How to Start a Coffee Shop

How to Start a Coffee Shop

Like many people, I used to go to my local coffee shop and dream of one day opening my own. I had grand visions of my friends and family coming in on a daily basis - we would sit and relax, drink coffee, eat delicious cake and chew the cud.

In 2011, I finally decided it was time to make my dream a reality and, in 2012, I opened Kahaila, a coffee shop on Brick Lane, in East London. The reality of running my own coffee shop was far from the grand visions I once had, but in many ways the reality has been far better than what I could have dreamed. In the first three months we were making four times as much money than we had forecast and in the first 18 months we were able to pay back a £50,000 loan. 

When I first started, though, I knew nothing about setting up a coffee shop. I just did a google search for “how to start a coffee shop”. To be honest, I did not find a lot of helpful answers. In the end, with the odd bit of advice, and a good amount of optimism I stepped out of my comfort zone and went for it. As I reflect back over the success of Kahaila over the past 10 years, I realise that most of the success is about doing the basics really well and quickly learning from my mistakes. 

These days I work with people who, like me 11 years ago, have a vision to run their own coffee shop. I share with them all that I have learnt from running a successful coffee business so that they too can make their dreams a reality.

 Here are just a few tips to get you started, if you want to know more then get in contact.

  1. Think about the four pillars of any business, which are:
    • Good Product
    • Good Price
    • Good Environment
    • Good Customer Service
Your coffee business will either flourish or fall around these four areas. 
Think about your favourite coffee shop or restaurant: what is it you like about that place? I can almost guarantee that you like it so much because it exceeded and continues to exceed your expectations in at least one of these four areas. Likewise, I can also guarantee that if you exceed your customer’s expectations in any of these four areas, they will become fans of your business and will tell others.  
Think about how you can exceed your customer’s expectations in these four areas and you will be in the road to success.


  1. Carry out market research.
While this can sound daunting, it can be fun and, when done correctly, will give you and potential investors confidence in your business plan.
One exercise I did before opening our shop on Brick Lane was that I would go into a cafe near the area I wanted to open my coffee shop sit for two-hour periods at different hours of the day on different days of the week while keeping a tally chart of customers. more specifically, I would record how many customers came in and the number of drinks and food items they would purchase.
This helped me to create a sales forecast for my coffee shop business. Plus, it was great fun and a great way of involving friends - they loved sitting in local coffee shops in the name of market research.
  1. Product placement
I always say to people that a coffee shop is a business of “lust” because if people see it, they want it. When we opened our coffee shop we put lots of delicious cakes in the window and it had a significant impact on the success of business. When people walk by our shop front they tend to stop dead in their tracks and gaze in wonder at the display of cakes in our window. Even people on the other side of the street would see our cakes and cross over to come in and buy a slice. Contrast this with the fact that on the days when we did not have cake in our shop window, sales would be down by £300 to £400. It goes to show why successful businesses spend mega bucks to have their products placed in the most visible places in supermarkets.
Also remember, potential customers will have more confidence to enter your shop if they can see that you have what they want, before entering your shop. We have all faced those awkward moments of walking into a shop and immediately wishing we hadn’t but instead of walking straight back out we feel obliged to do a quick courtesy lap of the shop before exiting. 


These are just a few top tips to get you started in opening your coffee shop.

At Three Cords Coffee we genuinely get really excited in supporting people set up their own successful coffee shop and partnering with existing coffee businesses to help them grow their business. If you would like to know more about how we can help you, then please visit our wholesale page to find out more or send us an email.

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