How to start a café or coffee shop

cafe, coffee shop

Written and reviewed by:

Bryn Glover - Startups

Our independent reviews are funded in part by affiliate commissions, at no extra cost to our readers.

In recent years, the UK had been steadily moving towards the kind of well-established café culture that our European cousins are famous for. These independent brewers have taken a hit due to the ongoing cost of living crisis, but the industry is readying for growth and recovery in 2024.

In April, the UK economy grew by 0.2% thanks to a boost from the nation's humble hot coffee makers. And, according to an economic report by UKHospitality, the sector has the potential to increase its contribution to create half a million new jobs by 2027.

It's also now easier than ever to set up a simple store or pop-up with limited equipment – taking payment on your phone using a mobile card reader , for example. This means that starting your own café or coffee shop is becoming an increasingly accessible (and affordable) venture.

Still, future cafe owners need to be aware that consumer behaviour, and buying habits, have changed. Although convenience and cost are still big drivers, brand identity and aesthetic now play a huge part in a customer's purchase decision – making marketing a crucial consideration for wannabe baristas.

Below, we'll outline exactly what you need to know to take your café or coffee shop business plan from bean, to cup.

There's a huge amount of planning that needs to go into launching a coffee shop. Thankfully, one area which needn't cause undue stress is creating a website to promote your business. Thanks to modern templates like the one below , you can create one of your own in under an hour.

Cafe Website Template

At, we test and rate website builder tools, and we've identified Wix as one of the best you can choose for creating a business site. Wix even has a selection of  custom website templates designed specifically for cafes – you simply drop your own menu, location, wording and preferred imagery into your chosen template. Better still, it's completely free to try for yourself.

Read on to find out more…

How to write a café or coffee shop business plan, market research, financing your café or coffee shop business, concept, branding and design, waste disposal, equipment, utilities and supplies, taking payments, recruitment, regulations, useful links.

At, we're here to help small UK businesses to get started, grow and succeed. We have helpful resources for helping new businesses get off the ground – you can use the tool below to get started today.

What Does Your Business Need Help With?

When writing a business plan for a café or coffee shop specifically, you’ll need to consider:

  • The overall industry, and how your business will fit into it – are you catering to the growing trend for premium products? Are you offering an independent alternative in an area with a lot of chain brands?
  • Competitor analysis – following on from the above, the business plan needs to show a clear understanding of your intended area and customer base, as well as how your café will cater to a gap in the market
  • Sales and marketing – for a coffee shop, this means outlining how you plan to price products, along with which items will be available on the menu. Similarly, if you have any ideas for promotions or other purchasing incentives (such as deals or loyalty schemes), include them in this section. See the dedicated marketing section for more information

This is in addition to the standard requirements of any business plan, such as account information and financial forecasts, as well as details of the management structure and operations plans. 

You can learn more about what to include, and get help to create your coffee shop business plan, using our business plan template page.

the real food cafe

Sarah Heward, founder and co-owner at The Real Food Caf é tells Startups : “I had to think about the main players in the business and their backgrounds. I then conducted market research before focusing on design, including building a website and menus. My SWOT analysis came next, followed by timeline and financials.

“We made some basic errors – one was getting carried away with our enthusiasm and not doing our homework thoroughly enough, which led to some costly adjustments and mistakes.”

While choosing a convenient location is key, when it comes to running a café, coffee quality is still paramount. With the continued interest in premiumisation and sustainability in the industry, people are becoming increasingly aware of where their coffee is sourced and how it’s roasted. This connects with the growing conscious consumerism movement.

However, while some coffee brands are expanding rapidly, it appears that customers are nonetheless enticed by the intimacy of an independent coffee shop.

Starbucks struggled through the recession, and was forced to close a number of stores across the UK. Fast forward to 2019, however, and the company now has 995 UK stores – the second highest number of outlets for coffee shops in the country. 

While the estimated value of the UK coffee shop market stands at £10.1bn (according to the Allegra Project Café UK 2019 report), there are still opportunities within the sector. Indeed, approximately 95 million cups of coffee are drunk each day in the UK. 

What’s more, high street café culture is booming – according to data published by The British Coffee Association , 80% of people who visit coffee shops make a visit at least once a week, while 16% visit each day.

Cafe owner Heward  continues:  “I feel that the customers are now more into the quality of the coffee and they are conscious about reducing plastic waste. Artisan coffee producers are now more favoured over the bigger brands; people know the blends that they like and where to find it.”

Need help staying organised?

Starting a cafe or coffee shop takes time, and there are a number of steps to take.

We think project management software is a great way to keep everything on schedule. Whether you're working alone or with other people, you can streamline processes, assign times and track progress to keep everything moving efficiently in the right direction.

Find out which project management tool we think is best .

Premises, equipment, staff… all of these things take money. Fortunately, there are a number of options available if you're just starting a business and need to raise finance. While many people start businesses using their own savings, or money borrowed from family, there are also various other paths to pursue.

Despite the phenomenal success of Costa and other chains, coffee shops are not the kind of business to set up if you're expecting a quick multi-million pound exit. Profit margins will only become significant if you open multiple outlets, and even then, your initial costs will be considerable. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, it may be worth investigating if you can get a business loan to help you get started.

However, if you're after a lifestyle business which provides you with a modest income, then setting up a coffee shop could be a great decision.

Startup loans – the Startup Loan company is a government-backed scheme, where you can borrow up to £25,000 with a fixed interest rate of 6% p.a.

Business loans – business loans are similar to startup loans, except they are not just for new businesses and don’t have the same caps.

You should also consider how you will keep track of your finances. It's best practice to use a business bank account to separate your personal and business expenses and income, and you’ll have to if you’re starting a limited company. Nerdwallet compares leading UK business bank accounts if you need to find one.

how to start a cafe

Consider lighting, layout, and furniture when creating your café’s concept

Managing your money

Starting a business takes money and time, and accountancy software can help with both.

Whether you're running your cafe alone as a sole trader, or with a staff, you'll need to stay on top of your finances. If you're not ready to employ an accountant to help out, then we suggest using an online accountancy tool.

Accountancy software is designed to simplify the complex processes related to money. From tracking your outgoings – whether that is salary or other necessary costs – to managing your taxes, you'll find any finance process simpler with the right tools in place. Take a look at the accountancy software that we've rated best .

Or, take a quick look at our top recommended picks for accounting software that's best suited to small and fledgling businesses below:

It's not vital for you to have worked in a café before, but as with any business, industry experience goes a long way . If you don’t have any prior experience, it's a good idea to spend at least a few weeks working in a similar establishment to the kind you want to open. 

If you choose a business to learn from that’s in a different geographic area, there won't be any issues with competition, and you'll find people are surprisingly receptive to offering advice if you're honest about what you're planning to do.

When doing her research , Sahar Hashemi , the co-founder of Coffee Republic, spent a day on the Circle Line, getting off at each of the 27 stops to investigate what type of coffee was on offer. It's important to make sure you’ve spent some time considering the business from more than just a customer's point of view.

This includes thinking about the type of company you want to create: do you have plans to become a big brand eventually? Or do you want your coffee shop to keep its small and local vibe for the foreseeable future?

And in turn, consider what your café can bring to the scene : whether that’s a focus on a certain type of bean or drink, a particular atmosphere you want to create, or an overarching ethos (e.g. charitable, eco-friendly).

As part of the design process , you’ll need to create a floor plan – you can either hire a professional to do this for you, or use floor planning software to do it yourself. Some of the most well-known software packages are RoomSketcher and CADPro.

Essentially, a floor plan will divide the space into customer-facing areas and dedicated work spaces. Ensure you meet any legal requirements, such as building and accessibility regulations. 

Also, think about the layout of the space, including decoration , along with how your staff will interact with customers. You should also consider what your logo will look like, and where it will be positioned. These are some of the main points to consider when creating your café concept, and contribute to how your coffee shop will be branded and designed.

One of the most well-known coffee brands around the world is Starbucks. For inspiration and advice that could benefit your own brand, think about the beverage giant’s marketing strategy, and the process it followed to create such a remarkable brand .

Ozkan Ozdemir is owner of Emy's Kitchen, a Turkish cafe based in Islington. Ozdemir tells Startups  said :  “The idea to start Emy’s Kitchen was on our mind for many years. My mum, Emy, is a really good cook and we knew her food would be appreciated by other people too.”

Emy's Kitchen

Your café stands to benefit from having a website that provides the key details that your customers need to know. This includes contact information, opening hours, what’s on the menu, and where to find the café.

But a website goes beyond a business listing: think of it as an opportunity to further showcase your brand and reach a wider audience. As your coffee shop grows, you could write a blog that responds to industry developments, or highlights the social good your café is doing. Be sure to include any awards or nominations that your café may receive, too. 

An ‘About us’ section is a great way to connect with customers and create a sense of community. Plus, it’s an opportunity to reinforce your café’s USP. 

If you want to sell products online (such as coffee beans or bespoke cakes), then you’ll need to set up an online shop. Not sure which platform is best for your business? Check out our guide to the best ecommerce platforms for more information.

Also, if you want to host events (whether personal or private hire), then a website will allow you to easily and quickly manage registrations and bookings.

If you’re wondering how to create a business website , it can either be designed professionally, or you can use a website builder to make your own. 

how to start a coffee shop

Location and size are key when choosing a premises

The biggest decision you'll have to make when thinking about how to start a coffee shop is regarding your premises. When looking at prospective sites, location and size are the two main factors you need to consider.

Mintel research found that 79% of Brits purchased an out-of-home hot drink in 2017, while this figure increased to 90% for younger millennials aged 18-27.

Ozkan Ozdemir, founder of Emy's Kitchen, recalls: “Our biggest challenge was finding a good premises. As the business was a whole new concept we had started, we didn’t actually know which area in London would be best.”

So when choosing a café location, it may be worth looking for a busy urban area with a lot of foot traffic. However, these types of properties are expensive and the amount of square feet you will be able to get will be less than if you choose a more suburban or rural location.

Equally, you may have envisioned a spacious, airy coffee and tea shop with room for large sofas and coffee tables covered in newspapers or books – bear in mind that this may come at a price. 

And as the premiumisation trend continues, it may even be more profitable to forsake the perfect location in favour of investing in better beans. The important thing is to be flexible – focus on visiting a range of properties, big and small, in busy and quiet locations. 

Researching your market is essential: look into the locations that are popular among branded coffee shops, as these are the areas that have been identified for drawing in a good trade. If these shops are too busy during peak times, there could be room for an independent alternative. 

It is also important to know your competition. Consider what the most popular brands are offering, and how you could improve upon that.

While the size of the property you will buy or rent is intrinsically linked to its location, you should know roughly what sort of size and square footage you need. You should also be aware of how many covers (i.e. people seated) it can accommodate, as this will help you when going through property adverts. 

You need to be clear about your requirements: you’ll require a large seating area, a kitchen, a coworking area, a performance space, and/or a small retail section. A rough guide to café sizes is as follows:

Think about what you need from your coffee or tea shop, what is already provided, and what you would need to add yourself. When viewing properties, take the layout into careful consideration. Imagine your service area is fully staffed, and that you’re dealing with a bustling sitting space decked out with tables, chairs, and lots of customers in need of a caffeine injection.

Ozkan adds: “After we had started the business, we realised that the location wasn’t really that important as we have customers travelling from all around London for our breakfasts.”

As part of getting your café up and running, you’ll need to ensure you dispose of its commercial waste correctly. Whether you choose to hire a private company to collect it, or opt for the service provided by your local council, this is an essential part of operations. 

Some providers offer specific services for the hospitality sector, such as collecting glass, food waste, or coffee grounds. To help you choose a provider, read our guide to the best waste management companies . 

Of course, it’s ideal to reduce the amount of waste created in the first place as much as possible. Not only does this help to save money (less waste means fewer collections), but it’s good for the planet, too. Look for a provider that offers coffee cup recycling, and learn more about business recycling in general.

Before you negotiate the lease or purchase of a property, you must also check what commercial classification it currently falls under. If the property does not already have the correct classification for a coffee or tea shop, you will need to get planning permission from your local authority. You can use the licence finder to help you.

