February 11, 2016

Five Things No One Tells You About Opening a Third Wave Coffee Shop


You’ve dreamed about opening a coffee shop for ages. You’ve got the layout and the design mapped out perfectly. You know which coffees and which brewing methods you’ll offer – and what food you’ll pair them with. You’ve even decided on your social media campaign.

SEE ALSO: 5 Ways to Stand Out From The Specialty Coffee Shop Crowd

But before you quit your day job and start hiring staff, there are a few more things you should know. Five of them, to be precise.

  1. You will work more hours than you currently realize

If you were thinking of opening a coffee shop as a retirement job or a way to escape the 9 to 5, start thinking about something else. Depending on your opening hours, you can expect to put in 12-14 hours a day or more. And if you’re doing the build out yourself, expect to pull a few all-nighters. Everything takes longer than you think it will and, even if you’re not running solo, the demands on your time will be more than you can imagine.

It’s not simply that you’ll have to work long hours, either. If you’ve got a family, it means time away from them. You’re going to need their full support – and sometimes, that support might mean more than just cheering from the sidelines or being understanding when you come home late. But in all your efforts to get your business off the ground, don’t neglect the ones you love.

This isn’t to say that the long hours aren’t worth it, though. On the contrary: there are huge rewards in opening a successful business – and making money is only one of them. And while there will always be big demands on your time, if you plan on staying at the helm past the startup stage, hopefully, you should be able to mitigate some of those demands by hiring more help.

No matter how long your days are, it’s absolutely essential to love the work you do and the customers you have. If you don’t, you’ll be looking for a way to hit the golf course rather than the daily grind.

running out of time

There are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. Credit: Pixabay

  1. It takes time to turn a profit

When dreaming about your future coffee shop, it’s easy to imagine lines out the door and instant profitability. But unless you’re one of the lucky ones, it’s unlikely that you’ll be profitable for at least two years. And if you’re struggling with finding a credit card payment merchant, it might be a good idea to consider high risk merchant accounts specialists. I hear they provide a fantastic service.

The truth is that it takes time to build a loyal customer base – no matter who you are or what your business plan is. Hardly anyone is a real overnight success. So be warned that you will have slow days, especially in the beginning.

However, if you’re good to your customers, they’ll tell their friends, their friends will tell more friends, and your business will grow. Word of mouth is still the best marketing out there.


Startups take time to turn a profit and initial costs can be high. Credit: Pixabay

  1. You won’t have time to do it all yourself

Even if you were to work around the clock, you still wouldn’t find enough hours in the day to do all the things on your to-do list. Running a successful shop isn’t easy, and it’s certainly not a one-person job.

You have to learn how to structure a great team and how to delegate the tasks you don’t have time for to them. Sometimes this means outsourcing tasks like accounting and payroll. Sometimes it means hiring the right people to run things while you take care of the back end tasks (even if they’re less interesting).

too much work

Running a coffee shop is hard work – don’t try to do it alone. Credit: Pixabay

  1. There’s no magic formula for success

What works for one shop won’t always work for the next. Don’t expect to copy someone else’s format and be successful at it; instead, find your own niche and emphasize it.

Yet even once you’ve found your point of difference, don’t think that you can take it easy. Sometimes, what worked for you six months ago won’t continue to work in the future. There really is no formula for success, except for consistent hard work.

Pay attention to what your customers are telling you and adapt as necessary: tastes and trends change. The coffee industry is rapidly growing and changing. Your business needs to be both agile enough to keep up and grounded enough to know what is important to your core customers.

follow a formula

Trying to follow a particular formula for success almost always ends in failure. Credit: Pixabay

  1. Embrace the competition

Don’t believe the hype that it’s every man for himself. If your goal is to bring awesome third wave coffee to the masses, then embrace others with that same goal.

Think about it like this. When you eat out do you always eat at the same restaurant? Then why would we expect our customers to do the same thing with their coffee? People want variety. Find your niche and highlight it. Make that the thing that sets you apart. Because if you think just making the best coffee around will do it, you’re already behind everyone else.

And remember, talking bad about the competition only makes you look like a jerk. If someone asks about the shop across town, tell them something you really like about it. Every shop has its own competitive advantage. There are things you can do better and things they can do better.

Your shop doesn’t need to be the only shop in town to succeed. It’s true that a rising tide raises all ships. As more people discover specialty coffee they will seek it out in more and more places. If your ship isn’t rising, patch the holes and keep up with the rest of the shops in your area.


Just because the shop across town is your competition, doesn’t mean you’re enemies. Credit: Pixabay

While you can’t predict all the twists, turns, pitfalls, and successes that will come your way when you open your shop, you should go into it with your eyes as wide open as possible. Learn how to roll with the changes that come your way. Listen to your customers and adapt to their requests without abandoning your core values. Don’t sweat the things you can’t predict, but adapt to the changes as they come.

Does this all sound a little daunting? Running a coffee shop isn’t easy – but if you’re passionate about it, this is all worth it.

Edited by T. Newton.

Perfect Daily Grind.