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Everything You Need to Know About Opening an Independent Coffee Shop

While coffee has been a popular beverage of choice for well over a hundred years, within the last few years, independent coffee companies have become a vital cog in the wheel of business. With more and more college and grad students looking to hit the books in a quiet yet interesting environment and freelancers and entrepreneurs using the space for business, not to mention those who just want a casual environment to relax in, the market for independent coffee houses has never been greater.

Though there business is booming for independent coffee shops, it is still a competitive market, and many coffee shops do not hang on longer than a year. Between well-known coffee corporations like Starbucks and other independent coffee houses, opening a coffee shop is not a guarantee at success. There are quite a few things to keep in mind when it comes to owning and operating a coffee shop.

Business Equipment

Opening a coffee house means you need a space in a good location, large enough for people to spend more than a few minutes in, and the right equipment. From drip coffee to espresso to pour over coffee to cappuccinos, there is a lot of equipment that needs to be purchased. Moreover, it is important you know how to work each machine, as the taste of the coffee is what will keep people coming back.

Apart from coffee equipment, your business needs the right equipment to make transactions, such as credit card machines, registers, and the right operating system. Companies like North American BanCard are a great resource for businesses, as they offer low rates for great service.

Passionate Baristas

The baristas you employ in your shop can make or break your business. There a few things to consider when hiring a barista, as they have the potential to make loyal customers. Consequently, they also have the potential to keep people from coming back.

Those you hire should be passionate about coffee and the business itself, especially if your coffee shop participates in Fair Trade organizations. If you are a Fair Trade shop, you and your baristas can expect a lot of questions from customers regarding how it works. Additionally, the baristas should also be knowledgeable enough about the coffee your business is serving to answer the questions of fellow coffee connoisseurs, such as the variety of coffee, how it’s roasted, cupping notes, etc.

However, they should also be ready to help out anyone who is unfamiliar with coffee without making the customer feel alienated. Independent coffee shops can feel intimidating to those who do not know a great deal (if anything) about coffee brews and beans.


There is a bit of a science when it comes to pricing your drinks accurately. While customers are typically willing to spend a bit more on a drink from an independent coffee house, they are not necessarily willing to spend a fortune on one either. There is a balance between underpricing your products and overpricing them, and finding it can be the difference between having a financially sound business and a struggling business.

Furthermore, keep in mind that as your business grows, so do your expenses. To keep your business bringing in a steady revenue, make sure your prices do not stay stagnant. Try steadily increasing your prices by a nickel every few months. If you continue offering an amazing product with quality service, most customers will not be too upset at the price increases.


There are coffee shop competitors all over the place. From established companies like Coffee Bean and Starbucks to well-known roasters like Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia to small shops like yours, the competition for coffee is fierce. Even gas stations and fast food chains act as competitors, for they sell cheap coffee and are often open in the early and late hours of the day, capitalizing on a target audience of people who need coffee when coffee houses are closed.

In order to survive, you have got to keep an eye on what your competition is doing. How are they pricing their coffees? How is their customer service? What are they doing that you aren’t? And vice versa? Answering these questions and others can help you to keep up with your competitors.

Keeping these things in mind can help you have a successful coffee house.

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