A café or coffee shop will most probably be classified as an A3 use class, although this will depend on the local authority. Planning permission for A3 use permits the sale of food and drink to be consumed on premises. For example, if you take on a property with a different class (e.g. a shop, which falls under category A1) and want to use the premises as a café, you’ll need to get the planning permission to change it to an A3 use class. 

To learn more, and to apply for a licence, visit the page on food business registration . 

Here, we outline the equipment, utilities and supplies you’ll need to start your own coffee shop. We’ll also look at the process of sourcing equipment, utilities, and suppliers.

Opening a café or coffee shop requires a lot of equipment. Some of it you’ll need straightaway, while other items you may be able to get further down the line, depending on your business requirements.

Essential kit includes:

  • Coffee makers – espresso machines, as well as drip and cafétieres, plus equipment for any other specific drinks you offer e.g. pour over/filter
  • Coffee grinders – ensure these are suitable for commercial use
  • Cooking devices – e.g. ovens, toasters, sandwich presses
  • Cooling and storage – e.g. refrigerators, freezers, shelving/cupboards
  • Food containers – for syrup, ingredients, milk etc.
  • Security devices – e.g. alarms , CCTV cameras , water detectors  
  • Payment equipment – this includes a card reader, an iPad and/or a till, plus software. For more information on payment equipment, read our guide on small business POS systems

You can choose to buy some items outright from the beginning, or you can hire them on a rental or lease basis. For example, espresso machines are notoriously expensive, and it may be more sensible to rent one. By contrast, food containers are likely to be cheaper to purchase. 

You’ll need to get connected with business gas and electricity suppliers – be sure to compare energy suppliers to get the best packages for your small business.


You’ll need to think about the type of coffee you’ll choose for your café. Consider which (and how many) strengths will be on offer, and do your research about where it comes from and how it’s produced. When choosing suppliers, be sure to do taste tests (with coffee that’s been correctly prepared) so that you can know what your customers will experience. 

Also, check out a supplier’s record – have they won any awards or other industry recognition? Are they FairTrade and/or organic certified? Be sure to review the contract from a potential roaster as well – would you prefer an exclusive supplier, or to be able to use beans from multiple roasters?

Beyond this, the supplies you’ll require will depend on the type of café you run. For instance, the supplies used in a café that specialises in plant-based foods compared to a coffee shop that offers rum and other alcoholic beverages (like London-based Grind ) are going to be very different. 

You’ll also need to factor in non-edible supplies, like plates and cutlery, including both those used in-store and for takeaway. Plus, take into consideration the aprons or other items that your staff will need to wear or use.  

You can find suppliers in the following ways:

  • Asking other small business owners for recommendations
  • Attending trade shows and industry events (such as Caffé Culture , Coffee Shop Innovation Expo , and European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo )

The Real Food Cafe founder, Sarah   Heward, advises:  “Speak to industry leaders with a lot of experience – they will challenge your thinking and not just tell you what you want to hear! Listen to them and prepare to be flexible

A card machine is an essential piece of equipment for your café. While cash is still popular, it’s good business sense to offer customers as many payment options as possible. Read our guide on how to take card payments to learn more.

As well as the device itself, you may need to enable online payment methods, such as a payment gateway . This will be the case if you’re offering online ordering or other ecommerce options.

how to start a cafe

Baristas, kitchen staff, and waiters are some of the roles to hire for in a café

Any business in the catering or hospitality industries involves hard, physical labour. Unless you can afford to employ staff from the outset, running a café will involve standing on your feet for the vast majority of the day.

Taking on staff is a highly legislated area, so you’ll need to understand and follow regulations on everything from health and safety to managing holiday requests . How much of the process you do yourself, and how much you outsource to a HR company , will depend on you, your vision for your business, and your budget.

Some top tips to consider when recruiting in the hospitality sector include:

  • Culture – what type of atmosphere do you want to create, for both your staff and customers?
  • Attitude – café staff are the face of your business, so it’s crucial to hire people who reflect its ethos and brand
  • Experience – want perfect latte art with every pour? In need of standout dishes? If so, seek out experienced candidates for more skilled roles (such as baristas and chefs) so that your café can offer top-quality produce from the outset (and while other team members receive training)

how to start a coffee shop

Product images and other visual, shareable content are great for social media marketing

Emy's Kitchen owner, Ozkan Ozdemir points out: “The food industry is very hard and you only have 20-30 mins to make customers happy, so you need a good team to achieve that goal.”

There are a number of ways to promote your café, including:

Social media

Loyalty programmes

Traditional marketing

When it comes to marketing a café or coffee shop, be sure to use social media. Creating content tailored to your target audience and the platforms they use is an essential part of social media marketing . 

Whether you film your baristas making the perfect cup of coffee, or share photos that your customers have taken, this type of business is highly visual – making it ideal for social media platforms. But it’s more than that just advertising – social media also offers an opportunity to engage and interact with your customers.

Whether you opt for a card that’s stamped per purchase, or a digital app that allows customers to collect points, loyalty programmes are a key part of marketing a café or coffee shop. 

Not only is this an incentive for people to return to your coffee shop, but if you use a digital system you can collect valuable information as well, such as common orders or popular visiting times.

While it’s easy to focus solely on digital marketing, remember that cafés and coffee shops are often central places in a local community. Be sure to connect with people face-to-face as well.

Options include printing and handing out flyers in your local area, as well as printing banners and posters. Plus, reach out to nearby offices and other companies to let them know you’re new in town.

Currently, there is no law that states you must undertake formal training to open a café or coffee shop. 

However, you must ensure that you and anyone else working with food at your business has the appropriate level of training and/or supervision to do their job properly. The legal responsibility lies with the business owner, so make sure you have all the information you need. 

You’ll need to be clued up on the basic principles of food preparation. Make sure you check out our restaurant and sandwich shop guides, as many of the principles for those kinds of businesses will also apply here.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is the body appointed by the government to be responsible for all food safety standards. The FSA can provide you with advice on all food hygiene matters, and offers an information pack called ‘Safer food, better business’ , which will help you to comply with the law and make your premises safe for the public. The publication covers key aspects of serving food, including contamination, cleaning, chilling, cooking, management, and keeping a food diary. 

Your business must also be registered with the local authorities. You can and likely will face inspections in the future, and a failed inspection is bad for your café in a number of ways: either legally (you could be closed down), in terms of business (bad publicity and referrals) or morally (as people could be taken ill or even die from contaminated food). 

In order to avoid such pitfalls, you should follow the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) . This is an internationally recognised and recommended system of food safety management that focuses on identifying the ‘critical points' in a process where food safety hazards could arise, and puts steps in place to prevent things from going wrong.

Take a look at the rules and regulations section of our catering guide , as the same restrictions on food preparation will apply. 

Your café or coffee shop will need to be appropriately insured – this is to protect you, as well as your customers. 

There are a range of providers out there who can offer cover that is tailored to your unique business requirements. However, you’ll usually need the following types of insurance:

  • Building contents – this protects your café’s stock 
  • Business interruption – with this type of cover, you’re insured for profit losses if you’re made to stop trading temporarily
  • Employers' liability – cover for the health and safety of your employees

Sarah Heward, founder and co-owner at The Real Food Café has this positive final message for Startups readers  comments :  “Starting your own business and seeing it go from strength to strength is an incredible sense of achievement. Hopefully, the long-term financial benefits make it all worthwhile.”

Here’s a recap of some of the most useful links from throughout the article:

  • Licence Finder
  • Food Business Registration
  • Safer food, better business
  • HACCP guidance

In addition, check out the links below to learn more about relevant industry organisations and events:

  • British Coffee Association
  • Specialty Coffee Association (UK Chapter)
  • Caffe Culture Show
  • Coffee Shop Expo
  • European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through the links on our site, we may earn a commission from the retailers of the products we have reviewed. This helps to provide free reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews.

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What are you looking for, how to open a coffee shop business.

  • 1. What are the pros and cons of opening a coffee shop?
  • 2. What skills and experience do I need to open a coffee shop?
  • 3. How do I choose a location for my coffee shop?
  • 4. What equipment do I need to open a coffee shop?
  • 5. Where can I source coffee shop supplies?
  • 6. Legal requirements for a coffee shop
  • 7. How do I get people to come to my coffee shop?
  • 8. Can I open up a coffee shop franchise instead?

We drink 95 million cups of coffee in the UK, every day. On the high street, café culture continues to boom, with 80% of people who visit coffee shops doing so at least once a week, while 16% of us visit on a daily basis. So what does it take to open a coffee shop? And how can you increase its chances of success?

What are the pros and cons of opening a coffee shop?

Before we dive into the pros and cons, it’s important to note that if you don’t have a passion for coffee and customer service, and the energy and time to throw at your new business venture, then opening a coffee shop probably isn’t for you. It’s a lifestyle decision as much as a business one, especially in the early days, when it might just be you serving your customers. You’ll be on your feet for most of the day, while juggling all the responsibilities and decisions that come with running your own business.

If that sounds like something you can handle, let’s look at some of the pros…

  • Profit and expansion! With a smart business plan in place and an understanding of your target customers, you’re giving your new business the best chance to be successful and make a profit. Reinvesting a portion of this profit will help you increase this figure, gradually building your business and – for the ambitious – the opportunity to expand and open up additional coffee shops.
  • Achieving your dream. If you have always wanted to own your own coffee shop, then there’s nothing like the feeling of achieving your dream.
  • Flexibility. Once your coffee shop is off the ground and you have an employee rota in place, you can create your own work schedule that fits around other life commitments and enjoyments, whether it’s taking your nan for coffee and cake mid-week, volunteering at a school event or having some downtime on a Monday afternoon after a busy weekend at the shop.
  • Being part of a community. Coffee shops play a vital role in bringing local people together and building a sense of community in your area.
  • Open up new opportunities. Owning a successful business can transform your life. Leverage the success of your coffee shop, and you can go on to do many other incredible things.

How about the cons of opening a coffee shop?

  • Full responsibility. Everything starts and ends with you. Business decisions, staff issues, supplier contracts, marketing – even the smallest details such as the style of mugs and plates you have! – You make every call. While many find this an ideal situation, you do need to assess whether you’re the type of person who can juggle a wide variety of responsibilities at all times and be able to make informed decisions under pressure. You won’t only be the coffee shop owner, you’ll be serving customers and managing a team (eventually!), and each of these roles require a special skill set. 
  • Money. Until it’s profitable, sustaining your coffee shop can be a real challenge. Unless you have a financial plan in place when starting out , money shortages can plague you when it comes to rent, insurance, salaries, supplies, etc. Whether it’s your own savings, money borrowed from family, or other finance paths such as a business or startup loan, money worries will always be on your mind until your coffee shop is proving to successfully – and regularly – turn a profit.
  • Staff management. While hiring your team can be a positive, enjoyable experience, there’s also the other side to managing people, whether it’s handling a specific issue that arises, such as lateness or inappropriate language in front of customers, to starting the dismissal process in line with the law. 
  • You might fail. Starting a new business always runs the risk of failure for a multitude of reasons. For example, you might have had the best business plan in place, perfect location, etc, but then out of nowhere the world is hit by COVID-19 and your doors shut before you can establish yourself. You might even find that three more entrepreneurs open coffee shops down the road from yours, which your target market – for whatever reason – prefer.
  • It’s extremely time consuming. From writing a business plan to sourcing equipment, hiring and managing staff to organising your menu, cleaning your shop to sorting your insurance and taxes, the hours will quickly add up. And that’s without serving your customers day-to-day, as you might not be in the position to hire a team at the beginning.

What skills and experience do I need to open a coffee shop?

You don’t need any specific qualifications to run a coffee shop; however, courses that will improve core skills that are most suited to running a successful coffee shop would be worth strong consideration. For example:

  • General business skills

Barista training

  • Bookkeeping
  • Food hygiene

And as always, first-hand experience before making the leap is worthwhile. Is there a local coffee shop you can gain some experience in? 

