Five things you need to know before picking your coffee shop location

Five things you need to know before picking your coffee shop locationShould you buy a new or an existing café? Do you need a drive-up window? What are the best ways to negotiate with a landlord?

If you’ve ever considered opening your own coffeehouse, these and about a million more questions have probably crossed your mind. And we’re just talking about location questions.

Our Flavor Oracle Levi has a background in coffee shops that speaks for itself. In his 10 years as a barista, he worked in four different coffeehouses and owned a café. As a shop owner, he made enough in tips to reinvest his entire paycheck into his business before selling it at a profit.

That’s the kind of coffee shop owner we all want to be.

He’s spilling his coffee bean secrets to the perfect café location so that you, too, can be a successful coffeehouse owner.

1. Brand spanking new or old and charming?

First things first. Are you looking at a brand new café or an existing location? Think about what kind of ambiance you want in your café. There are benefits and drawbacks to both options.

Benefits of a new café:

• You’re starting with a blank canvas
• The chance to negotiate improvements and reduced rent with the landlord
• New openings often lead to good press coverage, driving traffic in the door

Factors to consider with a new café:

• Securing permits, licenses and insurance
• Build-out costs and time
• Building your customer base from the ground up
• Fully training your staff

Benefits of an existing café:

• Customer base already built in
• Equipment should be set up and ready to go

Factors to consider with an existing café:

• Customers may be resistant to the change in ownership
• Retraining in-place staff
• Possibility of purchasing outdated equipment
• Rebranding barriers
• Building your business from the ground up

Consider this important decision carefully. Think about where you can see yourself brewing coffee, working with your team of rockstar baristas and building your business.

2. Landlord love

Okay, you don’t have to love your landlord, but you do have to have a healthy working relationship with him or her.

Pay attention to a few things when interacting with potential landlords:

• What your gut tells you about them
• How quickly they get back to you
• If they seem annoyed when you ask simple questions.

Levi’s insider tip: If the building is less than 50% occupied, negotiate lower rent. You may be able to get up to 50% off the listed rent price.

Talk to other renters in the building to get their opinions. Ask what little surprises you will “need to just get used to” to learn what bugs them about the space.

3. A little competition never hurt anybody

On the other hand, think about how many cafés and coffee shops one area can support. In some areas, customers are looking for a convenient coffee option and in others, customers are already overwhelmed by them.

4. Give the people what they want

Take a look around. Focus on who your ideal customer is and the kind of atmosphere you want your shop to have.

Note if the neighboring citizens are more affluent or just getting by. This plays a role in what kinds of drinks you’ll serve on a regular basis. Boutique concepts with fancy coffee drinks rarely work in lower income areas.

If there’s a college nearby, remember that college students are looking for trendy places to hang out and are up for trying more adventurous drinks.

5. Foot traffic or traffic jams

Take note if the café is in a high foot traffic area or just plain high traffic. Make sure there’s ample parking near your location.

Look at the area surrounding your potential café. Are you near a mall or a movie theatre, or is the area more corporate? This will have a huge effect on customers who hang out versus those who rush in and out during their morning commute.

Levi’s insider tip: Talk to neighboring businesses. Ask about peak traffic days, times and seasons.

Your coffeehouse will be your second home for years to come. Pick a place where your passion can come alive.

Have more questions about the location? Drop a comment below, and Levi will weigh in.


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