The barrier for entry to owning a coffee shop or starting a roastery is lower than it has ever been. It is easier to get into the game, chisel out a little neighborhood to post up, and develop a following of the just everyone who is drinking coffee these days. However, just stenciling a fancy name on the window and opening the door is not enough these days. With a lower barrier for entry also comes with it more competition and increased difficulty to predict monthly demand and respond with staffing and supplies.

To help new shops along, we have gathered a little checklist/advice list of sorts that successful small shops do to make sure they make it. We have NOT used any tactics from coffee shops that have more than one location. We removed those as they likely have a different amount of financial backing that may not be helpful here.

Google My Business. The first thing you need to do is sign up for your Google My Business listing. Go here. This will put your shop on the map for when people search for things like “coffee shops near me open now.” <– That link is what shows up for me working in Denver right now.

Know that your GMB listing is very important and it can sometimes take a little bit to get it approved and listed correctly.

Curate this listing as much as you can. Add photos, create posts, list coupons, etc. Also, be very very very accurate on your information for phone number, website, and hours.

Finally, RESPOND to reviews. Whether negative or positive, be active. Bad reviews can kill you and paying attention to you reviews can head off any issues and provide visibility into your customer service.

Build a Website. There are just so many tools out there that are free or cheap along with being fast to create. Wix, WordPress, Squarespace. Those are what we would recommend. You likely won’t transact much on this website, so you are essentially just creating a brouchure or business card for your shop. Take a day, muscle through it, done.

Think differently about advertising. Once you have your shop, figure out what the other shops in your area are doing, and think differently. Maybe it makes sense to do doorhangers in the area. Maybe you sponsor events. Maybe you wiggle your want into Next Door. There are boutique marketing agencies out there who can help, if you have the money to pay for it. They may also be able to give you just some free, quality advice. If nobody is spending money on advertising, it might make sense to engage with an agency to fill this void. For our money, we would think about foregoing the first 2-3 months of revenue and put that toward marketing.

Study your competition. Go have a drink at the other shops in your neighborhood and see what they do. Hang around for a couple hours. Absorb what happens and react. They have been doing this longer than you and have likely already gone through and fixed issues you are likely to face, so pay attention. Copy what they are doing well. Make sure to avoid things you don’t like. Create offerings where they are remiss.

Look at your shop with fresh eyes. There is a local coffee shop in Denver where they don’t have any shades. The coffee is great. The natural light is amazing, but the heat and shine of the sun is too intense to withstand. After 10a, everyone leaves. However, the coffee bar was not in the sun, so the employees weren’t feeling what the patrons were feeling. It wasn’t a nuisance. It was unbearable. So do all of the things a customer would do. Sit in all areas of the shop. Try to park when it’s busy. Use the customer bathroom, etc. These might seem like small things, but when customers have so many options, they can and THEY WILL be picky. Don’t lose a lifetime customer from something that is small and solvable.

We will continue to update this post as new tactics and ideas come to light.