and food items and promote their exclusivity. Even though coffee is your primary draw, add-ons such as bakery goods and sandwiches can help increase your earnings, according to Karen Klein of Bloomberg Business. High-quality beans, such as Arabica or Arabica/Robusta, are a vital, no-skimp commodity when it comes to coffee shops. Espresso drinkers can be especially particular.

Reel ‘Em In

Independent coffee shops have to compete with big-name franchises, making marketing and business retention strategies a must. Scout what your competitors are doing, what they’re charging and what kinds of products and services they offer. Loyalty cards, delivery services and even meeting catering can all help expand your market reach and boost profits.

Don’t Let Them Get Too Comfy

While customers may enjoy soft couches, free Internet access or coffee house entertainment, your take-and-go customers help you turn the highest profit. Have a mix of seating options that make your customers comfortable, but not so comfortable that they’ll spend the entire day nursing a single cup of coffee.

Tips

  • Explore curbside service, a large order call-ahead feature or a drive-through window to give your customers more options.

Service Counts

Customers often frequent coffee shops for a sense of warmth and familiarity, and cheerful, knowledgeable employees can make the difference for your business. Coach staffers on the type of interaction you want them to have with your customers. While service needs to be brisk, it doesn’t have to be impersonal. Free up barista time by premixing or premaking simple, often-requested items -- the extra few minutes will let your staffers come across as both personable and efficient.

Tips

  • Make sandwiches in advance as well as premix add-in favorite flavor combinations, like mocha-caramel or vanilla-hazelnut.

About the Author

Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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