So, you're looking to start up a cafe business but unsure of where to look for advice? Stop worrying and start reading, we're here to help! Setting up a cafe or coffee shop is a testing venture, but one that's so rewarding when done right.

The post-covid boom that cafes are receiving means you'll be entering a thriving market! But this alone won't guarantee you success. 

Our starting up a cafe checklist below will help your cafe and business idea succeed and prepare you for the road ahead...

1. Know your area

Cafe busy with customers

One of the first things you'll consider when you open a cafe, is where exactly it will be located. This may seem like the fun and easy part, but rest assured it'll need a lot of thought put into it (and a lot of patience). This aspect can make or break your cafe's success, so listen up!

The most important factor to consider when choosing the location is foot traffic. This is the amount of activity in an area. Foot traffic = potential customers. Being positioned on a busy high street, near an underground stop and next to a big retail store (the dream) is going to get you lots of customer traffic. Opportunities like this (unfortunately) aren't landed easily, which is why research is key! You'll be able to find a happy medium.

Consider also transport links, the vibe of the area and the number of cafes. Carefully analysing each of these factors means you'll find yourself the most perfect of perfect spots for your cafe to thrive.

2. Create a business plan

Behind the bar of a cafe

Starting a cafe is just like any other new business, it needs preparation. As we all know, 'failing to prepare, is preparing to fail'. Just like with finding the right area, leave no stone unturned when researching the business plan!

First, let's define what sort of coffee establishment you'll be. Of course, you can be a straight up cafe (nothing wrong with that). But thanks to the edgy hipsters, there's a whole range of opportunities these days. A cafe kiosk, coffee house, independent coffee shop or coffee outlet are all potential opportunities, each demanding a slightly different business plan. Answering this will make the rest a lot easier.

Next, you'll want to look into the industry, so visit coffee shops. See what's going, the latest coffee trends and how you'll fit in with all of this. The best way to find this out is by conducting market research and an analysis of local competitors. Here, you'll discover average coffee prices, menus, services and your target audience. The last thing you'll want to do is charge £3 for an espresso when the local average is £1.50.

After this research, developing a marketing strategy would be the natural progression. Bad marketing is a sure-fire way to throw you cafe under the bus. Social media, local advertising, online advertising and even stickers are a great way to get your cafe business out there. If you want a successful cafe, take the business plan seriously when setting it all up!

3. Experience a cafe

2 baristas working in a cafe making a coffee

Setting up your own business is tough, so make everything clearer for yourself by getting in some experience. Knowing the ins and outs of an industry does wonders for helping you understand what it takes to be successful. Consider learning about being a barista at one of our barista schools, to give you that upper hand over your rivals!

By spending time in a cafe or training as a barista, you'll get a first-hand feel for what you need. It might be alien to you now but the cafe equipment, coffee machines, cups, tables, security, payment systems, start up costs and profit margins will become second nature after some time in the cafe world.

Plus, this is a great way to know what you'll need out of your staff. Understand the barista by becoming the barista. You'll also become a better cafe owner as you'll appreciate exactly what the baristas need and what their role is. Don't underestimate how far experience goes when entering a new industry, even if it's just a little bit.

4. Get the coffee right

3 coffees on a cafe table with water

As Bill Clinton's 1992 election campaign said, "it's the coffee, stupid". Ok, that's not exactly the quote, but we're talking coffee here not politics and it's important! This might not be a surprise, but people often come to cafes to enjoy a coffee. No matter how aesthetically pleasing your cafe looks, if the coffee's bad, the customers aren't coming back. Shocked?

Coffee beans offer an amazing array of flavours, which can make your cafe or coffee shop stand out and take it to the top. We can all recall a great cup of coffee we've had, that leaves us wanting more. This is first-hand experience of its influence. It can be a great way to stand out from the crowd and give your customers a memorable way to start their day.

So, forgive us if we're being obvious, but get the coffee right!

5. Start networking

Two baristas behind the bar enjoying their craft

We don't want to sound really corporate when we say this, but networking helps! It's a great way to expand your local reach and develop a customer base of support when starting up a cafe. So, prepare your best small talk and get ready to network!

Becoming established in the local community requires some patience and hard work. Research about local events or festivals where you can offer your services and sell some of that delicious coffee. Partner up with a local charity and offer free coffee for all volunteers. Contact a food business and sell their goods in your cafe. Or even sell your specialty coffee products to another local business. There are so many ways to connect with the local economy and community, so get creative!

As your reputation improves, consider going 'big' with your networking by reaching out to coffee roasters for partnerships. Partnerships are a great 'win-win' situation, that's simply an exchange of services for mutual benefit. 

Network your heart out!

6. Research the legal stuff

Barista working in a coffee shop

Now, we have to talk about the 'legal stuff'. It may not be exciting piece of text here (we'll try make it) but if you need a license and you don't have one, you're not selling any coffee.

When we talk about this, we mean licenses, regulations, insurance and permits. There's a whole array of considerations that will quickly put a stop the dream and (unnecessarily) increase the cost of starting a cafe. Let us enlighten you on what you'll need to find out...

Specific information about how to make your cafe dream legal can be found on national government or local council websites of where you're operating. Whilst regulations, licenses and legal requirements vary from territory to territory, getting some business insurance is necessary. This can protect you from any potential disaster that will put an abrupt end to the cafe dream.

In addition, if you're deciding to run the cafe also as a food business, staff will need hygiene training when preparing and serving food. Depending on what function you want the cafe to have, check to see if there are legal requirements behind any staff training courses.

This part may be longwinded and a tad boring but once it's done, you're one more step closer to getting your own coffee shop.

7. Stay positive

Barista smiling in a coffee shop

Finally, we want you to stay positive. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was your cafe.

Starting any business is difficult and there will be plenty of tough times. Every business, no matter how big and successful now, didn't have an easy ride after opening. Keeping a positive mentality throughout these tough times, will put you in good stead to get over any challenges you'll face.

Be patient and stay positive, you'll get there!