Other attributes of a successful coffee shop owner:

  • Passion for coffee (and tea for that matter!)
  • Aptitude for hospitality 
  • Self-motivation

In addition, the below skills will also be relied upon to make your coffee shop dream a long term reality (click the dropdown to reveal more):

Research skills

It’s essential you spend time at the very beginning conducting research into the coffee industry, and what it takes to run a successful coffee shop:

  • While online research can be helpful, you can’t beat hearing what works and what doesn’t from those already running their own coffee shop. Reach out to coffee shop owners and see if they’d mind discussing their experience and learnings with you. (It goes without saying but avoid speaking to your local competitors as that would be a bit cheeky-!) 
  • To keep things a bit further afield, is there a coffee shop on social media that you follow and love the philosophy/style of, which wouldn’t mind chatting with you? Hearing about the industry first-hand is going to give you the most realistic understanding of the day-to-day running of your business – not just the highs but the lows as well, ensuring you go into your new venture with your eyes open.
  • Expand your research from the viewpoint of a customer. Visit a number of coffee shops to help you gain an insight into what you want your business to be like. What inspiration will you take forward with you, and how will you make your offering different so it stands out?
  • Who are they?
  • Why do they visit coffee shops? To socialise? Work? Have some time out?
  • Do they bring their children with them?
  • What time of day would they most likely visit a coffee shop?
  • What do they order?
  • How long do they spend there? 
  • Is there much competition?
  • Is there a type of customer that your area doesn’t currently cater for?
  • Are there any small business associations and networking groups that you could become part of for support and advice?
  • Get a firm grasp of the UK coffee industry. The British Coffee Association is a great place to start, which offers networking and training opportunities for its members.

Smart business planning

A business plan is a document that details all the future plans and predictions for your business. It will explain your ideas, map out how they’ll be put into practice and provide relevant information and facts including the business details, management plan, operating plan, marketing and sales strategy , financial projections, and operational and team specifics. Your coffee shop concept, your target customers, your menu, competitor analysis, marketing plan, financial forecasts, overheads and how much funding your coffee shop needs are all important elements that must be covered in your business plan. 

A well researched business plan will help you secure funding and help launch and grow your venture. Commitment to making a business plan is a commitment to the business. It’s vital you have the skills to create this essential document, or have a business partner that does.

Strong finance skills

Knowing how to effectively manage your business’s finances, even if it’s in conjunction with an accountant, will be a crucial skill in making the best decisions that will speed up the growth of your business. What costs and expenses need to be recorded? Will these impact your tax liability and, ultimately, your profitability ?

Knowing how to craft the perfect cup of coffee is an essential skill in running a coffee shop. Even if you plan to hire someone else to make your coffee, understanding coffee, brewing, beans and the whole coffee making process is the bread and butter of your business. The better tasting your coffee is, the more return customers you’ll receive. You should have these skills in place when opening your doors.

Thorough understanding of food safety regulations

You’re serving the public food and drink – the above is an absolute essential (further details in section 6).

You need to be clued up on the best channels that will encourage customers into your shop. You must also know how to turn a one-time customer into a loyal one who returns regularly and recommends you to their local network.

Attention to detail and communication

Regular customers love being remembered and appreciated – you can’t beat your local coffee shop knowing how you like to drink your coffee! Listen carefully and tailor their coffee shop experience to them. Socialising and human connection is at the heart of a thriving coffee shop, so ensure you and your team communicate empathetically with your customers. (There’s a reason why the sitcom Friends was largely based in a coffee shop!)


You’ll have lots of plates to spin. You need to work calmly and efficiently under pressure. Service without a smile could be the make or break decision factor for a first-time customer.

Negotiating supplier contracts

Be confident and well informed when negotiating your supplier contracts to ensure you get the best deal.

How do I choose a location for my coffee shop?

The location of your coffee shop is absolutely fundamental to its success. Slide through the carousel to look at eight key considerations you’ll need to take into account when picking your coffee shop location. 


Picking  business premises  close to train stations, offices and shops will provide a good level of footfall to give you the best opportunity to make a profit. But a prime location often comes with a premium rent. When shopping for premises, keep your projected sales figure in mind. If your rent and rates are more than around 15% of projected sales, then it will be difficult for you to make a profit. If negotiations don’t work in bringing rent down, you must be realistic and look elsewhere.

Neighbouring businesses

Which ones offer coffee? They might not be a specific coffee shop business, but could be offering similar products as part of their business, e.g. a hair salon that offers beverages as part of the customer experience. Also keep in mind businesses close by that offer your target customers an alternative refreshment choice e.g. a juice bar.

When customers might need a coffee

For example, a midday coffee break would be popular nearer to shopping centres and offices, while early birds will be better served nearer to train stations and schools following a busy school drop off. If you’re situated near a university and offer decent study space/WiFi, later afternoon/early evening opening hours could prove profitable.

Type of customers in your area

Can you offer a menu, or part of your menu, that would appeal to their lifestyle choices? E.g. veganism, organic, gluten-free? Are there lots of young families nearby? Could you offer child-size healthy flapjacks, and some children’s books to keep them entertained while parents have some time out? Make sure there is customer demand in an area before settling on a location.


It’s important that your coffee shop is easily accessible to customers with limited mobility. A shop without steps is important to wheelchair users, as well as those with pushchairs and elderly relatives.

Depending on your interior vision, you need to bear in mind that customers like a mix of seating options. From comfy sofas and armchairs to tables and chairs to counter stools. They also don’t like to feel overcrowded as many like to work or have private conversations over a cuppa. You also need to give your team enough space behind the counter to work their magic.

Correct licence

Ensure your commercial space allows for the correct licences e.g. some don’t allow food permits on the property. Enquire when viewing the premise and ensure you speak with a legal expert before signing any contracts.

Terms of the lease

If your rent is too high, so will your coffee prices. You also need to assess whether your location requires any renovation, and whether you can afford these costs. Commercial leases are legally binding contracts, so are difficult to break or change the terms. Don’t sign anything until a solicitor reviews it. Keep an eye out for the length of the lease, rent increases (is it up for review just after you open?), insurance requirements, security deposit and conditions for its return, as well as maintenance and repair obligations for the premises.

What equipment do I need to open a coffee shop?

The below list is a useful place to begin when considering the equipment you need to make great coffee and run a tight ship:

  • Automatic drip coffee makers – for standard black coffee.
  • A high-quality espresso machine – ensure you do your research as you not only want quality but it needs to be fast, as many of your customers will be in a rush!
  • An industrial coffee grinder. Unground beans make the freshest coffee possible so a grinder is important to have. Make sure to do your research as the right grinder can impact the flavour profiles of your coffee or espresso.
  • Filtration system for your espresso machine.
  • Coffee presses.
  • POS system to track your inventory, monitor your sales, manage employees and take payments. Ensure you opt for one that is future-proof e.g. integrates with third-party delivery platforms or online ordering capabilities. You might not require these now but could down the line as you expand. A decent POS system can actually help you set up your website and build an email list
  • Takeaway supplies. We’re still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, so you need to acknowledge that some customers aren’t confident to enter your coffee shop yet. Ensure you offer takeaway coffee cups and lids, drink holders, paper bags and napkins should they want to opt for takeaway. Other consumable goods can also include straws, plastic/wooden cutlery, paper plates and receipt rolls.
  • Cups, crockery and cutlery – take time in deciding what you’ll be serving your coffee in/food on as this is all part of the coffee shop experience. While they need to look appealing, they should also be practical and easily replaced without breaking the bank. They need to cater to your menu e.g. are you offering cake or larger meals e.g. toasties? Ensure you offer a range of mugs that complement your coffee e.g. espresso, cappuccino, latte, frappuccino, as well as drinking glasses and food preparation utensils.
  • Industrial b l enders to capitalise on the blended drinks trend.
  • Ovens and toasters (if you plan to offer hot food e.g. toasties, bagels, etc).
  • Refrigerators and freezers to keep your food and dairy products fresh. Refrigerated display cases and counter fridges are a must-have.
  • Sinks/dishwasher.
  • Shelving to store and display your beans.
  • Food storage containers.
  • Containers, pumps and storage for syrups, toppings and beans.
  • A security system.
  • Menu boards above your counter so people can see what’s on offer while they wait to be served.
  • Reliable internet network.
  • Mobile card payment machine .
  • Furniture – while technically not ‘equipment’ it’s also worth flagging this as an area to cost for as it can significantly impact your budget. Display cases, front of house counters, tables, chairs, sofas, stools, outdoor furniture, lighting, artwork, etc.
  • Cleaning equipment is not only essential to comply with health and safety guidelines, but additional cleaning guidance has been set out by the government to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 .

It goes without saying but always make sure that your equipment and food preparation areas adhere to regulatory guidelines.

Where can I source coffee shop supplies?

You can’t beat a good recommendation when it comes to finding quality, reliable suppliers . Reach out to other shop owners and spend time researching reviews online to work out the most trustworthy choice for you.

Let’s start with the most important supplier – your coffee supplier. You need to choose a coffee that fits with the taste of your customers, suits your type of establishment and works with your budget. Reliability is key. Deliveries must be on time and the quality must be consistent. Shortlist a number of options and contact them individually. Just because their advert appears on the top of Google search results, doesn’t mean they’re the best. Ask for samples and focus on the taste, not the packaging. Which fits best with your vision for your coffee shop? Could you ask others to try the samples so you’re getting a variety of views? Talk to customers of the suppliers you’re looking at to really understand the service and product they provide.

While this isn’t always possible, seriously consider buying from a local coffee supplier first as you can easily visit them if you need to, and form a strong relationship with them. Offering customers local coffee is also a fantastic selling point, as consumers are becoming increasingly interested in and aware of the importance of supporting local suppliers and businesses. That said, buying from a well-known supplier (Monmouth, Illy) may also provide some welcome familiarity and brand-reassurance to your customers. It really will be a case of testing your market and seeing what works.

The above can also be applied to the food you plan to provide – whether it’s toasties using a local cheese or tasty baked goods. You must ensure throughout your research that your suppliers have the correct training certificates, etc, in place, and that they’re a registered business with their local authority. They must have had their premises inspected by an Environmental Health Officer, understand regulations around food allergens and food labelling and how to implement them, and much more. Selecting quality, capable and compliant suppliers is crucial in ensuring your products taste amazing, arrive on time, while ensuring the safety of your staff and customers.

Dig into your supplier’s record – are they FairTrade, organic? Have they been recognised in any industry awards? Check your contract/s carefully – are you looking for an exclusive supplier or would you prefer to use beans from a variety of roasters?

As well as recommendations, trade shows and industry events are also a great way to discover and meet potential suppliers.

Take your time when choosing your suppliers, as the quality of your coffee will determine whether customers come back to your establishment.

Legal requirements for a coffee shop

There is currently no law that states you must undertake formal training to open a coffee shop. However, as you are working with food and selling to the public, there are a number of regulations and legal requirements in place to ensure optimum health and safety at all times. As the business owner, legal responsibilities lie with you, so you must ensure you’re fully aware of what’s required – from food hygiene to fire safety .

Register your business with your local authority

You must know your food and safety regulations inside and out before opening your doors. You must register with the environment health service at your local authority at least 28 days before opening. Registration is free and can be completed online . You must make sure that the local authority always has up-to-date information on your premises and you must tell them if you plan to change anything significant about your business.

Aim for a food hygiene Level 5 rating

Food safety compliance is an ongoing process – not a one-time box ticking exercise. The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) was developed by the UK government and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to help promote the importance of good hygiene practices. The FSA is the government body that regulates food safety in the UK and subsequently offers detailed guidance for those starting a food business. Environmental health officers will make regular inspections of your coffee shop, and have the power to fine or close down your business if you fail to adhere to food safety laws. They will give you a rating from 1-5 depending on how hygienically your food is handled, the condition of your premises and how you manage and document food safety procedures. You should be aiming to get the highest level (5).

Get a food hygiene certificate

Anyone responsible for handling and selling food must ensure that the food they sell is safe to eat. This extends to your team. The best way to show that you’re complying with the regulations is to take a food safety training course that covers the essential food hygiene topics which range from safe food holding temperatures to preventing cross contamination to allergen labelling. This training should be refreshed to ensure you keep on top of any changes in the law or food safety practices. A Level 2 Food Safety and Hygiene for Catering course is designed for anyone who works with or handles food and wants to meet the UK food training requirements. Online courses are available, for example Virtual College offers this course for £15+VAT .

Register with HMRC

No matter how small your business is, everyone needs to register their business with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). When setting up, it’s likely you’ll be operating as a sole trader , meaning you run your own business as an individual or are self-employed. If you set up your coffee shop with someone else, you’re entering into a >business partnership , where you and your partner(s) share responsibility for your business and both pay tax on your share.

