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How to Open a Coffee Shop: Tools and equipment you’ll need

photo of a barista pouring a cappuccino coffee

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Over the past ten years, the coffee industry has experienced a steady growth spurt. Today, nearly 70% of adults in the country enjoy at least one cup a week, and many of these coffee drinkers are getting their drink outside the house. As the coffee industry continues to grow, more specialty coffee shops are beginning to pop-up. If you’ve been interested in starting your own café, now may be the perfect time.

Entering any food service-based industry will come with a lot of moving parts. Sourcing all the supplies, gear, and resources you need can be overwhelming. But with the right preparation, you can start your own restaurant or café off on the right foot. 

This handy guide is specifically for budding entrepreneurs that are interested in opening their own coffee shop. Coffee shops, like any other restaurant, will require the correct mix of equipment and tools to run efficiently. Not just physical coffee makers, but you may also need some convenient tools for marketing purposes, too. For example, a photo background remover or image enhancer for your food pics.

First, Establish a Plan and Choose a Niche

While every coffee shop will sell coffee, the other products or services you provide will help shape the experience and feel of your business. Establishing a business plan and choosing a niche should help guide your equipment purchases down the road.

As you begin to create your business plan, try to envision a concept for your coffee shop. Your concept should be directly driven by your business plan. Having a sound concept that is appealing to the consumers in your area will help propel your business to the next level. Some of the top things to consider when drafting your plan include:

  • Who is the target demographic you’re after?
  • What other coffee shops are already in the area?
  • Do you want to offer food?
  • Do you want to offer alcoholic beverages?

Answering these questions should help you visualize the concept for your coffee shop. For example, if you’re targeting younger, trendier coffee drinkers, you’ll likely tailor your concept to be more cutting-edge then if you were going after the over 50s diner crowd. 

When planning out your coffee shop, some popular types to consider include:

Cafés

Cafés are the most involved type of coffee business. A café will usually provide a sit-down experience that offers light breakfast and lunch fare, while still maintaining their focus on coffee-style beverages.

Coffee House

A coffee house is likely what most people think of when they want to start a coffee business. Coffee houses offer higher-quality coffee within a hip and trendy hangout spot.

Grab & Go

Even though younger consumers like to hangout at their coffee spots, other consumers still want to quickly grab a cup of coffee and maybe a donut and hit the road.

Whatever route you decide to take, your business plan should help guide you.

Next, the Tools You’ll Need to Open Your Coffee Shop

Now that we’ve gone over the types of coffee-led businesses you can explore, it’s time to jump into the types of gear you should be looking fo

Drip Machines

First and foremost, we should highlight what type of gear you’ll need to brew the perfect cup of coffee for whoever walks through your doors. Most coffee shops will have a few different types of brewing machines so they can offer an array of varied beverage choices. When opening a new coffee shop, it’s important to consider all your options.

As a starting point, every coffee shop should have a few automatic drip machines to brew their most popular coffees, daily. When sourcing a drip machine, think about some of the features that you would need for the convenience of brewing coffee multiple times throughout the day, every day. 

When searching for your drip machines, remember that they need to be more durable than an at-home maker, be able to meet consumer demand, and be cleanable and easy to maintain. 

As a starting point, most smaller coffee shops have at least three drip machines on hand. Having three coffee makers going will allow you to feature a few different types of roasts (light, medium, and dark). That way, you can meet any customer’s wants and needs. 

Commercial Coffee Grinder

You can’t brew a cup of coffee for a customer without first having the beans, and thus, a bean grinder. Just like with your drip machine, purchasing a commercial coffee grinder will ensure you always have fresh ground coffee on hand no matter how many blends you offer.

A coffee grinder is not just needed to make ground coffee for on-site consumption, but also to provide the option for customers to grind their beans if they’re purchasing bags for off-site enjoyment. Having a bean grinder in-store will allow you to sell to more customers, as not every coffee drinker will have their own grinder at home.

When selecting your grinder, make sure to look at some key components. Examine factors such as capacity, burr type, and motor type. You can learn more about commercial coffee grinders here. Also, as a last note, having one primary grinder with other smaller secondary ones can help handle larger orders or times when the primary grinder is in use. 

Quality Espresso Machine

Customers will come to your shop expecting to get a bit more than a regular cup of coffee, no matter what concept you go with. The ability to make specialty beverages will be crucial, especially if you’re targeting upper middle-class consumers or younger consumers. 

