Have you always dreamed of opening a coffee shop? Then you’ve come to the right place.
Starting a coffee shop business plan is the first step to success. If you’re planning on raising startup capital by pitching to investors, make sure your coffee shop business plan is ready because they will definitely ask to see it.
If you’ve never seen a coffee shop business plan before, here’s a sample you can use (along with the template below) to get you started. It covers all the basic elements of a proper business plan, including an executive summary, overview and description of a coffee shop business, marketplace information, marketing initiatives, business operations, and financial plans.
In this article, we provide a step-by-step approach on how to write a successful coffee shop business plan. We outline each section needed in a good plan, explain that section’s purpose, and provide an example you can use as a starting point.
6 things to consider before writing your coffee shop business plan
Before you start actually writing your coffee shop business plan, there are a few things you want to nail down first that will save you time and make communicating your vision a lot easier.
Make sure you can answer each of the following questions:
1. How long should a coffee shop business plan be?
A business plan can be anywhere from a few sheets to hundreds of pages long, depending on the size of your proposed business.
For a relatively small business like a coffee shop it’s best to keep the plan as brief and succinct as possible. We recommend 30 pages or less – especially if you intend to submit it to financial lenders for debt or equity financing. They will be looking for solid research, analysis, and strategy written in a concise form.
2. Who’s going to read your coffee shop business plan?
Take into consideration the audience of your coffee shop business plan. Will you be approaching financial lenders or investors? Or is your plan specifically for you and your management team? Just like creating a marketing plan, you need to adjust your writing style and messaging to match the audience’s interest. Certain sections might need more emphasis over others depending on your primary audience.
3. Where will your coffee shop be located?
If you aren’t ready to choose an exact location for your coffee shop, you should at least know which neighbourhood you’re targeting. The location you choose will determine important elements of your coffee shop business plan, such as your competitive analysis and venue type.
4. What is your venue type?
It’s important that you have a clear idea or concept of the type of coffee shop you want to open. What you need to cover in your coffee shop business plan will depend on whether you’re opening a small intimate cafe, gourmet food stand, or craft microbrewery. These can all be considered coffee shops. Sometimes it’s helpful to create Pinterest boards to help you fully visualize your concept.
5. What are your business goals?
Do you have any ideas of what your short- and long-term business goals are for your coffee shop? Are you going to start with one location and then expand a year after launching? Do you want to start off smaller with a food stand and then, once you have enough sales, open a sister coffee shop in a different neighbourhood? Be as specific as you can when communicating your vision and the goals you’re aiming to achieve.
6. What are your credentials and experience?
Have you ever worked in the coffee shop industry? Do you have any certifications? Consider the skills and experience you have that would give your audience confidence that you’re the right person for the business.
If you’re confident you have the skills and experience, then it should show in the coffee shop business plan. But if you’ve never spent any time working in the foodservice industry, you may want to get some hands-on experience so that, at the very least, you know what you’re getting yourself into.
5 Tips for Writing a Coffee Shop Business Plan
So now you’re ready to start writing your coffee shop business plan. To make the writing process easier for you, here are five useful tips:
- Collect relevant resources (in addition to this article) that will help you when writing. This can include how-to guides, research and trends, and sample business plans – real or imagined. You can use all of these as inspiration and include them in the appropriate sections of your business plan.
- Write down as much as you can without filtering yourself in the first round. Once everything is out, you can then determine which parts are relevant to which part of your business plan.
- Don’t let yourself get stuck on one section. If you get writer’s block, make a note and move on to the next section. You can revisit it later, once you have more information or clarity.
- Use visuals such as graphics and images to clarify your message wherever appropriate. As you write your coffee shop business plan, pull images from any Pinterest boards you created while visualizing your venue and concept.
- All good things take time. So will your coffee shop business plan. Don’t worry if it takes longer than what you were hoping for. As time passes and you continue to work on your plan, you’ll be able to fine-tune your message and express your thoughts in a cohesive and succinct way.
Coffee Shop Business Plan Template
1. Table of Contents
Even for a small coffee shop, your business plan is going to be a long document. A table of contents makes it easier for someone to find specific sections as they read through your plan.
2. Executive Summary
While the executive summary should appear at the beginning of your business plan, it’s the last thing that should be written because it’s an overview of the full business plan. It’s the most important part of your business plan and should be no longer than one page. The purpose is to summarize the main points of the plan, which helps save your audience time. They can then review the sections that are of most interest to them if they want to learn more. Remember to keep this section concise yet inspiring.
3. Business Overview
This section should include a list of basic information about your business. Refer to our coffee shop business plan template to see what it should look like when it’s fully fleshed out.
Below are common details that should be included in your plan, especially if you’ll be seeking bank loans or pitching to investors:
- Legal name of business
- Trade name of business (doing business as)
- Business address (or potential business address)
- Nature of business
- Structure of business
- Date business was established
- Current mailing address
- Phone number
- Banking details (branch and banker’s name)
- Social media handles
4. Business Description
This section is where your coffee shop concept comes to life.