Undertake a risk assessment

Eliminate or minimise any food safety hazards in your shop by undertaking a risk assessment – known as a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) control system. The FSA provides some useful guidance on this .

Get business insurance

Legally, all caterers must have Employers Liability Insurance , which covers you for the health and safety of your employees. You should also ensure you have Public Liability Insurance to cover injuries to the public, and Product Liability in case anyone gets food poisoning as a result of eating your food. Building contents insurance will cover loss or damage to equipment and furnishings, while stock insurance protects you against the financial cost of damage or loss of food stock. Business interruption insurance covers you for loss of profits in the event that the normal operations of your business are interrupted by accident or disaster.

We’ve put together a useful guide on how to choose the right business insurance .

Gas/electrical safety certificates

If you have any gas-powered equipment used for catering purposes, such as a gas hob, it must be installed, inspected and tested annually by a Gas Safe engineer. It is also important to get all of your electrical equipment tested every 6 or 12 months by a registered electrician to ensure that it is safe to use. Safe electrical equipment will be issued a PAT (portable appliance testing) sticker.

It’s absolutely crucial that you fully understand and adhere to health and safety requirements to safely protect your customers, team and yourself! Advice, guidance, news, tools, legislation and more on this subject can be found at:

Ensure your building has the correct commercial classification

Before you negotiate the lease or purchase of a property, you must check what commercial classification it currently falls under. If the property does not already have the correct classification for a coffee shop, you will need to get planning permission from your local authority. You can use the GOV.UK licence finder to help you. For further information and to apply for a licence visit the GOV.UK website .

Get clued up on employment law

Employing staff is a highly legislated area – you need to understand and adhere to a number of regulations, from health and safety to holiday entitlement. The amount you have to process yourself will be dependent on your budget, as you can outsource these tasks to a HR company / consultant. But the responsibility of ensuring your company complies lies with you, so ensure you do your research and consult specialists in this area if this is something you need assistance with. Keep in mind your vision for your coffee shop when hiring staff – look for attitudes and experience that align well with your business values and goals.

Don’t forget to consult your employees on your health and safety policy. It’s important to provide the right training and information to help them comply with your policy. Anyone working with food at your business must have the appropriate level of training and supervision to do their job properly. The legal responsibility lies with the business owner, so make sure you have all the information you need. 

You’ll also need to provide the necessary workplace facilities, such as toilets and sinks with soap and towels or a hand-dryer, somewhere to rest and eat meals, and an appointed person to take care of first aid . You can read the full list of requirements on the HSE website .

How do I get people to come to my coffee shop?

Acquiring new customers can be one of your biggest hurdles when opening a coffee shop. And it takes even more to turn them into regulars! Your marketing plan should be considered at the very beginning as part of your business plan. Who are you marketing to? What are they like? How will your business appeal to them? Here are some suggestions:

  • Referrals: These are hugely powerful for local businesses. Incentivise your local customers with a recommend-a-friend offer. Once their friend visits your shop, your customer receives a free coffee! Go one step further and offer a loyalty card – a free coffee with your 8th stamp! Turn your happy customers into brand ambassadors and let positive word of mouth increase your customer base.
  • Reviews: Ensure you’re in control of your listing on sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp. Not only will positive reviews and exposure on these sites encourage customers to visit, but any negative reviews could prove extremely useful feedback for improving your offering.
  • Get online: Ramp up your visibility on key online platforms including search engines and social media. Have you set up your Google My Business page so search results immediately present to searchers your key business contact info, and where to find you? Have you set up your company page on Facebook? Are you utilising Facebook ads to promote your shop to locals? Are you using local hashtags in your Instagram posts? 
  • Local marketing: As well as local advertising targeting online, there’s still great success in leafleting your local area to let people know you’re there! Why not run an introductory offer to entice a visit? There are lots of techniques you can try – here are 17 local marketing ideas . 
  • Collaborate with non-competitive businesses: A number of small businesses in your local area will have similar target customers but offer a completely different experience or product to you. It pays to collaborate! For example, is there a beauty salon across the road that doesn’t have a refreshment facility, which could recommend you? You could offer 15% off coffee at your shop after they’ve had a treatment at the salon (and vice versa! 15% off a salon treatment if they spend a certain amount in one transaction at your coffee shop). Could you advertise on a reception pinboard at the local soft play or leisure centre in exchange for a leaflet in your window?
  • A creative A-board! Stripping marketing back to basics, it’s quite easy for a customer to walk by without noticing your coffee shop is right next to them. An A-board not only slows down pavement traffic but places a marketing message right in front of them. The more creative you can be, the better.
  • Events: Can you run a coffee and cake stall at local events to get your brand out there? From summer fetes to Christmas markets – step outside your shop window and take your coffee to your customers! If you’ve focused on perfecting the quality of your products then it will speak for itself. If you’re lucky, your location might even run its own coffee festival! (Always worth a Google!) And if not… Why not start one?
  • Offer freebies: Customers might like to try before they buy! Offer small coffees or free cake samples outside your shop to entice new customers, especially if your location has good footfall.
  • Free WiFi: If you have seating areas that can cater to laptop use or comfy sofas for customers to enjoy a mobile scroll, free WiFi is a huge draw to coffee shop dwellers. Promote it in your shop window, A-board and online platforms.

Can I open up a coffee shop franchise instead?

If setting up your own independent coffee shop sounds daunting, you might want to consider a buying a franchise instead. Many big brand coffee chains including Costa and Starbucks operate as franchises. For a franchise fee and ongoing royalties, you can buy the rights to use the established business’s name, trademarks, business model and products. With the support of a known brand and training on how to set up your coffee shop, deal with suppliers, hire and manage staff, a franchise can offer a less risky entry into the coffee shop business.

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coffee shop planning permission uk

Small Business UK

Small Business UK

Advice and Ideas for UK Small Businesses and SMEs

coffee shop planning permission uk

How to start your own coffee shop

coffee shop planning permission uk

Keep reviewing your coffee shop business plan

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Fancy opening your own coffee shop? We explain what you need to know about cash flow, hiring staff and of course, finding the right coffee.

Starting a coffee shop is at once exciting and daunting – there’s a lot to factor in before you even start writing your business plan.

This guide will take you through the main steps of how to start your own coffee shop, with comments from experts in the industry and links to further information.

What should be included in my coffee shop business plan?

The first part of your start-up is always the same: your business plan.

Your coffee shop business plan will look very similar to any other. It should include:

  • Your business proposition
  • Unique selling point (USP)
  • Target customer
  • Marketing strategy
  • Sources of funding
  • Financial forecasts

What’s different with a coffee shop is that you’ll need to talk about what kind of coffee you’re going to use and what’s included in your menu. Is it food or drink that you expect to be your biggest money maker?

Along with the proposition, you should include your business’ purpose. Many businesses now launch with an ethical core. Not only will having your purpose in your business plan keep you on track with fulfilling your goals, but it will also help to attract ethical investors.

You must have these points nailed down before you approach partner companies. “The first questions we ask are, ‘What food are you going to serve? What kind of volume do you want to do?’ Sometimes they haven’t quite got that down on paper,” said Lloyd, founder of takeaway packaging supplier, Catering24 . “They need to work out the portions of food to costings, to then work out what volume they need to do per day to cover their premises or their van rental or pitch space and rental.

“It’s the nitty gritty details that we try and get down to because sometimes we can offer them a container that’s 30p per portion or one that’s 10p per portion. That starts to make the difference between whether the takeaway or coffee shop is actually going to be profitable from day one.

They need to know the cost per unit of everything that it takes – from ingredients all the way through to a stirrer to go with that coffee. It must be all priced in. “I can go to a van on the side of the road and get a £1 coffee from a polystyrene cup,” said Lloyds. “The cheap cup costs 10p and is not very ergonomically friendly. It’s actually got quite good insulating in the cup. If I go for that same quality of coffee in a 15p cup, I can sell it for £1.70 from the same brand, but it’s the perception of value that the customer is getting. Now it’s paper, it has a better fitting lid, you can actually sip out of it without it going over your clothes.”

Your business proposition and USP

Coffee shops are a popular trade and it’ll take ingenuity to stand out. This is where your business proposition and USP come in.

People watching, a popular pastime in cafés, could be illuminating here. “If you find this shop that you like, grab a coffee, sit outside for a few hours and just see how many people will pass,” said Stuart Wilson, founder of Lost Sheep Coffee. Yes, that’s a bit weird. But you can get an idea for them and who your target customer is.”

It’s also wise to know about current and upcoming trends in coffee and beyond. “For me, the next big thing is going to be your speciality coffees and your iced coffees. If I was a coffee shop owner now, I’d be planning for my iced coffee offering to be strong next year,” said Wilson. “All those sorts of things and your alcoholic coffees, like espresso martini. We talked to a few brewers actually about doing coffee-infused drinks, beers and stuff.”

Lloyd has noticed another trend coming from the rise in takeaways: “Afternoon tea boxes are massive at the moment. I Imagine someone starting out at the minute might not think of that first thing. They might think about takeaway coffee, because that’s what the norm is for a coffee shop.”

Décor can bring people into your coffee shop and support your USP. Think palm trees, retro arcade games or neon signs. For the basics, you can keep costs down buying furnishings second hand – it has added bonuses of being sustainable and giving your coffee shop a quirky charm.

Small Business Pro is the ideal tool for you when you’re starting your business. It will help with the heavy lifting of managing customers, taking payments, insurance, finance and HR, plus you’ll get a host of personal wellbeing benefits.

You can find out more about Small Business Pro here .

Where should I should set up my coffee shop?

This will depend on a few things: where you’re based, what units are available to you and what your goals are for the business.

Most will go for a traditional coffee house set-up. This a bricks and mortar café with indoor seating. Finding a location rests on what you want your business to be and where your customers are. Try Rightmove as it can show you spots that could potentially become your coffee shop while sites like Floorplanner will help you visualise where everything will be placed.

The other option is somewhat more mobile. Having a cart, kiosk or van has the advantage of being in a busy area like a train station or bus terminal for a much lower cost. Plus, you can opt for a fixed spot every day or, in the case of the cart or van, choose different spots and hit popular events like festivals. Lost Sheep Coffee started as a micro van back in 2012. Wilson tells us more: “For us, the cheapest way to do our [then] hobby was small, hence why it started with a three-wheeled coffee van. I set the whole thing up for less than £10,000. We were able to get a pitch slap bang in the middle of the high street in Canterbury, which, to this day, people still remember the cart. From a marketing perspective, it was fantastic.”

Why do people go for bricks and mortar coffee shops? “I think to be honest, it’s tradition,” said Wilson. “A lot of people don’t think of kiosks as a proper business. It’s just like a glorified market. Some people want the bricks and mortar, if you will, to feel validated.

“A kiosk doesn’t always bring that for someone. They are becoming a lot more popular now that you’ve got your Costas and your Greggs in the service stations. It has been popularised in the last four or five years.”

How much money will I need?

Start-Up Loans says that it can cost £20,000-£100,000 to start up a coffee shop depending on its size, offering and location.

Though it needn’t be as pricey. “A lot of people these days are taking on affordable units. So actually, they can start becoming a bit more accessible,” said Wilson. “A good selection of people who are starting out as a coffee shop these days are taken on premises that might be rates exempt, basically, because of the current government’s side of things.”

These could have perks like giving you three months free rent. They’re already fitted with water and electricity too. “I’ve got a customer who’s just launching one in Folkstone and she’s pretty much doing it for less than £15,000. It’s a full-size shop,” he added.

There are properties like this in the south east of England, but you should be prioritising areas that you know and like. If you do find such an affordable unit, just ask what your landlord can do for you.

However, it can be done more cheaply if you opt for a kiosk. “That chaos in Canterbury, that is a lot of work still done by me to be honest with you, but it’s still less – more like a £30,000 project” said Wilson. “The shop we had in Ashford was a 750 square foot shop and to kit that out from a shell with everything came in at around £15,000-60,000.”

