The Question to Ask a Coffee Shop Owner

questions to ask a coffee shop owner, on starting your own cafe, on starting a coffee business

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Start a coffee business: Photo credit: Tumblr Black Oak Coffee

One of the best strategies you can employ when you are thinking about starting a coffee shop or a coffee stand is to ask current or recent coffee shop business owners.

This is not a novel idea. Many aspiring professionals seek out other professionals in nearly every profession or business opportunity. Rarely does a soon-to-be business owner SKIP OUT on seeking the advice of business owners who have learned a thing or two about their business.

Ok, assuming you agree that seeking out the advice of current coffee shop or coffee stand business owners is beneficial, what questions should you ask?

If you have the opportunity to ask a coffee shop owner how he or she opened their coffee shop and off their recommendations and tips for starting a coffee shop, we have compiled some general questions that you might want to ask them below.


Getting The Advice for Starting a Coffee Shop

The following is a list of top questions that you might want to consider asking your local coffee shop owner if you approach them for advice on how to start a coffee shop.

Question #1: How did you start your coffee shop?

There is no right way to start a coffee shop (However, there are plenty of wrong ways!). Because each situation is different is good to a get a variety of perspectives from a variety of coffee shop owners.

This is, of course, is a very broad question to start with. Allow the coffee shop owner to tell his or her story how they started their business. What barriers did they encounter and what specific challenges did they face?


Question #2: How did you get started in the coffee business?

I love this question because you will begin to see the diversity of coffee shop owners. Despite the myth that you have to be an award-winning barista to succeed in the coffee business, you will find that many successful coffee shop owners come from varied backgrounds.

Perhaps what you will find however, is a love and passion for coffee, a tendency to be a “people’s person”, and also very tenacious. But you should ask, what experience they had with coffee before starting their business? Did they have a retail background? Had they had any other business prior to setting up their coffee shop?

Often you find some interesting stories about how they got started. When they tell you their background, see how it can apply to yours. Even if you are in a completely different field at the moment, allow their story to inspire you to start your coffee shop or coffee drive-thru stand.


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Question #3: What pitfalls did you encounter?

Every new business encounters pitfalls. Decisions or time periods that may have been avoided. Asking a successful coffee shop owner what problems or challenges that they encountered, especially in the early months of their business, could shed light on your coffee shop business planning.

Listen to their story. Listen to their logic. Ask yourself how it would apply to your business planning. Let’s say a poor decision led them to lose thousands of dollars. Is something that you can avoid? Most pitfall result in money losses. Perhaps they will open up to you and specifically talk about their money concerns, budget overruns, or lack of budgetary planning.

By asking the right questions, you can potentially save yourself hundreds to thousands of dollars – and even save your coffee shop business from failure!


Question #4: How would you recommend starting a coffee shop business today?

Coffee shop owners or business owners in general, are the best resource for asking this question. After all, they have just been through quite a lot in ensuring the success of their coffee business.

While this question might be somewhat general, it allows the coffee shop owner to express his or her immediate reflections on how they started their coffee shop and what they would do differently.

The sting of failure or the loss of money can stay with a coffee shop owner for some time. Your coffee shop budget is always an important topic to discuss.These are the same losses you will want to avoid when you start your own coffee shop business.

If you have the opportunity to sit down with a coffee shop owner and ask him or her this question, I hope you take notes.  You should also be aware that if a coffee shop owner is burned out, has lost money, or is currently running a failing business, they may not be so supportive of you starting your own coffee shop or setting up your own coffee stand business.

Take their advice as “just advice” and make your own determinations with your business. While you should heed their advice, you shouldn't let anyone discourage you from starting your own coffee business.


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Question #5: What recommendations do you have about coffee equipment?

Without the right coffee equipment, it will be impossible for you to offer you make the consistently great tasting coffee that your customers will demand.

Asking a coffee shop owner what recommendations on equipment they need, you will get a good perspective on what equipment you will need as well.

Of course, if they are serving baked goods and sandwiches (and you don’t intend to) then your equipment needs will vary. But you will certainly get their professional opinion on what equipment they think you’ll need.

Now you may simply listen to their recommendations and then balance their options to what your needs and budget require.


Question #6: What should I know about signing my rental lease?

The success of your coffee shop will live and die with your business property lease. Your business lease will determine and dictate the activities that your business engages in.

Additionally, every month comes around quickly. So, making that monthly lease on time can be challenging especially during the beginning.  This is a great question to ask because most training programs don’t bother to address this very important issue.


Question #7: How can I save money and reduce my startup costs?

Chances are that the coffee shop owner would immediately share how they could have saved money and reduced their startup costs. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.

It’s amazing to think about it. A seemingly simple question to the right person can literally save you thousands of dollars.

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Photo credit: Alfiedude


Question #8: What mistakes did you make and how can I avoid them?

Starting a new business is never easy. Plenty of decisions will need to be made when setting up any business – and a coffee shop is no different! Since there will be hundreds and hundreds of small decisions to me made, chances are not all of them will be the right ones.

But what if you could avoid some big mistakes? How much would that be worth to you? A financial loss small or large, but what about the avoidance of stress and anxiety?

Learning from experience is wise on any level and in any field. Learning from current or former coffee shop owners can help you avoid some mistakes – so ask away!




What to Consider When You Set Up Your Coffee Shop

So, you’ve heard the answers that were provided by the coffee shop owner you interviewed. There is probably a lot of information that you’ve been provided. Take time to reflect on the information they gave you and work hard to avoid them.

If you don’t have time to reach out to current coffee shop owners, consider getting our Complete Coffee Shop Startup Kit. It contains 15 hours of audio interviews that reveal the expertise and wisdom of coffee shop business owners and coffee business experts.

Receive Our FREE Guide!

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