Helpful Tips for Opening a Coffee Shop in a Small Town

According to a study by Kate MacDonnell, there are 65,410 coffee shops in the United States as of 2023. Whether it’s a big city or a small town, you can expect to find coffee shops scattered throughout. They’ve become among the most sought-after businesses in the restaurant industry.

People drink coffee everywhere. If you’re looking for a business venture with guaranteed positive returns, investing in a coffee shop is what you need. But what if you live in a small town; is opening a coffee shop in a small town lucrative?

As with all businesses, opening a coffee shop in a small town can be overwhelming. You, therefore, need to devise a foolproof plan to ensure success. The good news is a coffee shop can thrive even in a small town.

Do in-depth research and discover what people love. The research, the plan, and how to execute the budget will ultimately contribute to the success of your business. Here are some helpful tips to consider when opening a coffee shop in a small town.

1. Draft a Business Plan

This is the most essential step in opening a coffee shop. The business plan should highlight what your core business is; in this case making and selling coffee. It should also identify its potential clients and what it’ll take to be profitable.

Clearly outline the demographics of your target market (your typical customer), the competition, projected revenues, milestones and goals. The key is to keep the business plan lean. A one-page pitch is more effective than the traditional lengthy business plans.

2. Find The Right Real Estate

Finding the right spot for your business is one of the most critical steps; where your business is located will directly impact your sales. Working with a real estate company that’ll get you the best location in the market is important. The realtor should help you secure a spot that’s appealing to the customers and easy to access.

With over 1,564,537 realtors to choose from in the United States, according to RE/MAX, picking the right one can be daunting. You’ll need to do your homework, review company reviews, and get recommendations from people you know. They wouldn’t want to steer you in the wrong direction if they were honest.

If, for example, an acquaintance recommends a Chinese realtor, find out what rules exist regarding the Chinese operating real estate in the U.S. Talk to a Chinese real estate attorney to be sure you’re working with a legitimate partner.

To ensure you’re working with the right broker, experience matters. Your realtor should have ideally sold other properties within the neighborhood and be able to advise you about the trends within that market. They should also be familiar with the ins and outs of the location to ensure they help you secure the perfect spot for your coffee shop.

3. Find an Excavator

When opening a coffee shop in a small town, you can choose to buy, rent, or build a space. Whichever the case, you will need to hire a local excavating contractor to either help lay the foundation of the building or conduct foundation repairs. According to IBISWorld, there are 49,582 excavating businesses in the U.S. as of 2023.

To avoid unwanted surprises and ensure work is done per your requirements, you’ll need to compare the different excavation services offered by different companies to determine which one suits you best. Other than comparing the services offered, ask for references from past clients. You are likely to have visited a company website when looking for a contractor and found photo evidence of work they’ve done in the past.

However, photos don’t always reveal the real picture. Important details such as the time it took to complete a project and whether it was completed within the allocated budget may not be included on the website, hence the need to get client comments and references.

4. Add Outdoor Seating

You most likely have envisioned your business’s physical design when opening a coffee shop in a small town. You want to ensure your customers have an unforgettable experience when enjoying coffee at your cafe. What better way to do that than to create an outdoor seating space at the deck where customers can escape typical coffee restaurant surroundings?

You could decorate the space with unique light fixtures and play relaxing music. As a business, your goal should be to captivate your customers and retain them. Therefore, creating the right ambiance is vital in ensuring a lasting impact that keeps customers returning to your coffee shop.

You can cover the deck to ensure the space is functional regardless of the weather. This ensures customers utilize the space whether it rains or not. You can install an under deck drain system that ensures customers don’t slip and fall in rainwater when walking. An outdoor space creates more seating space for customers and consequently helps increase business revenue. Consider having an outdoor seating space when opening a coffee shop in a small town.

5. Install New Windows

Most buildings in small towns are old and outdated. If you buy or rent such a building, the windows are likely old and outdated as well. Such windows may increase energy costs since they don’t regulate the indoor temperature efficiently.

When opening a coffee shop in a small town, you may want to update the old to new storefront glass windows. Five main types of commercial glass can be used as storefront glass; frosted glass, tinted glass, clear transparent glass, insulated glass, and safety glass. When choosing the right glass for your coffee shop, there are several factors to consider.

Durability and safety: Consider installing glass that can withstand harsh weather conditions such as strong winds and high temperatures. Fragile glass poses a potential risk for customers as well as staff. The last thing you want is to be liable or sued when your storefront glass breaks and injures a customer or staff. An example of a durable and safe glass to use is tempered glass.

Esthetics: when opening a coffee shop in a small town, ensuring your space is aesthetically pleasing is crucial. Using clear glass in such a case is ideal. You’ll attract new customers since they can see what’s behind the glass. Also, the service providers in your coffee shop can flaunt their skills as they serve customers.

