10 considerations for setting up a coffee shop

25 July 2022

Setting up a coffee shop?

Are you thinking of setting up a coffee shop but don’t know where to start? We at Iron & Fire work with many start-up coffee businesses and are always happy to offer advice and support. We find we get asked the same sort of questions again and again and so we have put together a few considerations into this and other blogs on this website about the many elements of setting up a coffee shop.From our perspective, whether your business is new or established, great coffee always makes good sense. The market has changed and right now, the single most important factor and one that will make the most difference on its own, it’s your coffee offering.

Here are 10 points to consider before starting up or running a successful coffee shop


You must REALLY want to run a successful coffee business and have a crystal clear vision of what you want to achieve. This vision can only be driven by an overall passion to offer great products and a great service.


Good coffee always makes sense – repeat business from that second cup and more importantly same people coming back because your coffee is the one they need. The single most important factor and one that will make the most difference on its own, it’s your coffee offering. The growth of the speciality coffee market in the UK has been phenomenal, but not unexpected. We have finally followed the path of other 3rd wave coffee nations such as Australia and New Zealand and the British general public are discerning coffee drinkers.

The growth in speciality coffee has fuelled strong competition out there among coffee shop owners and has also helped everyday UK coffee drinkers become ever more discerning about the quality of coffee they drink. We simply expect and demand more than a poor afterthought of a coffee to go with our artisan Cronut.

Everything about great taste drives people to buy coffee and you need to have as clear an understanding of your coffee offering as you do you food. People will go out of their way to find great coffee and also to tell their friends about it!


With a great coffee product in place you can market it well – it can really make a difference to your business. Customers coming back for more and telling other potential customers about your coffee is the best marketing there is and there is no better product to do this with than coffee!

Do you want to mark yourself out as a coffee shop serving delicious coffee?

So delicious coffee is as much a must as delicious food. Quality products that look and taste amazing are what will hook your customers and bring them back in for more. Your product offering must reflect your original vision and passion but must also be commercial and fit with your business model…


This is the first and most important consideration around which your whole business will operate. What will you be doing exactly, and who for? Will you be opening a small, artisan speciality coffee shop focussing on serving a choice of specialist single origin exotic coffees? are you looking for the focus to be more on food along with a delicious speciality coffee to suit most tastes? What is your demographic? Do you want to appeal to students, families, professionals or all of the above? What products are you focussing on and when? Understanding the key busy times during your day will help you maximise your potential profits.

Once you have decided on your model, you will be thinking about where you will be based…


Strictly speaking setting up a coffee shop isn’t all about location. Obviously this is important but it is more about context and positioning yourself so that your chosen business model will work well with your chosen location and site. Bringing the wrong model to the wrong place can be a disaster so be realistic about what you can and cannot do in your chosen location and flexible. For example, if you are looking to open a cool, grungy cafe you may want to position yourself near a college or university or a more creative part of town. Remember your USP (Unique Selling Point) and position yourself well within the market.


Understanding the people around you is key to the success of your business and there will be many different groups to manage effectively, from suppliers, to customers to employees.

Your staff for example are a key major group and it can be a challenging process to recruit the right staff, bring them on side to share your vision and keep everyone motivated to present your vision to your customers. Knowing how your customers think is crucial.


‘Start with the end in mind’ is a great mantra when it comes to setting up your systems. Having process in place from the start will allow you to effectively train your staff and ensure everyone understands what they have to do and how and that room for error is minimised. Any issues you might come across will have many factors affecting it – all of which are a process which will have a system controlling it. If you can start your business with this mindset you won’t end up firefighting problems months down the line.

In terms of staffing, the more efficiently you run it the less staff you need and more harmonious it will be. Big chains are perhaps not best examples of good coffee but they certainly have great systems in place. Even if you are self managing, make sure you know how to make coffee when you are not busy and when you are busy – there will be a difference!


Crunch your numbers and know your costs. A good start is to work out what your daily target is in terms of cups of coffee and also then in absolute sales. How many cups do you need to sell for a worst case scenario. Then what is your best case scenario? Work out your sales and overheads and keep revisiting this to compare against actual performance. Be realistic. If cooking food then staff will be biggest expense!


Once you have decided to go ahead, think about the layout – you would be amazed at how small a space you need. Consider what your other offerings will involve in terms of preparation space. If set up efficiently with effective systems and processes in place, along with an efficient layout, you can set up a coffee shop to use minimum staff. Think about using takeaway cups. Disposable takeaway cups are finally going out of favour in the industry and rightly so. Compostable cups may cost a little more but are more than worth it for your reputation, our planet and your conscience.

If you want to read more on layout, have a look at our blog ‘How to layout your coffee shop counter’.


An efficiently used 2 group coffee machine can serve many customers at once. A badly used 3 group could make less, so again, great systems and good training will make or break this. Other considerations – is your machine going front and centre where people can see it? If so, consider style as well as functionality. Will it be in an intimate setting? If so, consider a silent manual extraction such as a lever espresso machine. For some ideas, check our machines page, read our blog on choosing a coffee machine or get in touch with us for some advice.

You May Also Like…