What would you say was the hardest/most challenging element in starting up your coffee shop? What advice would you give to those who are planning to open up their own shop?

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Knowing your business and knowing what you want - I'd say those are the hardest/most challenging elements in starting a coffee shop.

Once you understand your business and what you want to deliver, the decisions you will need to make for your business become clear. Notice I didn't say "simple" or "easy," just "clear."

My advice is that you need to know your stuff. Too many times we see people on boards like this asking elementary questions (like which is the best chai/frappuccino/yogurt mix). There's no thought or experience behind questions like this and chances are that these people really don't know what they are doing. Don't be one of them.

Before you start out, you should have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. If you don't, go back and learn more in the field until you're ready. It will save you a lot of money, headaches and heartaches. It doesn't guarantee success, but it does give you the best possible chance for success.
Where to start? We just opened our newest cafe today in Jakarta and this one has been perhaps the most challenging. Jay is correct in saying that conceptually you need to have a clear idea of where you are going- and of course the most important initial thing is to build a sound business plan around the concepts you have. For us, we have an established and well known brand of coffee, as well as an equally well known menu- however getting the right staff has this time around been the biggest challenge we have faced.
Plan how much time you will need to get everything done and pick a starting date and then add another month on top of that. Something always comes up.
be prepared to not get much sleep!
1st- Find the best coffee you can serve, coffee that you are passionate about.
2nd- Know your competition and who you are marketing to (How big is your population, how many other shops are there). What will make you unique and different from other shops.
3d- Try to have shop with a drive thru window. I am only drive thru with a little outdoor seating, but I wished I had built a small indoor sit down, but I am not sad that I am a drive thru.
4th- Get excellent dependable employees. The hardest part of opening a shop (I have been open since 12/08) was finding quality dependable help.
5th- Nail down your startup costs and then plan to spend more.
6th- Nail down your menu and what you will charge. Good rule is 65% mark up. If a product cost you $1 to make charge about 65% more.
7th- If you have the money hire a consultant (Jason Haeger here on barista exchange was an excellent source for me).

Hope that is a good start.

Al
I'm not sure I agree with the "have a drive through" thing, and I think it falls into the 'knowing what you want' category. If you just want to slam out coffee (and to an extent everyone does... money helps businesses with a lot of things, like staying open) and have 95% to-go business, then sure, have a drive-through. I'm really proud of the fact that our numbers are almost completely the other way around, though. Our sales are about 75% in house and I think that's awesome. If I had a drive through I wouldn't know how to serve straight espresso because my personal stance is not to serve straight espresso in a to-go cup...

Really the only point I want to drive home is that Jay is absolutely right, know what you believe is right when it comes to coffee, your "coffee morals" if you will and build your business plan around those morals. There's nothing worse then waking up one morning and realizing you work at a "non-Starbucks Starbucks."

-bry

Al Soto said:
1st- Find the best coffee you can serve, coffee that you are passionate about.
2nd- Know your competition and who you are marketing to (How big is your population, how many other shops are there). What will make you unique and different from other shops.
3d- Try to have shop with a drive thru window. I am only drive thru with a little outdoor seating, but I wished I had built a small indoor sit down, but I am not sad that I am a drive thru.
4th- Get excellent dependable employees. The hardest part of opening a shop (I have been open since 12/08) was finding quality dependable help.
5th- Nail down your startup costs and then plan to spend more.
6th- Nail down your menu and what you will charge. Good rule is 65% mark up. If a product cost you $1 to make charge about 65% more.
7th- If you have the money hire a consultant (Jason Haeger here on barista exchange was an excellent source for me).

Hope that is a good start.

Al
where is the location of ur cafe Alun?

Alun Evans said:
Where to start? We just opened our newest cafe today in Jakarta and this one has been perhaps the most challenging. Jay is correct in saying that conceptually you need to have a clear idea of where you are going- and of course the most important initial thing is to build a sound business plan around the concepts you have. For us, we have an established and well known brand of coffee, as well as an equally well known menu- however getting the right staff has this time around been the biggest challenge we have faced.
Newest one is Hero Kemang Complex, pop in for a flatwhite and a chat.

