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How to start a café or coffee shop

How to start a café or coffee shop

Because of the proliferation of cafés and coffee shops, choosing the right location is crucial

The UK is known as a nation of tea drinkers but there’s no doubt Brits have embraced coffee too over the last few decades. The industry has been steadily growing for over 20 years, with recent statistics revealing that 80 per cent of consumers buy coffee from a coffee shop at least once a week.

If you’re thinking of starting a coffee shop or a café, you could look at those figures in two ways: you might think they show there’s a buoyant market for your business, or you might be overawed by sheer weight of competition!

In truth, both interpretations are fair. There’s no doubt cafés and coffee shops offer plenty of business opportunities for entrepreneurs but if you’re looking to open one, you need to be aware of the competition, not least from the big players on the market such as Starbucks or Costa.

Location, location

Because of the proliferation of cafés and coffee shops, choosing the right location will be crucial. Obviously you need to find somewhere without too much competition on your doorstep but it’s not quite as simple as that – you also need to investigate why there aren’t so many outlets in the area in the first place, because it could be a sign there’s less demand there.

But although you should be aware of the competition, there’s no need to be intimidated by it. In fact, you can use it your advantage by offering something different. With so many chain outlets around, you can win business by providing a more personal service and setting. There might also be a market for a more traditional offering. Remember, Brits still love their tea!

You’ll need to choose your premises carefully. First, you need to check the building has a suitable classification from the local authority to allow you to provide the services you wish to offer. For the sale of food or drink for consumption on the premises or of hot food for consumption off the premises, the building needs an A3 category allocation. If you’re preferred premises isn’t in the suitable category, you (if you’re the owner) or the landlord (if you’re leasing the premises) might need to apply for planning permission through the local authority.

Services

Also, take the layout into consideration and think about the services you intend to provide. If you are planning on offering take away as well as serving on-premises drinks and snacks you need to consider the flow of the customers and where the queues will develop. Try to imagine where you will place the counter, the facilities and the seating area.

You’ll need to familiarise yourself with your responsibilities regarding food safety and hygiene. You’ll need to register with the environmental health department at your local authority at least 28 days before you start trading. Ensure all staff are trained to operate the machinery and follow the necessary procedures.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) works with local authorities and businesses to help them produce safe food and enforces food safety regulations. To find out more, visit FSA website.

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