He added that they’re looking into a bricks and mortar shop and it would cost £100,000 a year just on rent. The kiosk, just around the corner, costs a fraction. It could be worth going for the full shop as they generate more revenue. “You’ve got the kiosk, which you’d take X amount a year, and then your shop should be probably taking more like 700,000x,” said Stu. “You pay more, but you actually end up with a higher revenue stream.” Again, weigh up the costs and see which option works best for you.

As for your overall cash flow, if the rent is 15 per cent more than your projected rates and sales, it’ll be difficult to make a profit. Staff should not exceed 50 per cent of overheads, according to Start Up Loans.

Choosing the right coffee

Now, arguably the most important part of your coffee shop business.

Are you going single origin or a blend? Does the target customer decide the coffee or vice versa? Are you targeting regulars or passing trade?

“The product itself needs to be relevant to the to the person who owns the business, but also the person drinking it,” said James Sweeting, founder of coffee roasters, Lincoln & York . “These tend not to be one off purchases. They have a very high level of repeat client. I’m guessing that 90 per cent are likely repeat visitors.”

He added that you should really know your customer. “I think these days, you tend to think of an artisanal-type coffee shop, with hand-roasted coffee and healthy cake and all that kind of stuff,” said Sweeting. “Of course, it could be a coffee shop in a shopping centre, or it could be in another format that’s not necessarily Metropolitan. That’s why the coffee needs to be relevant.”

He does stress that there should be a ‘high-quality aspiration’, no matter if the coffee is espresso-based, filter or cold brew. “It should probably be a 100 per cent Arabica coffee blend, or singularity, or a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans that will produce a great espresso coffee. Quite often, you do need an element of reverse engineering to do that. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t really know the full 360 degrees of the coffee business.”

The coffee shouldn’t just reflect you as a business owner, it should also reflect the values and purpose of the business, as discussed earlier. If you’re claiming that you’re ethical, you need to root through your supply chains to make sure they have the same standards as you.

“You’ve got to have an idea of the standards – where it’s grown, some story element. Have you paid a fair price to your supplier? Has the supplier, in turn, paid their fair price to the grower?” said Sweeting. “if you buy something cheap, somebody has possibly been exploited. Can you defend yourself as a business if somebody walked in and said to a coffee shop and asked, ‘Where do you get your coffee from?’ If you can’t at least give an answer, you haven’t done the homework.”

A quick way to spot a supplier or roaster’s standards is to look out for certifications, which they’ll likely display on their website. Fairtrade means that the group of growers has been paid a known price level as well as covering elements of training and origin. Rainforest Alliance is more focused on the environmental management of the growing.

You should ask your supplier how the coffee will be roasted and how it behaves under certain types of roast. “You should ask questions on along those lines and say, ‘Well, what difference does it make if you roast it slowly and roast it dark? What does that do to the taste? And what will my consumer think of that when I make coffee to it with themes like that?’” said Sweeting.

Don’t forget to factor in the freshness of coffee. “There are one or two myths around whether coffee should be freshly roasted or not,” he added. “Well, of course, if you see ‘freshly roasted’ on a pack, well, it was definitely true when the rest of the pack was freshly roasted. By the time the consumer gets it, it might not be the case.

“Now, for a coffee shop, the ideal gestation period is probably two weeks to six weeks. The reason for that is and you could say well, ten days to 30 or 35. If coffee is very fresh, i.e. roasted one day, then consumed the next, the blend itself hasn’t had chance to settle down. When you get it into a grinder, you know the grinding characteristics will be different if you roast today, it’s a day old versus one that’s ten days old.” Ensuring it’s settled for around the same period each time will give your coffee more consistency, giving a consistent taste experience to your regulars.

Finally, there are questions about what certain roasters can offer. Some of the craft roasters can do very small quantities, perhaps up to six kilos. However, other businesses would want to be able to drop off around 20 kilos plus artillery products to make it worthwhile. “There’s a balance between pure coffee freshness and sensible logistics as well,” said Sweeting. “I think a coffee shop probably should be able to get a delivery every fortnight.”

If you’re struggling to commit to one supplier, you can sample a variety to see what their offerings are like. “Another good little way of coming across roasters you might want to work with is setting up subscription services,” said Wilson. “There are so many companies now that will send, say, three bags a month from different speciality coffee roasters from around the country. You could look into setting up a speciality coffee shop. Sign up for one of these for a few months or go old school and pick up the phone and just ask for samples.”

What coffee shop equipment should I be buying?

Now you want to ask yourself what equipment you’ll be buying and whether it will be new or second hand. It’s also important to look at the lifespan or warrantee.

Depending on what you’re offering, this could include:

  • Espresso machine – £1,500 to £10,000 to buy. You can also lease for around £5 a day
  • Cooking appliances
  • Water softener, depending on location
  • Coffee bean grinder
  • Fridge/freezer
  • Toaster/panini press
  • WiFi router

It’s not just the purchase you’re thinking about. It’s also what you need to clean your equipment and how costly that’s going to be time-wise. “There are a lot there’s lots of great choices of coffee machines out there. It can be fully automatic, or semi-automatic or fully manual, but maintain them very well. It’s got to be scrupulously clean,” said Sweeting.

Some firms offer hospitality of coffee shop-specific point of sale (POS) systems. Read more at The essential guide to point of sale (POS) systems .

Finding the right suppliers for goods other than coffee is overlooked. Spend some time researching different suppliers, focusing on their story and values as well as their products.

“Try and get an idea of their history, how many years they’ve been trading. You want them to be big enough to support you when you’re starting out,” said Lloyd. “The long-term supply is lots of knowledge. They usually have customer service and salespeople that have been speaking to businesses for decades. Often, they have great ideas.”

Look for positive testimonials and third-party certifications to tell you what your supplier is like. “These are little cues to tell a customer that this is a reputable company, something that they can rely on,” said Lloyd. “They’re doing things properly in terms of sourcing supply. These products come from all over the world, sometimes it’s very difficult to for a café or coffee shop, to know where their products genuinely come from.”

Hiring staff and training

The size and goals of your coffee shop will help you decide which staff members you need to hire and who comes first.

You’ve got baristas and chefs/cooks of course, but your staff could extend to managerial roles, marketing and accounting, to name three. If you’re hiring them, your manager and marketing specialist should be recruited first, according to Rebecca Siciliano, managing director of hospitality recruitment firm, Tiger Recruitment . They’ll help you lay out the ground-level stuff before your café even opens.

It’s a good idea to have barista training yourself, even if you’re not the one making the coffee. But your baristas are incredibly valuable to your business – coffee shop owners often look for somebody who is already trained. However, training can vary, so it’s up to you to ask the right questions. “If it’s a coffee shop [they worked at before], fine.” said Wilson. He would then ask for the name of the coffee shop and look them up on Google and/or TripAdvisor to read the reviews and see pictures of the coffee. “You know, if it’s a greasy spoon or something, and they’ve made a couple of coffees that are frothy, that’s not barista training,” he said. “If they’re working for a well-known coffee shop, and you know they take their training seriously, then great.

“I then say, ‘Have you got any photos of your art?’ With someone who’s a barista who’s proud to be a barista, I guarantee you has photos on their phone. I then say, ‘Can you email it to me?’”

He added that the final thing during interview is getting them on the machine to make a coffee in front of you – the one they’re most comfortable making. “You can see what level of training they’re going to be at straight away,” he said.

If you can’t get hold of staff who are already trained, speak to your coffee roaster. They may offer training themselves or at least be able to give you some reputable names.

Attracting and retaining staff can be a real task across the hospitality industry, so try and offer what perks you can. “You have to offer a little bit more to be able to attract those candidates, like higher pay,” said Siciliano. “Then it’s also some of the other benefits. In fact, there’s one coffee shop we know of where they’ve got one designated day that all staff have been told that they can have the day off, just to acknowledge that they know how hard they’ve been working.” Flexible working is important too, with staff looking for leeway to have days off for important events or to be able to work during the day and have evenings off.

She also recommends posting roles on social media to target people who may already be interested in your brand.

With all this said, you should avoid overstaffing. “I’ve walked into a new café and they’ve got a 15-seat café and they’ve got five people working,” said Wilson. “The biggest, quickest way to kill any new business is to waste all your money on staffing costs. I mean, don’t get me wrong, you want to recruit people, but you’re no good to anyone if you go out of business.”

One way to tackle this is to hire temporary staff for busier periods. “Temporary staff can be ‘dialled up’ and ‘dialled down’ according to demand,” said Novo Constare, co-founder of Indeed Flex . “This makes them invaluable during busy periods when it’s hard to find enough permanent staff. Their flexibility means there’s no requirement to keep using them during quieter periods.

“Having ready access to good temporary staff also gives a coffee shop a defence against staff absences. A big pool of trained, vetted – and above all, available – workers can save the day at short notice if the shop’s regular staff call in sick.”

Legal considerations

This section will be dry but could save you an inordinate amount of hassle later on.

First off, register your business. This can be done as a limited company, as a sole trader or a legal partnership.

> See also: Should I go sole trader, partnership or limited company?

You must register your coffee shop through the government website at least 28 days before opening. It’s free to register and you can’t be refused.

Next, coffee shop licences. If the premises is not already classed as a coffee or a tea shop, you’ll need to get planning permission. Coffee shops will mostly be classed as an A3 premises which permit food and non-alcoholic beverages to be consumed on the premises. Find out what need with’s licence finder .

There’s a lot of health and safety paperwork to get through. Visit the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for more information about your business’ needs.

The right insurance is crucial and there are a few different types.

Public liability insurance: Cover for claims made against you from employees or clients if something happens to them or their property is damaged as a result of your work. It can be an event which took place on your premises or off-site

Employers’ liability insurance: Protects you against claims for accidents involving staff and customers and covers issues with appliances and other breakages.

Deterioration of stock insurance: Covers damage to goods stored in specified cold storage spaces, which can happen because of a change in temperature caused by a breakdown of refrigeration equipment or accidental damage to it.

Contents insurance: Covers the contents of your coffee shop if they’re lost, damaged or stolen, including fixtures, fittings and your employees’ personal possessions.

Business interruption insurance: Could cover Covid-like events as well as weather-based events like flooding.

Different insurers will have different core packages and add-ons. Remember that, if applicable, your business insurance will need to cover takeaways as well as your delivery drivers. This also applies to alcoholic takeaway drinks and the provision of late-night refreshments in your establishment.

A couple of extras, should you need them. Get an entertainment license if you plan to play music in your caff. See PRS for more .

Finally, know about your staff’s employment rights – this includes working hours, holiday and other leave.

Marketing your coffee shop

Let’s start off with your branding – make sure it’s consistent online and offline. Having an instantly recognisable logo that you can put on all of your marketing material will help customers remember you.

For your offline marketing, this could be well-placed signage like bus stop advertising near your site. You’ve likely seen something similar with fast food restaurants who have signs with their logo and an arrow pointing towards their nearest restaurant.

Entice locals and passing trade into your shop with free samples of cake (Covid restrictions apply at time of writing). Drive more brand loyalty by joining a food event or hosting a coffee making/bakery classes. This can be in-person or online. Give participants an exclusive discount on their next coffee and cake or your in-store products.

Of course, it’s essential to establish regulars – they’re a great source of word-of-mouth advertising too. Treat them well by getting to know them and learning their regular order. Try getting in contact with local groups such as parent and toddler clubs or a nearby sports team – you can look at meetup websites for this – and offer them a regular space at quieter time to build up that customer base, making yourself the go-to for the locals. Having discounts and deals for quieter times and a loyalty scheme for regulars will drive footfall.

As for your online offering, you really need to consider having a website and being on at least one social media platform. This is especially true if you’re in the city and have a lot of competition. An easy starting point is getting on Google My Business. This is the widget you see when you type something like ‘coffee shops near me’ into the search engine. It includes your opening hours, images of your café and customer reviews.

Make sure you have a user-friendly and detailed website for customers to visit. They can find out more about you and your business story as well as your menu and info on upcoming events. We’ve got loads of guides to building a website , but here’s one tip: remember your keywords. This is what people will be searching when they’re trying to find businesses like yours. For example, include ‘afternoon tea’ and ‘high tea’ if that’s one of your main draws.

Take beautiful pictures of your food and drink for your website and social media. Customers will get a better sense of what you’re offering, and pictures may tempt them into coming to your café. Driving loyalty is important online too – you can achieve this through your newsletter. Offer an exclusive discount off their first booking or order when they sign up.

