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Pro Chef: Part 1 of Opening a Coffee Shop

In just a couple of weeks’ time we will be involved in opening a coffee shop for a client of ours, this client has no experience in the industry and has given us a total blank canvas to play with, a chef’s dream. 

In this is a multi-part series we’ll be charting the journey from inception through to opening and we start here with how we identified our offer.

Part 2: The Menu
Part 3: Staffing Problems and the Critic


So, where do we start? Every good opening whether it be a fine dining restaurant, or a coffee shop needs a plan to make Day One happen. The first part is to understand our customers, the competition and then how we will set out our stall – what we’ll provide that will pull in customers and keep them coming back.  

Step 1: Customer Demographics

Walking around the catchment area of the coffee shop, looking at the local businesses, the profiles of the pedestrians and the local shops and services gave us an understanding of the demographic of our clients. In our case it’s young professionals who live and work in a busy city. Busy people who demand good quality food ‘on the go’, people who like interesting food and are willing to pay for it.

Step 2: Competition

Next was to look at the competition, taste their food, drink their coffee, watch their customers and recognise ‘why are they here’ and what makes them come back. Mostly this is all about quality and service, but we need to look at the value add and differentiators that the more successful outlets are offering. What’s working and what isn’t.

Step 3: Our Offer

Having identified the customer profiles and the competition, its now time to focus our attention on our offer, the menu. We need to think what is on trend, what we can achieve with the restrictions we have like equipment, space and skill sets. The other bit of the menu plan is what did the client have in mind. This is their dream, something they have wanted to do for along time.

Positioning, setting out our stall

We identified that the coffee shop needs to have an offer that works from opening at 7am until 3pm. Covers breakfast, brunch and lunch, with something sweet for the afternoon treat. Something that gets people to drop in on the way to work then again at lunchtime. We set to work drafting a balanced menu that would appeal to the target audience. Our first draft was simply a list of dishes that are:

  1. Expected, could be considered safe, something you may always see on a coffee shop menu, good selling dishes.
  2. Clients ideas and requirements, it is their dream after all!
  3. Dishes that make us different, amaze customers, something that keeps the customers coming back.

In Part 2 we’ll be covering the first draft of the menu, the first cook off and the dreaded “V” word.

Kindly contributed by Steve Midgely Consulting Development Chef, 30 years experience in fine dinning, creating fantastic experiences at Michelin star restaurants.