Checklist for Opening a Coffee Cafe

sign. sign of cafe. open. access to cafe image by L. Shat from

Coffee shops can attract a large variety of customers, from busy workers stopping for a quick brew on their way to the office to teenagers and students looking for a hangout. Opening your own shop can put you in competition with big names like Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Seattle’s Best, and there are a number of issues you have to address before you can open your café’s doors.


One of the biggest hurtles to opening any small business is to file the necessary paperwork with local officials.

You will need a business license to open a coffee café, and different areas have different requirements for these licenses. The type of licenses you need may also vary depending on the products you want to sell. For instance, if you want to be able to sell alcoholic beverages in the café, you will need an extra alcohol permit.

You will also need to check on local zoning laws for the area in which you will start your shop. Find out exactly where the boundaries of your property are, as well as any limitations for use on the property.

You should be able to get all of the information you need regarding licenses, zoning and other legal requirements from local government offices. Some states or regions may have an office specifically set up to handle business, while others may have different divisions or offices for each license you need.

If you have trouble figuring out whom you need to see about certain paperwork, talk to local business owners in your area. They may be able to provide offices or contact information, as well as invaluable advice for getting your business started.

Business Plan

Put together a business plan for your coffee café to show to other parties who may take an interest in your business.

Business plans provide a basic outline of your business proposal for potential partners, investors, banks for loans and others who may be able to help you get started. The business plan should include details on your location, a basic outline of operations (hours, number of employees, etc.) and any ideas you have for managing the shop, including hiring and training employees and handling income and budgeting.

A business plan should also include a basic inventory for the business. List the equipment you will need to buy, the products you intend to sell (coffee, pastries, music, art, etc.) and initial pricing ideas.

The information in your business plan helps provide a general idea of what the day-to-day operations of your coffee café will entail, which helps investors, loan officers or partners decide whether they want to help you.


Start advertising your coffee café before the doors open. Hang posters, hand out business cards and create a website for your new business. Advertise in publications that you know will reach your potential customers, such as college newspapers or local magazines.

Include advantages of your coffee shop in the advertisements: hours, products sold, any live entertainment or games you provide, as well as other areas of interest. Make sure you include your intended opening date in the advertisement, so people can stop by and see your new place.


About the Author

Samantha Volz has been involved in journalistic and informative writing for over eight years. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a minor in European history. In college she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and completed a professional internship with the "Williamsport Sun-Gazette," serving as a full-time reporter. She resides in Horsham, Pennsylvania.

Photo Credits

  • sign. sign of cafe. open. access to cafe image by L. Shat from