6. Find a Waste Removal Service

When opening a coffee shop in a small town, acknowledge that just like any other business, your coffee shop will generate lots of waste. As much as you may want to cut costs and manage the waste alone, it isn’t practical. Waste management is not only time-consuming, but it also requires a lot of resources and handling expertise.

To focus on other important areas in your restaurant, the most realistic option is to outsource dumpster rental services. According to IBISWorld, there are 225 dumpster rental businesses in the U.S. As you can see, there are plenty of companies to choose from depending on the type of waste you want to be managed.

The more waste you generate, the more costs you incur. How can you reduce the amount of waste in your coffee shop? A few small changes will help save your business the cost of hiring waste management companies.

Use real coffee mugs instead of paper cups. This could be met with some resistance from customers who prefer paper cups. If that happens, encourage them to bring a travel mug they can use instead of the cups at the restaurant. The truth is, eliminating paper cups may not be possible; the most you can do as a business is to minimize their use.

7. Care for Your Utilities

Neglecting the utilities in your coffee shop inhibits the growth of your business. You may ask yourself, how? Well, picture this; you go to a restaurant and order tap water only to be served contaminated tap water or given the excuse that the taps have dried up.

Would you ever go back? Definitely not. Water is one of the most important utilities in a restaurant. It’s used for cleaning, cooking, washing dishes, and drinking.

If you plan on buying or renting a space that uses a well as the primary water source, conducting well inspections is advisable to ensure the well is in the right place within the property (not next to the sewer lines). Ensure no other issues could result in dried-up taps or contaminated water.

Electricity is another essential utility when opening a coffee shop in a small town. A sufficient supply of electricity will give you an upper hand when running your business. Some of the most effective and efficient cooking appliances require electricity to run. Therefore, ensure your coffee shop is located in an area with a sufficient supply of electricity to run all your appliances.

8. Install Security Features

Security is one of the most important factors to consider when opening a coffee shop in a small town. It’s likely when you hear about a breach of security in a restaurant that, your first thought is someone physically breaking in and stealing stuff. While this may occasionally happen, according to Corey Adams, 75% of restaurant inventory shortages are due to internal theft.

Restaurant owners can gain 10% more revenue with the right POS systems. Sean Peek says revamping security systems and features should be a top priority when opening a coffee shop in a small town. This is essential in preventing theft during and after working hours.

As much as a significant number of Americans use credit cards to pay for their restaurant bills, most of the transactions under 10 dollars are paid in cash. What measures can you implement to ensure your employees don’t pocket the money? Install a camera.

Employees behave accordingly when they know they are under 24-hour surveillance. Install cameras throughout the coffee shop to monitor what happens at all times.

9. Sell Merchandise

Competition within the restaurant industry continues to grow daily. Business owners must develop innovative ways to promote their businesses and stay relevant. A perfect example of how businesses can do this is through branded merchandise.

When designing a company logo, a slogan, or a theme color to put on specific merchandise, think about what’ll appeal to the target market. Investing in branded merchandise such as mugs, hats, and clothes may seem unnecessary for a small business. However, selling this merchandise creates a supplemental source of revenue and the following other benefits.

It helps to boost brand visibility. When customers wear branded items daily, unknowingly, they make your business more visible. They’re your ever-present mobile brand ambassadors, marketing your business whenever they wear them.

In business, brand visibility is important. People who don’t know your brand become aware of it when they come in contact with anyone wearing your branded merchandise. The probability that these people will eventually buy your product (coffee) is very high.

Wearing branded items also increases customer engagement. A business needs to engage its customers. Selling branded merchandise is a clever way of doing this. You’ll create a community of people who are proud to identify with your brand.

10. Host Fun Events

When opening a coffee shop in a small town, don’t underestimate the crucial role of community social responsibility. Businesses that incorporate social responsibility in their operations have a greater chance of customer loyalty and retention. Consider hosting fun events and games such as Pokemon cards to engage and give back to the community.

There are many great ways of engaging with the community you serve. Choose the most effective one and make it your business’s signature event that the community looks forward to. Hosting events such as book clubs and game nights will bring crowds to your coffee shop and boost your sales.

Such events portray your business positively, besides the added benefit of increasing sales. So, leverage your shop as the go-to meeting place for the community.

If you’re looking for a great business idea, and you live in a small town, consider opening a coffee shop. Besides the fact that you’ll make money from the venture, it’s an excellent way to serve the community. Let’s face it; people need an excuse to get out of their houses for a breather, and a restaurant not far from their homes is a perfect meeting place.

If you execute this right, with time, your new coffee shop will become the talk of the town, and with people choosing to work in coffee shops, make yours a comfortable place where people can also work from. Make it intimate and welcoming; it’ll soon become the community’s preferred meeting place.

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