Plan for bigger events when your coffee shop will be busy. “They need to be looking ahead to Christmas. Big style,” said Lloyd. “This Christmas will be the biggest hospitality boom we predict for years. You need to be looking to Christmas and what’s going to make you unique.” He suggests speciality coffees like gingerbread lattes or other special syrups.

“We do our own Christmas cups for the independents. They can then play a massive part in the café’s own marketing.”

He warns of a ‘humongous drop in January’. “You’ve got to make it really work October, November, December. Then cash off, have a good Christmas. February and March will be when it starts to pick back up again.”

So, is opening a new coffee shop right for me?

As you can see, setting up a café is quite a process but don’t let that put you off if you believe in your idea.

Reading industry magazines like Caffeine and going to coffee events with other baristas and roasters will give you an introduction to the community. If you’re still unsure, try working in someone else’s coffee shop for a few days to gauge if it’s something you could do long-term.

For a transition into the coffee shop world, you could open a franchise such as Costa instead. Read Buying a franchise: the key considerations to find out more.

Trade Shows

Food & drink trade shows for coffee shop owners, further reading.

Five successful business ideas for 2021

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business. More by Anna Jordan

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Do you need Planning permission to open a Coffee Shop?

Posted: november 7, 2018.

Are you planning to open a coffee shop? One of the most frequent questions we are asked is do I need planning permission

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) sets out various land uses and categories.

If you are opening a coffee shop you should be mindful of the requirements.

Coffee shops normally fall within use class A1 and cover the sale of retail goods and includes sandwich bars, travel agents, grocery stores, chemists hardware shops etc. The unifying factor is the sale of retail goods to members of the public.

An A3 use on the other hand is for “the sale of food or drink for consumption on the premises or of hot food for consumption off the premises.”

coffee shop planning permission uk

Can I cook on the premises?

Unfortunately coffee shops and other establishments don’t always fall neatly within class A1 (retail) and a number of operators have encountered problems for example when the nature of their business evolves and starts to change.

Increasingly coffee shops are serving breakfast, lunches and other snacks and this is where the problem can occur.

The answer to the question posed in this blogpost isn’t always as simple as it should be as it could depend on a number of factors and can be a question of fact and degree:

1) The ratio of hot food sales to cold food sales

2) Where is the food prepared?

3) Is any primary cooking taking place on the premises

If there is any doubt about whether or not planning permission is required then an application for an certificate of lawfulness 

coffee shop planning permission uk

If you would like to discuss your Coffee shop proposals and then please call Yussuf Mwanza on 020 8995 7848

coffee shop planning permission uk

Yussuf Mwanza is a Chartered Town Planner and is founder and Managing Director of MZA Planning with over 30 years of planning experience gained in Local government, the private sector and The Planning Inspectorate.

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How to start a coffee shop in the UK

How to start a coffee shop in 11 easy steps.

Dreaming of opening your own coffee shop in the UK? Imagine being your own boss, serving delicious coffee, and creating a warm, inviting space for your customers. This comprehensive guide will show you how to start a successful coffee shop in the UK, from understanding the market to marketing strategies that will help you thrive, so you can make that dream a reality. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to start a successful coffee shop  in the UK, from understanding the market to marketing strategies that will help you thrive. Are you ready to embark on this exciting journey? Let’s get started!

Short Summary

  • Understand the UK coffee shop market and customer preferences.
  • Develop a unique concept that appeals to your target audience.
  • Create a comprehensive business plan, secure funding, obtain permits & licenses, design an efficient layout & procure essential equipment.

Understanding the Coffee Shop Business

A coffee shop with customers enjoying their drinks

The coffee shop business is booming in the UK, but it’s essential to understand the challenges and opportunities that come with it. With dedication, hard work, and the right knowledge, you can make your coffee shop stand out from the competition.

In this section, we will delve into the UK coffee shop market trends, customer preferences, and the challenges and opportunities that await you in this exciting industry.

UK Market Trends and Customer Preferences

The UK coffee shop market is thriving, with an estimated value of £3.4 billion in 2016 and a 10.4% year-on-year sales increase between 2015 and 2016. It is projected to reach a turnover of £15 billion by 2025.

Approximately 80% of people who visit coffee shops in the UK do so at least once a week. The majority of customers tend to be office workers during the weekdays and busy shoppers on the weekends.

This flourishing café culture is driven by the heightened consumption of coffee and the average cost of a cup of coffee in the UK is £2.45. Keeping up with market trends and customer preferences is crucial to stay competitive and cater to the needs of your patrons.

Challenges and Opportunities

Starting a coffee shop in the UK comes with its fair share of challenges. High competition, expensive rent and equipment, and financial obstacles can make it difficult for new businesses to get a foothold.

However, coffee shops are known for their durability in unstable markets, and establishing a coffee shop in a volatile market can help reduce unpredictability for small business owners. By understanding and navigating these challenges, you can seize the opportunities that come your way and create a thriving coffee shop business.

Developing Your Unique Coffee Shop Concept

A group of people discussing coffee shop ideas

To stand out in a crowded market, it’s important to develop a unique coffee shop concept that resonates with your target audience. From selecting the perfect name to crafting a mouth-watering menu, every detail counts in creating a memorable experience for your customers.

In this section, we’ll guide you through the process of identifying your target audience, and crafting the perfect menu and ambiance that will keep them coming back for more.

Identifying Your Target Audience

Understanding your target audience is crucial to the success of your coffee shop. Researching the market and emerging trends can help you gain insights into who your customers are and what they expect from a coffee shop.

The most prevalent age group among coffee shop customers is 25-34, followed by 18-24. By identifying the specific needs and preferences of your target audience, you can tailor your marketing efforts and create a unique experience that appeals to them.

Crafting Your Menu and Ambiance

Your menu and ambiance play a significant role in creating a distinct identity for your coffee shop. Consider offering artisanal coffee, a popular trend among independent coffee shops.

In terms of ambiance, strike a balance between comfort and efficiency. Successful coffee shops often focus on catering to takeaway customers and provide only a small number of tables and bar stools that are not overly comfortable. By crafting a unique menu and a welcoming atmosphere, you can create a memorable experience that will keep your customers coming back.

Conducting Market Research

A market researcher conducting a survey on how to start a coffee shop

Before diving into the world of coffee shop ownership, it’s important to conduct thorough market research. This will help you understand the demand for quality coffee shops in your local area, the level of competition, and the feasibility of owning a commercial business in your chosen location.

In this section, we’ll discuss the importance of competitor analysis and location feasibility, as well as how to gather advice from local business owners.

Competitor Analysis

Competitor analysis is a crucial step in understanding your place in the market. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of competitors in the same market, such as other coffee shops, restaurants, supermarkets, or home coffee preparation. Evaluate the number of competitors in the area, the types of coffee shops they offer, the prices they charge, and the customer service they provide.

By identifying potential gaps in the market, you can find a unique angle for your coffee shop that sets you apart from the competition.

Location Feasibility

Choosing the right location for your coffee shop is essential for its success. Analyze factors such as foot traffic, competition, and rent prices in the area. This analysis will help you determine the viability of your chosen location and give you a better understanding of the local market.

By selecting a suitable location, you can increase your chances of attracting customers and generating revenue.

Creating a Comprehensive Business Plan

A person creating a business plan for a coffee shop

A comprehensive business plan is essential for any successful coffee shop. This will assist you in developing your idea. You will also be able to plan the ownership structure, project finances, create the menu, and research your competition.

In this section, we’ll guide you through creating a detailed business plan, including ownership structure and finances, as well as marketing and competitive strategy.

Ownership Structure and Finances

Determining the right ownership structure for your coffee shop is crucial, as it affects your legal rights and obligations. Common ownership structures include sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and limited liability company (LLC). Each structure has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s essential to choose the one that best suits your needs and goals.

In addition, it’s important to understand the financial considerations for establishing a coffee shop in the UK, such as rent, equipment, supplies, and staff.

Marketing and Competitive Strategy

A well-thought-out marketing and competitive strategy is essential for the success of your coffee shop. Your value proposition, key brand messaging, and target customer demographics should all be considered when formulating your marketing strategy.

Establish goals and objectives for the promotion and sale of your products and services, focusing on increasing brand recognition, generating revenue, and enhancing customer loyalty. By employing targeted marketing campaigns that cater to the specific needs of your target customers, you can effectively engage and convince them to choose your coffee shop.

Securing Funding for Your Coffee Shop

A person looking for loan options for a coffee shop

Securing funding is crucial for covering the expenses associated with starting a coffee shop, such as rent, equipment, supplies, and staff wages, as well as covering operational costs until the business becomes profitable.

In this section, we’ll explore the various funding options available for your coffee shop, including commercial loans, business lines of credit, and small business loans, as well as how to estimate the cost of opening your coffee shop.

Loan Options

Your coffee shop may require funding from various sources, such as business loans, merchant cash advances, and business cash advances. Each of these loan options has its own benefits and drawbacks, depending on your financial circumstances.

Evaluating these options and choosing the one that best suits your needs is essential for the success of your coffee shop.

Cost Estimations

The cost of starting a coffee shop in the UK can range from £20,000 to £100,000, depending on factors such as location, size, and style of the shop. To ensure the financial success of your coffee shop, it’s important to carefully estimate your start-up costs and plan your budget accordingly.

By researching competitive prices and negotiating with suppliers, you can reduce the costs associated with launching your coffee shop.

Choosing the Ideal Location in UK

A person choosing the ideal location for a coffee shop in the UK

Finding the ideal location for your coffee shop is crucial for its success. Factors to consider include footfall, competition, and rent. When selecting a commercial space for your coffee shop, it’s important to evaluate the physical space and conduct a location analysis to ensure it meets your needs and the needs of your customers.

By choosing the perfect location, you can increase your chances of a thriving business.

Obtaining Permits and Licenses

A person obtaining permits and licenses for a coffee shop

Before selling coffee, it’s essential to obtain the necessary permits and licenses for your coffee shop. In the UK, you’ll need to register as a food business with your local council, obtain a business license, and a Level 2 Food Hygiene Certificate. You may also require planning permission, depending on the local authority.

It’s vital to acquire these permits and licenses prior to selling coffee, as failure to do so can result in penalties and legal repercussions.

Designing an Efficient Layout

A person designing an efficient layout for a coffee shop

An efficient and inviting layout is essential for a successful coffee shop. It not only provides customers with a pleasant experience, but also ensures smooth operation for your staff.

In this section, we’ll delve into the importance of front-of-house and back-of-house design, and how to create an optimal layout for your coffee shop.

Front-of-House Design

The front-of-house design is crucial for creating a welcoming atmosphere for your customers. Factors to consider include maximizing seating, color choices, style of furniture, and a contemporary aesthetic. Striking a balance between comfort and efficiency is key; too many comfortable seating options may encourage customers to linger for extended periods, limiting your ability to serve new customers.

By designing a front-of-house that appeals to your target audience, you can create a memorable experience that keeps customers coming back.

Back-of-House Design

The back-of-house layout is crucial for the efficient operation of your coffee shop. It should accommodate stations for order taking, equipment cleaning, and food preparation, as well as ensure a smooth workflow for your staff.

By designing an efficient back-of-house layout, you can guarantee that orders are processed quickly and accurately, maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Procuring Essential Equipment

Having the right equipment is vital for the success of your coffee shop. In this section, we’ll guide you through the process of procuring essential equipment for a standard coffee shop, from espresso machines to cleaning supplies.

We’ll also discuss the importance of equipment sourcing, inventory, and staff uniforms.

Equipment Sourcing

A person procuring essential equipment for a coffee shop

Sourcing the right equipment for your coffee shop is crucial for its success. Options include local suppliers, online retailers, or second-hand sources. When sourcing equipment, consider factors such as quality, reliability, and price.

Investing in high-quality equipment can save you money in the long run by minimizing repair and replacement costs.

Equipment Inventory

Creating an equipment inventory list is an essential step in setting up your coffee shop. This list should detail the type, quantity, and cost of each item needed for your business, such as espresso machines, coffee grinders, airpots, and syrup pumps.

By having a comprehensive equipment inventory list, you can better manage your budget and ensure you have everything you need to run your coffee shop efficiently.

