How to Start a Coffee shop

We’ve met, worked with and come into contact with so many excellently run coffee shops over the years and, inspired by the success stories, have put together our thoughts on things to think about if you’re considering getting into the business.

Never forget that a coffee shop is first and foremost a business, and like any other business, you need passion, creativity, common sense, good decision-making skills, strong interpersonal skills and an absolute handle on the numbers to make it a success! It’s definitely not an easy option, especially in these tough economic times. There is a lot of competition and the chain coffee shops to compete with - but conversely, independent coffee shops are more popular than ever.

York Coffee Emporium can help in many ways, from supplying equipment to helping you create the perfect blend for your shop, but first there are a few basics to consider.


What's your big idea?
Coffee is all about culture. Recently, independents have been taking market share from the large chains by delivering a better product, better customer service and a more individual, customised offering. Think of an idea or approach that will differentiate you from the chains!

Do your market research.
Visit as many cafes as you can and create a list of the good and the bad. Ask friends and relatives to do the same. Do some desk research on market size, segmentation, trends,footfall, revenue etc - this will help you choose a location, which is a vital factor.

Plan, plan and plan again.
You'll need a business plan that covers everything from marketing to operational processes to finance. A good understanding of finance and spreadsheets is vital and there is a lot of resource and help out there to get up to speed. Planning will help you to focus your ideas, although don't be surprised or concerned if things change once you get going.

Choose your suppliers with care.
Your suppliers should understand and buy into your vision. If something is offered for free and seems to good to be true, it probably is. Be suspicious about signing long term or tied contracts (for example, a 'bargain priced machine if you buy our coffee’) as your suppliers should survive on their individual merits. And finally - choose good coffee, tea and food!

Get advice.
There is a wealth of stuff on the web, in the library and, most likely, within your family and friend network, let alone Local Enterprise Partnerships etc. Don't be afraid to use all these sources.

Get operationally fit.
You need to be competent and have staff that are up to the mark. Get training if required and take care when recruiting - you need helpful, friendly staff that understand what you want to achieve. You'll need to be able to run a busy operation six or seven days a week and be consistent with quality of service and end product, along with all the other support disciplines required by the business: accounts, logistics, compliance with regulations, marketing etc.

PR and marketing.
You'll need to think about how you're going to get the message out there to get customers in. Don't leave this to chance - use the local press, social media, flyers, opening offers and maybe advertisements. PR and marketing should never be far from your thoughts!


You'll need everything from mops and fridges to espresso machines and furniture. It’s important not to underestimate how much this could cost. Below are a couple of useful articles to have a read over with your coffee!

How to start a coffee shop - do your market research

Knowing your market - understanding the competition

For espresso and coffee machines, you need to consider reliability, price and functionality. You'll need to select a machine with the correct output for your estimated usage and you need to be prepared to invest in the training of your staff as many machines are complex.

Ask about service costs, spare part prices, service levels and discounts - and then ask again! Make sure you have the correct power supply, plumbing and space for the machine you want and don't allow yourself to be seduced by the outward appearance of the machine. You'll also need a good grinder, water treatment system, barista accessories and crockery (what type and size cups are you going to hold?). At York Coffee Emporium we work with the espresso machine manufacturer La Cimbali - due to their inherent reliability, quality and advanced functionality. We can advise on the best machine for your needs, as well as all the peripheral information.

Cimbali espresso machines


Getting the right coffee blend is really important. Luckily artisan roasters like us are here to help! Choosing the blend is something that we do hand in hand with the cafe owner. We normally recommend a house espresso blend, based on the taste characteristics wanted to be the owner (these should be tied to their vision and the expected taste of its customers). This could be one of our existing blends or a new blend created just for the cafe.

We also offer Guest Coffees, usually seasonal single origin 'specials' supplied with provenance information and tasting notes. This offers customer choice and a change. As a roaster we can vary the percentages of the single origin coffees in the blend as well as alter the roast profile. This means that if you like a particular blend but it's a little acidic or a bit too mild, we can alter the roast profile of the beans (At York Coffee Emporium all coffees are roasted individually by single origin and then blended to maximise the taste profile of each type) to get it just right for your taste. If you are looking for a wholesale coffee supplier in Yorkshire talk to us!


The specialist coffee market is growing year on year as the popularity and interest of quality coffee has risen. After all, most of us are keen to taste and appreciate good coffee (and tea) and this has contributed to a healthy resurgence in independent coffee shops and artisan roasters.

It's fantastic to see the passionate, quirky independents delivering great coffee and being successful. An increasing number of the general public now know when they have been served a good or bad coffee and are choosing to search out the good - you only need to look at the thriving independent cafe scene in Yorkshire to see. All of the cafes we supply take a huge interest in the coffee they stock and are keen to source quality, local products.


We are always keen to help with all aspects of opening a cafe including coffee, espresso machines, tea, other drinks and accessories, point of sale material and training. As we’re passionate about our product and industry, we have formed a network of like minded, honest professionals who collectively provide a huge knowledge and experience base - so if we don't know the answer we'll know someone who does!


When Castle Howard’s coffee shop switched to York Coffee Emporium and had a few problems with their grinder, I ended up helping them out in an unexpected way! I’d delivered the coffee, adjusted the grinder and left them to it,although I wasn't happy with how the grinder was performing. The following day all was not well so I went back and found that the grinder had moved out of tolerance again. A quick diagnosis, clean and reset sorted the issue but by this time the queues were quite long and the manager was short staffed so I ended up donning a Castle Howard apron and helping out! Six hours later I left exhausted but happy, having had some great fun - they do have polite and understanding customers at Castle Howard!