HI, we are opening our first coffe house in a few months. We still can't decide on a location. Anyone has a store that is in a strip mall and not visible from the main street? What are your survival tips? We are in Miami, and real estate here is hard to find for our size and use, that would be premium visibility. Thanks.

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What do all the real estate agents preach? "location, location, location!"

If the consumers cannot find you, how will they know that you are there?

Retail coffee is all about traffic, foot traffic and drive by, and it is your job to get noticed. Once noticed then the consumer may be enticed to stop.

Have a sign
Use colored lights
Have an outdoor seeting area
Create a crowd

"people draw more people - as nobody want to go to an empty cafe"

Post a advertising truck at the front of the parking lot where cars driving by will see it.

For commuter traffic find ways to draw atttention to yourself mon-fri in the morning and afternoon - post a "mascot" on the street waving a sign.

Invite a local radio station to broadcast from your location

For social traffic, if you are open Friday/Saturday nights host an outdoor concert of party in the parking lot to attract attention.

Hope these ideas help!
Don't do it!! We made the mistake of opening in a new strip mall that is offset from the main street. We have a Panda Express and a Sonic Drive In directly in front of us. We thought it would be okay because both of those establishments have big parking areas so you can see us from the street. Way not good enough! For whatever reason, people just don't know we are here and, no matter what you may want to believe, if they don't know you are there they will not come and you will not have the sales to stay afloat. I can not stress enough what a HUGE problem and difficult challenge it is for us. I undertand you plight of being in Miami and finding it difficult to find a great location but KEEP LOOKING!

Thank you! I'd rather wait for a perfect location than sink all my money into a bad one.
Also keep in mind that most of your business will be in the morning, and people need a way to get in and out easy and quick in the mornings. They need to get back on the main road they are traveling on with relative ease.
Thank you Carol, good to know!
I am in the process of opening a drive thru coffee shop. Someone previously mentioned the importance of location from a Realtor's perspective being :location, location, location". I am also a Realtor and this is definitely very important. I have been looking at locations for several months. I know the basic area I want to be located in is not a problem. The problem has been finding a location in the area I want to be in at a reasonable ground lease rate.

In the area where I live most landlords want you to do a triple net lease for five to ten years. I strongly recommend a release clause in any lease for your protection prior to signing a lease for a building.
I, too, would stay away from this 5-10 year lease stuff. You have got to have a way out if necessary in less than 5 years, no more than 3. This is where having someone to help you negotiate would help tremendously. You gotta cover your bases.
Hey Barbara,

If you are interested you might want to contact Toby Foreman, he is a consultant that specializes in setting up Coffee houses and can help with all of your location questions as well as anything else. He was with the It's A Grind chain and opened up a few hundred locations for them. His contact info is:

Just Black Coffee Excellence
Toby Foreman
2536 Ostram Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90803

Toby is a great guy and I'm sure that he could help out.
Barbara, Bellissimo Coffee InfoGroup, my father and I's company, has helped thousands of small business owners just like yourself with everything from site selection, business plans, design and layout services, training, etc. If you want you can call me personally anytime this week at 800-655-3955. You may also want to consider the book Bean Business Basics, it is the definitive start up manual for opening a retail coffee business.

Good luck!

- Matt Milletto
I will throw my 2 cents worth in and agree that you should avoid long-term leases or be sure to include an exit clause that allows you to bail out if need be without loosing everything. With a shorter lease you run the risk of putting all your hard work and effort into growing a successful business only to possibly have the Landlord decide they can do better by not renewing the lease but instead taking the business over themselves or renting it to someone else for a much higher rate. It happens. To cover yourself make sure your Lease includes a Right of First Refusal which means that at expiration of the lease term the space must be offered to you before anyone else.

Another thing to avoid if at all possible is signing a Personal Guarantee on the Lease. In our case, even though for other reasons we are structured as a C-Corporation, we had to sign a Personal Guarantee. The effective result is that the C-Corporation status does not offer any protection to our personal finances in the event the corporation fails.
Glad to hear that someone else is experiencing the same problem. Based in a town in Ireland called Tralee (pop. 25,000)I have been looking for the right location at an affordable rent - not easy - majority of high visibility well located sites are looking for crazy rents(90,000 euro = 135,000 dollars for 500 sq ft per year!) Also property owners give preferential treatment to chains.

Hold your nerve and stick by your gut instincts!

Thanks everyone for your input. We found a high visibility location on 47,000 count street, corner building, visible from the main street, two access points. We are getting ready to negotiate. Do you think getting a Realtor to represent us would benefit?

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