Staff Uniforms

Selecting suitable uniforms for your staff is important for creating a professional image and reinforcing your brand identity. Uniforms should be comfortable, durable, and reflect the branding and style of your coffee shop.

Printed aprons are a popular choice for coffee shop uniforms , as they are functional and can be customised with your logo or design.

Hiring and Training a Stellar Team

Hiring and training a stellar team is crucial for the success of your coffee shop. Your staff should be skilled in customer service, knowledgeable about coffee, and able to prepare beverages correctly.

In this section, we’ll discuss the importance of making informed staffing decisions, implementing a measured approach to hiring, and providing support and training for new employees.

Marketing Your Coffee Shop

A person hiring and training a stellar team for a coffee shop

Marketing your coffee shop is essential for attracting customers and building a loyal customer base. Start promoting your coffee shop several months before opening through social media, local press, networking with your local chamber of commerce and business association, and partnering with local charities.

By implementing a strategic marketing plan, you can ensure your coffee shop stands out from the competition and becomes a go-to destination for coffee lovers in your community.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ve walked you through the essential steps to start a successful coffee shop in the UK. From understanding the market and developing a unique concept to hiring and training a stellar team, each step is crucial in creating a thriving business. Embarking on this journey may be challenging, but with passion, hard work, and the right knowledge, you can turn your dream of owning a coffee shop into a reality. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to brew up some success!

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to start a coffee shop on average.

On average, the cost to open a coffee shop ranges from £60,000 to £275,000. A minimum investment of £40,000 is needed to open a small kiosk, while a larger drive-through shop can cost between £60,000 and £150,000.

Opening a sit-down cafe with seating may require an investment of up to £225,000.

What license do I need for a coffee shop UK?

In order to operate a coffee shop in the UK, you must register your business with the local authority and obtain a food safety license. This can be done online at free of charge at least 28 days before you start trading.

Ultimately, obtaining this license is essential for setting up a successful coffee shop.

How much does the average cafe make UK?

On average, a small independent coffee shop in the UK makes between £100,000 and £150,000 a year. However, there is a significant range, with some cafés making as little as £25,000 and only a few making over £250,000 annually.

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Key Legal Considerations When Setting Up a Cafe in the UK

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By Thomas Sutherland

Updated on 4 July 2023 Reading time: 5 minutes

This article meets our strict editorial principles. Our lawyers, experienced writers and legally trained editorial team put every effort into ensuring the information published on our website is accurate. We encourage you to seek independent legal advice. Learn more .

1. Business Type and Registration

2. licencing and permits, 3. health and safety regulations, 4. food standards, 5. employment laws and regulations, 6. intellectual property (ip) protection, 7. data protection and privacy.

  • Eight – Accessibility and Disability Discrimination 

Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions.

Setting up a cafe in the UK can be an exciting and rewarding experience. However, amidst the enthusiasm for creating a unique space, knowing the relevant legal framework is crucial. Complying with the applicable legal requirements is essential to ensure a smooth and successful cafe business. This article will explore the key legal considerations aspiring cafe owners should consider when setting up their establishments in the UK.  

The first step in establishing a cafe is to decide on the most suitable business structure. Common options include: 

  • sole proprietorship;
  • partnership; or 
  • limited company.  

Each structure has advantages and disadvantages regarding liability, taxation, and legal obligations.

Once you decide which structure to use, you must register the cafe with the appropriate authorities. Depending on the chosen business entity, this may be Companies House and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) .

Operating a coffee shop in the UK requires obtaining the necessary licences and permits. The primary licence needed is the premises licence the local council grants. This licence covers selling food and non-alcoholic beverages and any live entertainment or late-night refreshments.

You may require additional licences for: 

  • serving alcohol;
  • playing recorded music; or 
  • hosting outdoor seating. 

It is essential to consult the local council and familiarise yourself with the specific licencing requirements in your area.

Front page of publication

LegalVision’s Startup Manual is essential reading material for any startup founder looking to launch and grow a successful startup.

Compliance with health and safety regulations is paramount in the food and drinks industry.  

Cafe owners must adhere to strict guidelines to ensure the well-being of both customers and employees. This includes the same practices for hot food businesses, such as: 

  • maintaining a clean and hygienic environment;
  • implementing proper food storage and handling practices; and 
  • providing adequate ventilation.

Fire safety measures such as fire escape routes and extinguishers should also be in place. Furthermore, implementing adequate employee health and safety policies and providing training is crucial to ensure a safe working environment. For example, teaching staff the safe use of espresso machines, which involves heating and pouring liquids at high temperatures, is imperative.

The local authority will conduct regular health inspections to ensure compliance with these regulations.

Cafes must meet the food hygiene and safety standards set by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. This involves: 

  • implementing procedures to prevent contaminating coffee beans and food items;
  • proper labelling of allergens; 
  • appropriate temperature control for food storage; and 
  • training staff in food safety practices.

Obtaining a Food Hygiene Rating Scheme certificate is advisable, as it provides reassurance to customers and demonstrates compliance with hygiene regulations.

Hiring and managing employees in a cafe requires complying with various employment laws and regulations . This includes: 

  • ensuring fair employment contracts;
  • adhering to minimum wage requirements;
  • providing a safe and inclusive working environment; and 
  • understanding the rules governing working hours, breaks, and holiday entitlements.

Compliance with anti-discrimination laws and health and safety regulations in the workplace is also essential. Employers must also have liability insurance to protect against workplace accidents or injuries.

Protecting your cafe’s Intellectual Property (IP) is crucial to safeguard your brand and reputation. Consider registering trademarks for the: 

  • cafe’s name;
  • cafe’s logo; and 
  • any unique branding elements.  

This will help prevent others from using similar marks that could confuse customers. It is also essential to respect the IP rights of others and avoid infringing on existing trademarks, copyrights, or patents.

Data protection and privacy considerations come into play with the increasing use of technology in cafes, such as online ordering systems and customer databases.

Cafe owners must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and ensure that personal data collected from customers is stored securely and used only for its intended purpose.  Implementing appropriate data protection policies and obtaining customer consent for data processing is essential to avoid legal repercussions.

Eight – Accessibility and Disability Discrimination 

Cafes should strive to provide equal access and services to individuals with disabilities. Under the Equality Act 2010 , cafe owners must make reasonable adjustments to ensure their premises are accessible to everyone. This may include installing ramps, accessible toilets, and providing alternative menu formats. 

Failure to comply with these requirements can result in legal action and damage the cafe’s reputation.

When setting up a cafe in the UK, entrepreneurs must navigate a complex legal landscape to ensure compliance with various regulations. These legal considerations relate to the following: 

  • health and safety;
  • IP rights; 
  • business registration; 
  • employment law; 
  • data protection; and 

By understanding and addressing these legal obligations, UK cafe owners can establish a strong foundation for their business, fostering growth and ensuring long-term success in the competitive cafe industry in the UK.

However, there is also a business side to setting up a cafe in the UK, which includes preparing a business plan and focusing on attracting a large customer base through advertising and social media. There is often a high degree of local competition for new cafe owners, so it is a good idea to figure out the best way to target customers before launching your new business.

If you need legal assistance setting up a cafe in the UK, our experienced business structure lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit our membership page . 

One of the main expenses involved with a new coffee shop is the purchase of suitable coffee machines, as most customers expect speciality coffee drinks rather than instant blends.

Naturally, if your coffee shop prepares any food on site, it should have designed food preparation areas and comply with the food hygiene standards set by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

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Home / Our Blog / Setting up a Coffee Shop – Our How to Guide

Setting up a Coffee Shop – Our How to Guide

  • Updated on:September 16, 2020

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Have you ever wanted to set up or run your own coffee shop and wondered just what that challenge would involve?

Perhaps you have a real passion for trying out new coffee flavours from around the world and sharing the best with friends and family.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to be your own boss and you think that having your own coffee shop would be a great way to achieve that.

Or perhaps you love the idea of talking and interacting with different customers every day as you provide them with a friendly, professional service.

A coffee shop could be the perfect option!

Running a successful coffee shop isn’t easy but it can be incredibly rewarding. You’ll gain personal confidence and business experience, benefit from knowing that you’ve created value and made people happy, while hopefully earning some money along the way!

But there are many different aspects to running a coffee shop business that you need to consider in order to have the best chance of success when setting up your own company and this article will take you through as many of them as possible.

Think of this as a quick and easy how to run a coffee shop for dummies ! Let’s dive in.

Your coffee shop business model & Set up

The first task is really to decide what sort of coffee shop you want to be, or in fact whether you want to actually be a ‘shop’ at all!

It is possible to set up a coffee shop in many different ways; essentially all we are talking about is a way of giving customers coffee and a way of getting paid for it – everything else in the business model is optional.

Here are a few different ways that you could operate:

A community coffee shop – run on a for-profit or not-for-profit basis, a community shop could be owned by many different stakeholders and/or operate on a donations model. It can also work in partnership with an existing business or organisation, particularly if that partner shares the community-run values (think libraries, student-run university businesses, charity or co-op shops etc.) This is a great inclusive option if you have a group that can help.

A pop-up or mobile coffee shop – a temporary coffee business that can move locations and has little in the way of customer services (e.g. seating, toilets, wifi etc.) or additional products. A low-risk and low-cost option for starting out.

A permanent shop – this could be run as a cafe, a themed destination, or a basic high volume/high footfall coffee shop. This is probably the model most people are familiar with and there are still a whole host of ways in which you can be creative about your business within it.

A subscription and delivery business – if you intend to serve a large number of very local clients who may want to purchase on a delivery or subscription basis, this could be an option for you. Perhaps your customers could be 50 local companies who you can deliver ‘coffee runs’ to on a daily basis for example – think about the opportunities and value that can be added through subscription.

We have also previously written about coffee shop business models on our blog so take a look at the different options available to determine what will work best for you.

Also remember that you can tweak and evolve your model at any time. There have been plenty of examples of entrepreneurs that start out with a simple mobile cart, run some pop-up stalls at events and food markets and then progress to opening a small shop.

But none of these business models are free to set up of course!

The cost of setting up and running a coffee shop

Ah yes . . . the money. Unless you have been left a fully stocked shop as part of an odd inheritance or some strange competition, you’ll need to spend something to set up your coffee shop business.

There are certain one-off and fixed running costs for a coffee shop that you will need to take into account in business planning. These cover areas such as:

  • Permits, licenses and insurance
  • Business administration and accountancy costs
  • Stock and logistics – both for consumables and equipment
  • Rent, electricity, water, gas and similar costs
  • Entertainment for customers such as music and wifi

These costs will depend on where the business will be based.

For example, the costs of running a coffee shop in the UK won’t differ too much from the rest of the world, relative to the regular costs of licenses, stock and premises in the country. The coffee market in the UK is very robust; 95 million cups of coffee are drunk every day and the competition for this business affects prices.

Once you have your business model sorted and a clear idea of the initial costs, you need to determine whether or not you’ll need money to set up the company.

Financing a coffee business set-up

If you need some initial capital to get your new coffee business off the ground you’ll need to look into financing options.

You might have enough saved up or be able to borrow from willing family and friends (which can be a minefield itself as you probably know!)

Other options, depending on the amount of capital required, could include;

  • A bank loan (quite risky)
  • A second mortgage (moderately risky)
  • Maxing out credit cards (very risky)
  • Crowdfunding
  • Investment – on an equity basis for example
  • Local/regional funding support

There might be other solutions in your area that you could access, depending on the type of company you intend to build. This could also determine where you choose to set up, your staff and other key business decisions.

What else to consider when setting up a coffee shop

Once you have your overall business model and financing in place, you are well on the way to launching your very own coffee shop . But there are still a number of other decisions to make:

Next let’s think about where exactly your coffee shop will be based. A coffee shop needs at least enough space to store ingredients, make your beverages and get paid for them in order to operate properly.

There may be a few different ways to look at location depending on your chosen business model as we discussed above. But even the most mobile pop-up cart setup will need some physical space to run the shop and to store everything when not in use.

Your choice of location might also be determined by logistics. Coffee itself is relatively light and easy to transport but other ingredients such as fresh milk and cakes need to be delivered on a different timescale.

If things go well, sooner or later you’ll need to get hiring.