It’s time to describe your business in great detail: elements like what the concept is going to look like, where it will be located, and the kind of vibe or brand you’ll be creating. Your business description provides paint a clear picture of your vision and goals.
Here’s what to include in your business description:
Will your coffee business be a sole trader, partnership, limited liability partnership or limited liability company? What people will be involved and what are their roles? Will some wear multiple hats? Be concise – you’ll go into more detail about the team later on.
Your coffee shop concept is your big idea. Take the time to describe why your idea is unique and what differentiates you from other coffee shops. Why should coffee drinkers choose your shop over the one down the street or two blocks over? Also, consider what kind of experience you want to create for your customers. Having a restaurant is not just about what you serve to customers but how you serve the whole experience.
Your restaurant mission statement is one sentence that describes what your coffee shop will achieve. Think of your end goal as the ultimate driving force behind your business. Your mission statement should be something that can be displayed on marketing materials, so keep it short and straight to the point. It needs to easily express to people what your business is about.
Short- and long-term goals
In this section, you’ll want to mention any relevant personal and/or business goals. Your short-term goals describe your first year as a coffee shop owner. Long-term goals involve bigger picture thinking. They are things like how to scale your business or expand into new markets. Be descriptive in this section, but also realistic (i.e. stay within the scope of your financial projections).
Menu and services
Include a sample menu and discuss your concept in greater detail. If you’re going to offer catering, delivery, or any other services, also include details about complimentary parts of the business in this section. Describe anything else you’ll be selling, such as pre-packaged foods, canned or bottled drinks, or retail products.
You probably haven’t secured a location or negotiated a lease just yet. No problem. Instead of those details, mention the neighbourhoods you’re considering for your venue and why. Answer the following questions and consider the effects they will have on your business:
- Attraction: Which features of the neighbourhood will affect your coffee shop?
- Competition: What other coffee shops or related businesses are located in the area?
- Demographics: What kinds of people live, work, or visit the neighbourhood?
Describe your concept with as much visual detail as possible. Communicate why these details are important and how they relate back to your brand. If you’re working with a design agency or interior designer, mention them in this section and include their visual proposals or mockups.
Business description summary
This section covers a lot, so briefly sum it all up at the end. The business description tends to be filled with a lot of necessary details, so a summary will help your audience understand the main points.
5. The Marketplace
For this section of the coffee shop business plan, you want to demonstrate that you have thoroughly analysed the target market and can prove there is a demand for your business.
A good way to gather intelligence is to do a competitor analysis. Visit your competition, document their menu items, marketing tactics, business practices, pricing, and brand positioning, then analyze your findings from a variety of different angles.
You can also ask people in your prospective neighbourhood about how businesses perform in that area. By gathering as much information as you can, your marketplace assessment will be realistic and paint a clearer picture of how your business can be successful.
The marketplace section is another lengthy part of the coffee shop business plan, that includes the following components:
In this section, you should provide an overview of your target audience. Consider details like demographics, psychographics, and segments of your target market.
It’s time to put your target customers under the microscope, show how well you know them. What types of people will frequent your coffee shop and what similarities/differences do they share? Get qualitative and quantitative data, and reference external resources that provide statistics about your customer segments and any other relevant information. Note that each customer segment within your target demographic will most likely have specific needs.
Include relevant statistics about past and current trends within your targeted marketplace. Anything that relates to the demand for a coffee shop business, as well as social and economic factors that have affected similar businesses in the area. Also mention if you’ve conducted your own research or hired a third-party to conduct research on your behalf.
In this section, you’ll want to be specific about who you consider to be competition. You’ll have both direct and indirect competition within your chosen neighbourhood. Your direct competitors are the coffee shops that offer similar customer experiences and types of cuisine. Indirect competitors may be different from your coffee shop concept but still compete for your target market’s attention and spend.
Now that you’ve analysed the competition, you should be able to articulate what makes you stand out from the others. What does your coffee shop offer to your target audience that no one else currently provides? Why should someone choose your business over another?
Taking into account your competition and customers, you should see where the gaps lie between supply and demand. Use this knowledge to fine-tune your concept and provide a better option for customers. From the menu to opening hours, whatever your coffee shop can do better than everyone else should be highlighted in this section.
Now consider the flip side: what advantages do your competitors have over your business? What do they offer to the market that your coffee shop doesn’t? Provide rationale as to why your coffee shop faces these barriers and, most importantly, how you’ll tackle them once you’re officially open.
Time to sum it all up. Expect this section to be a long one, because you’ve got to summarise everything you’ve outline in regards to your marketplace. Highlight the pieces of information that will have the most impact on your audience, such as the demographics of your target market, advantages, and opportunities.
You may be an amazing barista who can make a killer cappuccino, but without consistent customers and sales, your business isn’t going to last for very long. You need a marketing strategy to keep people coming through the doors.
In this section, we’ll provide an overview of what to include in your marketing strategy, which you can use later on as the framework for your full restaurant marketing plan.