In fact, the coffee industry seems to be leaning toward espresso drinks, and other higher quality beverage choices as a whole. In the National Coffee Association’s most recently published study, they have found that coffee drinkers are ordering more espresso-based drinks. Since 2015, espresso and other specialty drink consumption has grown by 50%, mostly due to the popularity amongst younger consumers that are gaining buying power.

Having an espresso machine on hand will allow you to offer cappuccinos, espressos, flat whites, and many more drink options. 

Multiple Refrigerators

One of the biggest purchases you’ll need to make when opening your coffee shop will be the refrigeration system. Being a food service provider will bind you to strict health and labor regulations. If violated, these rules can result in fines and issues for your business. Having a sound refrigeration system in place will ensure that both your customers and your business remain safe and healthy. 

When designing the behind-the-counter space, be sure to leave one large space for a walk-in cooler, and then fit in more compact fridges elsewhere. Having a dedicated walk-in refrigerator will allow you to store more goods in a hidden and controlled space. Walk-in coolers are great for your food items that don’t go bad as quickly. The size and style of your walk-in will be dependent on the type of business you intend to run. 

Besides having one large refrigerator, consider putting more convenient, smaller coolers behind the counter, but around the coffee equipment. Having small refrigerators that hold specific ingredients will help your baristas provide faster, more efficient service, while also resulting in less waste.

When designing the barista workspace, try to envision how you would want it set-up if you were making drinks behind the line. Think about adequate storage and convenient appliance locations. 

Ovens and Cooking Equipment

This one is truly dependent on the type of coffee shop you want to open. Some shops only offer drinks, and maybe some pastry goods from a local bakery. If that is the case for your business, then you can skip this portion.

If your business plans on serving food to customers, then making sure you have the correct ovens and cooking equipment will be important. Some common types of ovens to consider purchasing are:

  • Conveyor toaster – Almost any coffee house that serves food will likely offer bagels, muffins, and other toasted goods. Having a conveyor-style toaster will allow your baristas to toast multiple items at one time.
  • High Speed Oven – If you decide to offer things like pre-made sandwiches, having a high-speed compact oven will allow your team to put out a high quantity of food without sacrificing quality.

Besides ovens, having adequate shelving, counter space, and cooking tools will only help your baristas when the time comes.

Management Tools

While there is certainly more physical gear for you to source before you can open your doors, we have hit most of the major components needed to run a coffee shop of any kind. Now, we’re going to move into more “back of the house” tools that can help you efficiently run your business.

Since you are just starting out, you likely will be handling all of the operational aspects of your business until you hire a manager. To help maintain all of your tasks, including hiring, scheduling, communication, and more, we recommend using the TimeForge suite.

Our comprehensive labor management tool allows managers to perform almost any operation task from one convenient dashboard. In the beginning, the tools will be extremely helpful for hiring and onboarding new employees.

From the TimeForge dashboard you can easily post job listings to multiple job boards, track applicants, and implement screening questions. After finding applicants you want to hire, the system allows you automatically create an employee profile for ease of onboarding.

Besides hiring and onboarding, TimeForge will allow you to handle other areas of operation. Each and every employee will have their own employee profile where a manager can designate hours, assign shifts, and review time off requests.

The features don’t end there, but when starting out, these are the features that will be most important to newer coffee shop owners.

Finally, Finding Funding Options for Opening a Coffee Shop

Government Aided Loans

While private business loans aren’t an option, government-backed loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) are a route you can take. The loan you’d want to look into would be the SBA 7(a) loan, as this loan is mainly intended to help businesses purchase equipment, gear, and cover real estate costs when needed.

Personal Loan

Most people think that personal loans are restricted to personal purchases. But in reality, there are many different types of loans that can be used for almost anything, including business expenses. The best thing about personal loans is that they come with little to no restrictions, meaning that if you have other business expenses to cover outside of gear or real estate, you can without penalty.

Friend & Family Loan

The last loan option to explore is often the messiest, but if done correctly, could be exactly what you need to get the gear to start your coffee shop. If you need to borrow money from a loved one, make sure to treat the process just as you would if you were borrowing from a financial institution. Draw up a loan agreement plan, and make sure that you can keep your personal and business life separate. 

As you can tell, there will be a lot of moving parts over the course of your business journey. The beginning will be the hardest, but with the right preparation, mindset, and tools to do the job, you’ll be able to accomplish anything. Soon enough, you could own the coolest coffee shop in town.

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