Opening a Cafe: Your Ultimate Checklist

Despite the prevalence of large-scale coffee chains like Starbucks, independent coffee shops are still thriving in the modern business world. With a focus on quirky design, high-quality coffee, and a relaxing atmosphere, independent cafes can distinguish themselves from the pack!

If you’re interested in the world of coffee shops and cafes, it’s important you understand what you’ll need to open a shop of your own. If you’re opening a coffee shop, your checklist is going to be long, but every step is crucial to your success.

So to help you understand the most important steps for starting a cafe, Impos has put together this guide, which is sure to be helpful to new cafe owners who are looking for a comprehensive checklist for opening a cafe!


1. Find the right location

The first step of our checklist is simple; you’ll need a location for your cafe! This is very important. Look for a location that has:

  • High foot traffic
  • A central location around numerous businesses
  • Plenty of other restaurants and shops
  • Affordable monthly rent
  • The requisite plumbing/electrical utilities to support your shop

Though it may seem a bit scary, it’s often a great idea to take over the lease of a coffee shop that’s not doing so well, as long as it has a great location.

This helps you build a customer base more quickly. It also ensures that the necessary plumbing/electrical utilities are present, and that the process of licensing/permits will go smoothly.

2. Obtain proper permits/licensing

Before going any further, you’ll need to register your business with the government. This step isn’t usually too difficult.

A government employee will usually come to your establishment to examine it, and make sure that you conform to the requirements to operate a coffee shop. Then, for a fee, you’ll be issued a permit that allows you to operate your cafe.

3. Set up your supply chain

When setting up a cafe, a great supply chain is essential. You need to decide what kinds of coffee you’ll offer, where you’ll get it from, and how many different varieties you might need to ensure your cafe’s a hit!

Your budget will be a factor as well. If you can spend extra on high-quality coffee beans, you may be able to draw in coffee enthusiasts from far and wide, but your initial startup costs will be higher.

You’ll need to consider other factors too. For example, if you plan on roasting your own coffee beans, you’ll need to buy green coffee from your suppliers and make sure you have enough time to roast and grind the coffee before it’s used.

4. Invest in high-quality equipment

The equipment you need to run a coffee shop can be quite expensive. Here is a list of some of the hardware you’ll need to begin operations at your coffee shop:

  • Drip coffeemakers
  • Industrial coffee grinders
  • French presses
  • Espresso machines
  • Refrigerators and freezers
  • Insulated flasks for cream and milk
  • Food service containers and pumps
  • Ovens/toasters/other cooking devices
  • Industrial blenders
  • Security system
  • Storage and shelving systems
  • POS system and cash registers

While the cost of this equipment can be quite high, much of it can often be found second hand in restaurant supply stores, or on websites such as Gumtree, usually from other coffee shops that are shutting down.

But don’t think about skimping on quality – particularly for the POS system. A powerful cafe POS system allows fast, efficient checkouts, and provide cafe owners with valuable, data-driven insights that can help improve business operations.

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5. Choose the right employees

Cafes and coffee shops are service businesses – so you should choose your employees based on their ability to provide excellent, friendly customer service.

This is a crucial part of your checklist – bad service can spell doom for your business, even if your products are stellar. Choose employees that are:

  • Industry professionals, and have worked in coffee shops before
  • Friendly and outgoing
  • Passionate and knowledgeable about coffee
  • Reliable and punctual

It can be hard to find the perfect employees for your shop, but it’s worth taking the time to do so. Your business will live and die based on the quality of its service – so rushing things is a bad idea.

6. Don’t forget marketing/promotion

Once you’ve completed the first 5 steps of our checklist, you’re ready to open for business! Now is the time to begin marketing and promoting your new coffee shop. You might want to think about:

  • providing free samples to passersby
  • investing in high-quality signage for your storefront
  • creating a customer loyalty program
  • reaching out to local food bloggers and Instagram influencers
  • contacting local media such as radio stations, newspapers, and TV stations
  • issuing a press release announcing the opening date of your coffee shop
  • using social media to spread word about your grand opening
  • hosting free coffee classes and workshop

As you continue to market and promote your coffee shop, you’ll build up a loyal customer base quickly, and be well on your way to running a successful, profitable business!


Your “opening a cafe” checklist – your roadmap to success!

Whether you’re in the middle of starting your business, or you’re just interested in the process of opening up a coffee shop, read through the above advice – and use it to your advantage as you continue working towards your goals!

Starting any business is risky. There’s never a guarantee that you’ll succeed. But follow the expert advice in our Guide to Starting a Cafe and you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what you’ll need to run a profitable and popular cafe!

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