Describe how you’ll appeal to your target customers and stay top of mind. Use the differentiators you outlined in the marketplace section to guide your positioning strategy. What do you offer that your target customers can’t get anywhere else? How will you communicate these offerings?
Describe your pricing strategy and how it compares to competitors. The most common question small businesses owners have is, “How do you know what price to charge?”
Questions that will help you decide on a pricing strategy include:
- What are your food costs? (the total amount spent on food and beverages)
- What are your food portion costs? (the sum total of all ingredients in one menu item)
- What is the market price of similar menu items? (i.e. your competitors)
- How does your pricing compare to the market price?
- How is your pricing competitive?
- What kind of return on investment do you expect with this pricing strategy, and within what time period?
Once you’ve determined your pricing strategy, make sure it aligns with your financials. The prices you charge have to be competitive but still allow you to make a reasonable profit.
- Social Media: If you plan on creating and maintaining social media accounts like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, explain how you’ll use them to promote your business and brand.
- Website: Describe your website’s overall concept and how it aligns with your brand. Provide visuals of the main elements and design style. Also, mention if you plan to built the site in-house or pay for professional services.
- Advertising: List all of your paid digital promotions such as review sites, email marketing, and social media ads, as well as any agencies you’ll work with to develop and execute your digital marketing initiatives.
Will you be hosting an event for coffee lovers? Running a free coffee for a month contest? What about mailing printed ads to tempt locals with photos of your pastries? It’s always a good practice to have a mix of promotional tactics, so if you plan on utilising traditional channels as well as digital, list all your planned traditional ones here.
Again, here’s your opportunity to briefly summarise your overall marketing strategy and describe which channels you’ll be investing in the most. Emphasize why your marketing strategy is the best approach for both the type of coffee shop you’re opening and the neighbourhood.
7. Business Operations
You’ve described your vision, the marketplace, and how you plan to market your business. Now it’s time to outline how you’ll actually execute your plan. This means outlining who will operate the day-to-day of your coffee shop.
Describe the main business management categories relevant to your coffee shop and identify the core team members who are going to have responsibility for each category. Introduce everyone on your payroll, from your restaurant consultant to management team to star baristas. List everyone’s qualifications, skills, and responsibilities, placing emphasis on how each role will help you reach your business goals.
List your suppliers according to type. Include descriptions of how each supplier will serve your coffee shop’s needs, as well as their credit and payment terms. This will include everything from food to technology to takeout coffee cups – even landscaping, if you location needs it. Consider how these suppliers may fit into your overall brand, in terms of what quality they are and how they’re sourced.
Since your coffee shop needs insurance coverage, conduct research to determine what’s mandatory. From general liability to workers’ compensation, getting the right insurance will help you sleep at night knowing you’re covered if something goes wrong (a big knock on wood here). Be sure to check with local and national requirements because these requirement may vary. Also, compare quotes from insurance providers. List each type of insurance your coffee shop will need and include what’s covered.
Figuring out what licenses your coffee shop will need is similar to insurance requirements (though this list may be longer). Required licenses and permits can be everything from a business license to food handler permits to music licenses. Start your research as soon as possible by checking your local government office website. List all of the licenses and permits required for your coffee shop and staff in this section.
Business operations summary
Summarize the main points discussed in the Business Operations section. This should be fairly straight forward, as it’s more fact-based than other sections.
The financial plan is the most important section of your coffee shop business plan – especially if you need debt financing or are trying to pitch to investors. Your financial plan has to demonstrate your business’ potential for growth and profitability. To do this, you will need to document your forecast in four main parts:
- Revenue (forecasted sales)
- Controllable costs (food and beverage costs, cost of labour)
- Expenses (rent, supplies, utilities, marketing, etc.)
- Start-up costs (costs related to opening your coffee shop, such as capital improvements and training)
For new businesses, a good rule of thumb is to underestimate revenues and overestimate expenses – the age old “under promise, over deliver” strategy.
We’ve created a forecast within our coffee shop business sample plan to demonstrate what numbers need to be included. Once you understand the sample forecast, you can then create your own forecast sheets and add in your numbers to project how profitable you’ll be.
9. Coffee Shop Business Plan Summary
Your business plan summary needs to tie together the overall message you’re trying to communicate. Use this final section to highlight how your coffee shop is different from what’s currently available in the market. It’s an opportunity for you to reiterate the most important points about your business.
Make sure to include the following sections:
- Why your business will be successful: In a few sentences, repeat how your coffee shop is different and why your business will work.
- What you need to be successful: If you’re asking for funding, repeat that ask here.
- A thank you note: Thank your audience for reading your coffee shop business plan and remind them that you value their time and feedback.
If you’re thinking about opening a coffee shop then creating a business plan needs to be at the top of your priority list. Remember: you’re building a foundation for success. This includes saving money – because you’ll have your financials organized – and being able to actually get funding from banks and investors.
It’s a lot of work, yes. But keep in mind that you’re working toward making your dream a reality. Any time you can put in now, and we highly recommend additional research wherever possible, will benefit you on the other side – from the first cup to that last drop.