How many times have you walked into your local independent coffee shop either at 8:30 in the morning on a weekday, or lunchtime Saturday when it’s really busy and thought to yourself, ‘they have a really good business here.’

The fact of the matter is that a large proportion of independent coffee shops don’t make enough money for the owners to have a life outside of work. They are tied to the business and have to work in it every hour of the day to make enough to cover the overheads and to live on.

Not because they don’t do a great job, not because the coffee is not up to scratch, not because they don’t give great service, but because they do all of these things much better than the big chains because they care. The biggest reason is that they made a mistake at the very beginning of setting up their business, they either agreed to pay too much rent or took on a unit that was neither large enough or in the right position to be a success.

The main reason the large coffee chains make their business work is because they have very strict criteria for site selection, and even they get it wrong, there are plenty of examples of overpaying for sites and having to close.

How can an independent operator acquire the knowledge and experience of the corporate giants, so as to prevent making these mistakes. It’s incredibly difficult to get unbiased, independent advice, but not impossible. We often get asked by potential coffee shop owners to have a look at a site for them, and as long as it’s not close to our business they will get an unbiased, honest opinion!

The key is that you understand the dynamics of any situation, eg a landlord will always be positive about a sites potential, the property agent will be interested in getting their commission, the local chamber of trade will be positive about the area, and potentially the current occupant will want to leave because it’s not working out for them.

That’s why in our book, ‘The Daily Grind – how to open a coffee shop that makes money’, we devote a large chapter to selecting a clever location to open your new coffee shop. We have also put together a scoring spreadsheet to help you estimate the attractiveness of the site to your potential customers.

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