Bruce Milletto, president of Bellissimo Coffee InfoGroup, spills the beans on how you can create a successful and profitable coffee business.
Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions we get about owning and operating a retail specialty coffee business.
Yes. The demand for specialty coffee is growing every day. Even in the mature coffee markets of Portland, Seattle and San Francisco, opportunity still exists for new coffee businesses. In other parts of the country, there is vast opportunity. Italy, with a population of 60 million, has over 200,000 coffee bars. In comparison, the U.S. has approximately 15,000 coffee bars with a population of 290 million. Do the math!
Get your information from a reputable company like Bellissimo Coffee InfoGroup. Since 1991, Bellissimo has set the standard for education and training in the specialty coffee industry. We have been in the business longer than any other consulting company, and thousands of coffee business owners have benefited from our experience and created profitable operations. Unlike other coffee industry consultants, Bellissimo does not sell products or equipment - the information you receive from us is unbiased and in your best interest, not ours.
You start by becoming a student of the coffee business. Attend tradeshows and subscribe to industry periodicals. Buy books about opening a specialty coffee business, including Bean Business Basics, Bellissimo's 740-page start-up/operational manual and the most comprehensive book available on the subject. Some choose to start their coffee business education by attending Bellissimo's American Barista & Coffee School, the first and only professional school in the U.S. devoted to coffee business education and hands-on barista training.
The next step is to hire an experienced consulting company like
Bellissimo to help you develop your concept and advise you during the
Finding a good location generally requires effort, persistence and patience. Probably one of the hardest things for people to realize is that the right location is worth waiting for. Take time to find the right location, even if it takes six months to a year.
Your location considerations will, of course, depend upon your concept. You will need a different type of location for an upscale, sit-down coffee bar than you would for a cart or drive-thru operation. One factor common to all desirable locations, however, is the proximity of a large population of potential coffee drinkers. Your business needs to be in a convenient location for customers - on their way to work in the morning, around the corner from where they work, or in the mall where they shop.
In most cases, from the day you sign your lease and go through the process of designing your coffeehouse, planning your menu, and building out your store, four to six months have passed. Some people want to do it faster, but the process can rarely be completed in less time.
Your concept may be unique, but you need to convince lending institution that it can be successful and that you possess the expertise-alone or collectively-to ensure that it will be profitable. The best way to do this is with your business plan.
Bellissimo consultants have written hundreds of business plans that
have helped their clients obtain financing and locations. When we write
your business plan, we focus on exactly what you are trying to achieve,
precisely where you want to go, and exactly how you plan to get there.
We detail the many expenses involved in opening your business, the
projected sales and monthly expenses of actual operation, and the
volume of business you will need to generate to be profitable. It is
critical to understand all of financial aspects of your proposed
business before approaching a lender.
Probably not. In our opinion, less than 20 percent of coffee roasters and espresso machine dealers have good training programs. You should have an expert train your staff to ensure they understand the fundamentals of beverage preparation and learn to make a consistent drink every time.
Many equipment and coffee companies offer training to entice individuals
to select their products over a competitor's, even if their staff is
unqualified to teach. Their salesperson may understand all the nuances
of proper preparation, but the information is usually passed along to a
coffee shop owner in a brief, initial training session. The owner is
then left with the responsibility of training their new employees
without the benefit of comprehensive training.
There are many reasons you should insist your baristas learn fancy art pours, often called caffe latte art. The first is marketing. Customers will remember your business if you serve them beautiful cappuccinos presented with flair. Knowing how to pour latte art also assures your baristas are steaming milk properly, a necessary component of the technique. Additionally, having this skill gives baristas a gigantic sense of pride, and makes their job more fun, interesting and challenging.
Because latte art has become an important component in
marketing a coffee business, Bellissimo has produced Advanced Barista
Training: Extreme Pours, a DVD that teaches sophisticated latte art
techniques in addition to the fundamentals of coffee grinding, espresso
extraction and milk texturing. Classes on latte art are also taught at
the American Barista & Coffee School.
The American Barista & Coffee School [ABC's] is the first and only professional school in the U.S. devoted to coffee business education and hands-on barista training. Unlike many other barista training programs and schools, we are not equipment dealers or roasters trying to sell you a certain product. We teach our students on numerous machines, expose them to myriad coffees and allow them to make the choices that are best for their specific business situation. All the training and information you receive at ABC's is unbiased and in your best interest.
Quality products and service are where the small operator can really compete against the chains. First, you can take more care in hiring your employees than the chains. Then, you can put your baristas and other staff through a careful training program instead of the quick cookie-cutter course that many chains use. That will assure they know how to prepare the best drinks.
What big chain executives can't do is interact with customers each day
to gain a feeling for the pulse of the community. There is no way they
can offer the personal touch that you can as a local owner. This is
your biggest competitive edge, so take advantage of it.
Bellissimo consultants are industry leaders who have owned, operated or
managed multi-unit retail coffee businesses. We can assist you in
analyzing your current business situation and propose ways to improve
your operation's structure, efficiency and profits.