Louise said:
where is the location of ur cafe Alun?

Alun Evans said:
Where to start? We just opened our newest cafe today in Jakarta and this one has been perhaps the most challenging. Jay is correct in saying that conceptually you need to have a clear idea of where you are going- and of course the most important initial thing is to build a sound business plan around the concepts you have. For us, we have an established and well known brand of coffee, as well as an equally well known menu- however getting the right staff has this time around been the biggest challenge we have faced.
Make sure that you have enough capital to survive for at least ten months!
Becca,
You can see many different items in this thred, I would say most all is true outside of the drive-thru. biggest mistake I made was accepting a coffee that I'm not 100% passionate about (soon to change) 1. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT and a business plan that supports it. 2. Capital Capital Capital, I cant begin to tell that you WILL spend anywhere's from 10 to 25% more no matter how well you plan. 3.Understand the type of employees you want, understand them and understand that they will come and go, its nearly impossible to retain even the best ones. 4.Location Location Location....5. This is a business and you should be passionate about it, but plan to learn the many different aspects of running a business. Your #1 and so is your business, if fails so do you, not your employees. 6.plan to not sleep....I wish you the best on this adventure your about to take, just remember not to take on more then you can handle. I hope our new home and town is treating you well!
1. be clear about what you want from starting a coffee shop. why do you think you would be a good leader?
2. get your financials in order. make sure you have enough startup costs, and then also plan for delays and unexpected expenses. set up a bookkeeping system (or hire a bookkeper) because you're going to be too busy to track your finances the first few months. figure out your plan for paying taxes and so on.
3. write a business plan. detail everything. have several people review your business plan and discuss what could go wrong. imagine EVERY scenario.
4. simplify EVERYTHING. start with a simple menu and expand from there IF you have to. don't get scatterbrained and try to do everything.
5. learn how to delegate responsibility. don't just hand it off to someone and have them take care of it. make sure they know what to do and report back to you on their progress in a way that helps you move forward.
6. have fun, but don't chat too much with your staff. remember you are running a business, but it's your business, and you should always have fun in life.
The guy who won this years WBC ran a coffee cart. How you serve or deliver the coffee does not make one a Starbucks. It is about making the product easy to get. In my town drive thru is a requirement but it may not be in others. I wished I had the sit down, but I don't so I deal with what I got. I believe it is the best of both worlds to have both. DoubleShot coffee has no drive thru, but they wish they did because the morning traffic as mine is come in and go. People are headed to work and do not have the time to sit and drink. That's reality.

Al

Bryan Wray said:
I'm not sure I agree with the "have a drive through" thing, and I think it falls into the 'knowing what you want' category. If you just want to slam out coffee (and to an extent everyone does... money helps businesses with a lot of things, like staying open) and have 95% to-go business, then sure, have a drive-through. I'm really proud of the fact that our numbers are almost completely the other way around, though. Our sales are about 75% in house and I think that's awesome. If I had a drive through I wouldn't know how to serve straight espresso because my personal stance is not to serve straight espresso in a to-go cup...

Really the only point I want to drive home is that Jay is absolutely right, know what you believe is right when it comes to coffee, your "coffee morals" if you will and build your business plan around those morals. There's nothing worse then waking up one morning and realizing you work at a "non-Starbucks Starbucks."

-bry

Al Soto said:
1st- Find the best coffee you can serve, coffee that you are passionate about.
2nd- Know your competition and who you are marketing to (How big is your population, how many other shops are there). What will make you unique and different from other shops.
3d- Try to have shop with a drive thru window. I am only drive thru with a little outdoor seating, but I wished I had built a small indoor sit down, but I am not sad that I am a drive thru.
4th- Get excellent dependable employees. The hardest part of opening a shop (I have been open since 12/08) was finding quality dependable help.
5th- Nail down your startup costs and then plan to spend more.
6th- Nail down your menu and what you will charge. Good rule is 65% mark up. If a product cost you $1 to make charge about 65% more.
7th- If you have the money hire a consultant (Jason Haeger here on barista exchange was an excellent source for me).

Hope that is a good start.

Al

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