Tell friends and family that you’re on the lookout for employees needed to run a coffee shop and put a sign up at your business in case your customers can refer you to someone.

Obviously try to look for someone with good experience, but remember you’re competing for staff against giant coffee chains so you need to emphasise your differences.

Your brand and style

One of the great things about small consumer businesses like coffee shops is the potential for building a truly unique brand.

You don’t need to try and out-Starbucks Starbucks – they’ve been doing it longer and have more money than you do, so it’s probably not the best idea. Think about what you could become known for and why people will buy coffee from you as opposed to an alternative shop.

A coffee shop needs to provide a great experience (as well as great coffee). You could be selling beautiful cups of the best steaming liquid gold, but if people aren’t having a nice time, they won’t be back in a hurry.

To build your brand think about how other companies make you feel when you interact with them. What businesses do you love? What do you tell your friends about? What would you like people to say about you when you aren’t in the room?

Think of the brand as the one-liner that people use to refer to your business:

  • Oh yes I know CoffeeShells – that coffee shop with the pet tortoises on the window sills.
  • Have you heard about Coffeeman Sam? It’s a pop-up coffee cart made from an old fire engine!

The more memorable yet genuine it is, the more people will spread the word. And if you give them a good experience, and a great coffee, when they arrive, you’ve done your job well!

Admin and taxes

Yes, we can’t avoid this in business I’m afraid! There’s no need to go into this in too much detail here, but be sure to check what rules and regulations you need to adhere to.

Look into advice on tax and administration requirements shared by government sources, such as this interview with independent coffee shop owners .

Sales and marketing

How will you get people in the door?

Building your customer base is one of the biggest challenges that you will face – get this right and everything else will be a little bit easier.

There’s no one task or activity that will make or break your sales and marketing activity, but everything (from your cups and furniture through to the quality of your Facebook and Twitter game) plays a part.

Be strategic and don’t over-commit to marketing activities at the expense of serving customers and providing a great experience.

Who will you buy coffee and other products from? How will the products be stored and delivered? What contract terms will you work on?

These are the sort of questions you will need to answer when developing your supplier network.

Personal relationships are important here but also don’t be afraid to drive a hard bargain when you need to make the finances work out for your business.

In conclusion

A lot of people have asked us over the years how hard is it to run a coffee shop?

The truth is that isn’t easy, like setting up any business, but it is a straightforward type of company to build if you have a clear vision in mind.

The demand is there, the suppliers are eager to help and the different options for business models, brand, location and premises mean you can really stamp your own personality on the company.

The best way to find out if you have what it takes is to try it. To really learn how to run a coffee shop training will help, but direct experience is better.

Good luck if you take the plunge – and let us know how you get on!

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  • 15 Steps to Opening a Coffee Shop

15 Steps to Opening a Coffee Shop: Business Plans, Starting Tips and Costs

Is a coffee shop a good investment.

In the UK,  95 million cups of coffee are consumed per   day , which makes opening of a coffee shop a potentially great investment. At the same time, a coffee shops sells on average  200 cups per day.  There are around  24,000 coffee shops across the UK  and  the coffee market is expanding . In fact, it is estimated that the number of coffee shops will reach  30,000 by 2025.

Small coffee shops tend to have  a profit of 2.5 percent of gross sales on average.  However, medium and large coffee shops might earn a higher profit. On average, a coffee shop owner can earn between  £46,000 and £120,000 per year.

How Much Does It Cost to Open a Coffee Shop?

Opening a coffee shop might cost around  £29,999 to £99,000.  Yet, the cost of starting a coffee business depends on  the location, size, style of the shop, and the equipment. 

At the same time, you can buy your own coffee shop equipment or you can consider  coffee machine rental , if you have a limited budget. 

Below you can find an estimation of the cost of basic products and services involved in opening and running a coffee shop.

15 Steps to Starting up a Café

Opening your own coffee shop might be complicated and time consuming. However, this list of 15 steps will give you an idea of the most important elements of the process.

  • Study Your Coffee Competitors
  • Find a Coffee Shop Concept
  • Write a Solid Business Plan Before Opening a Coffee Shop
  • Find a Perfect Location for Your Café
  • Know How to Finance Your Coffee Business
  • Buy Equipment Every Coffee Shop Needs
  • Find the Best Quality Coffee Beans for Your Café
  • Design the Interior of Your Coffee Shop
  • Find a Payment System That Works Best for Your Coffee Shop
  • Create an Online Presence for Your Coffee Shop
  • Spread the Word About Your Coffee Shop
  • Hire Staff for Your Coffee Shop
  • Create a Menu for Your Café
  • Get the Necessary Permits and Licences for Your Coffee Shop
  • Become a Coffee Expert
  • 1. Study Your Coffee Competitors

Before you start brewing up coffee for your customers you should do your research about the coffee industry. Study your  competitors  and learn the stories of  independent coffee shops owners , which might be a good inspiration. This is particularly important if you are new to the industry.

Pay attention to whether  franchise or independent businesses  prevail in the area you want to open your shop. 

An independent coffee shop with a unique and cosy atmosphere might be able to compete with franchised shops. However, doing better than 10 distinctive cafes on the same street might be a challenge.

  • 2. Find a Coffee Shop Concept

Finding a concept  should be on the top of your checklist before opening a café because your business plan will be developed around it. A unique concept might actually determine your success in a highly competitive coffee business.

If you find a spot close to a university you should think about  casual layout,  and creating a student vibe. To keep students hooked to your place, consider offering  cheap breakfast options.

Coffee Shop Concept

If you find a suitable space in a  business area , creating an  elegant  and  quiet place  where people can work or organise their meetings might be a good idea. On the other hand, in the areas with  nurseries and schools  you should think about  parents’ needs such as   childcare.

If your coffee shop will be located in an area where people tend to walk their dogs, an  animal friendly  space might be a great success.

  • 3. Write a Solid Business Plan Before Opening a Café

A business plan is a tool that will help you  organise and prioritise plans and expenses  for your coffee shop. Moreover, a business plan is a must when you plan to seek a  loan or get investors on board.

In your coffee shop business plan you should include:

  • A title (legal name and coffee shop logo ).
  • A summary (objectives and mission).
  • The business structure overview.
  • Market and competitor analysis.
  • Product description.
  • A sales plan (pricing, service, customer enticement strategy, marketing).
  • A financial plan (income statement, cash flow, balance sheets, breakeven analysis).
  • An operating plan (physical equipment, inventory, supply chain).
  • Management strategy (ownership and staffing).
  • Appendices and exhibits.

Last but not least, you might include  visual elements , for example,  the shop layout and design .  Graphs and charts  will be helpful to present financial calculations.

A business plan can be a few or even hundreds of pages long, depending on the scale of your coffee shop. You can download our  editable business plan structure .

Coffee shop business plan

  • 4. Find a Perfect Location for Your Café

Finding a location might be a turning point in the process of starting a café. A good location might decide about your future success. Bad location might lead a failure and huge money loss.

You might search for the location on your own or you might hire  a commercial real estate agent,  which might save a lot of time. However, commissions account for around  10% of annual rental fee.

While searching for a suitable location, think about the following factors:  demographics, proximity to strategic places  such as kindergartens, schools, universities, business district or public transportation, and  competitors.  Pay also attention to  foot and car traffic. A shopping mall  might not necessarily be a good idea because even with a good income prospect it might not be enough to cover  the high rent.  Don’t disregard  less obvious locations  if they have good visibility.  Districts that are still growing  might bring you considerable income in the future.

Do not limit yourself to conventional coffee shops. Sometimes,  a coffee truck located   next to a train station  might be better investment than a coffee shop on the main street.

Additional aspects to keep in mind are related to the shop itself. Pay attention to  the plan and space.  If you plan to open  take-away,  you will need a tiny space. However,  a sit-in café  will require more a spacious shop. A space with already  insulating gas, and water might reduce your opening cost.

Coffee chop location

  • 5. Know How to Finance Your Coffee Business

Starting a coffee shop might be expensive, so make sure that you have enough capital. Keep in mind that a coffee shop might first bring profit between  6 and 12 months after opening . Make sure you have enough money to cover  rent, equipment, and salaries for staff for that period. 

If you do not have money for opening a coffee shop, there are  different ways to get funding for your business.  You might consider finding  an investor  or getting  a  business loan.

How to Get a Business Loan for a Coffee Shop?

To get a loan for you coffee shop you will need a solid business plan and you need to decide what loan would be the most suitable for you.

A business start-up loan  might be a good solution for those who want to  maintain ownership, and need money to cover initial expenses.  Besides, it helps to build  business credit.

On the other hand,  a small business loan  might be a better solution for those who  already own a business and seek an expansion.

Whatever loan you decide to apply for, make sure that you are well-prepared to get your loan approved .

  • 6. Buy Equipment Every Coffee Shop Needs

The next step should be  buying proper equipment  for your coffee shop.

While there are a few  commercial coffee machines  that are suitable for a coffee shop, you should consider investing in an espresso machine in particular, to brew the highest quality coffee for your customers.

Depending on your individual preferences and needs, you might choose among  lever commercial espresso machines, pump commercial espresso machines, pod commercial espresso machines , or  steam commercial espresso machines.

Coffee shop machine types

You should pay attention to both  the price  and  the performance  of your desired espresso machine. Think about the number of people you plan to serve coffee every day, and make sure that you can deliver without a delay.

There are many different coffee machine suppliers to choose from. One of the most popular  coffee machines suppliers  in the UK are: Franke, Fracino, Gaggia, De’longhi, Jura, Kenco, Bosch, Selecta, Astoria, Saeco, and Miele.

If your budget is limited and you cannot afford buying a machine outright, rent or leasing a coffee machine might work for  the beginning of your coffee business.

  • 7. Find the Best Quality Coffee Beans for Your Café

To hook your customers to your coffee shop, a nice location and a unique concept might not be enough. Since your main product will be coffee, you need to pay special attention to  the quality of coffee beans .

Yet, the best quality coffee will  cost you more.  In fact, coffee beans might be one of the biggest expenses of opening a café.

There are two broad types of coffee available on the market:  Coffee Arabica and Coffee Robusta . Coffee Arabica has a sweet and soft taste and high acidity, and tends to be more expensive than Robusta.

On the other hand, Robusta’s taste is stronger and harsher than Arabica. It also contains more caffeine than Arabica.

You need to think what price you should pay to create profits from sales. Keep in mind:  the higher quality coffee, the higher the price of coffee in your café.

The next step is to choose how you want your coffee beans to be  roasted.  There are several roasts to choose from:  light broad, brown, medium, dark, and extra dark.

At the same time, you might select among Amercian Roast, French Roast, Italian Roast, European Roast, and Viennese Roast. By researching the coffee market you might also learn how to blend different roast to create  a unique product for your customers.

When it comes to suppliers, you might choose  multi-national supplier or a local roaster.  Selecting local supplier might give extra point to your business, as  supporting local products.  

If you care about fair trade and ethical pay, you should acquire information how your provider gets coffee. You may ask potential provider for fair trade certification.

  • 8. Design the Interior of Your Coffee Shop

Another exciting step is to design the interior of your coffee shop.  Front as well as back house plans  are crucial for  service efficiency and customers’ comfort.  The design should be aligned with the concept you selected at the beginning of the process.

Think what kind of  atmosphere  you want to create. Do you want an  open style  of front house with  bright colours , suitable for students hanging out; or maybe you want a space with  darker colours  to create a  sense of privacy  that will be appreciated by people coming to your place for a business meeting. If you target parents, think about how you will incorporate a  kids corner into the layout.

Using any available space and adding decorations will depend on the  size of your shop.  With a  small space  you need to be very careful to  not overwhelm your customers. Finally, you need to think about creating a workplace that will be  welcoming  but also  organised and efficient.

Coffee shop interior

  • 9. Find a Payment System That Works Best for Your Coffee Shop

After the creative part of designing interior, you should focus on more technical aspects of your business. Choosing the right  EPOS system  that works the best for a coffee shop is very important to make  the operations smooth, enhance customer service, and foster the communication between front of house and back house.

A  cash register  will help you with  the management of your business finances  such as track of daily income and daily operations.

You might choose  touch screen cash register , with different options, services and solutions  specialized for specific sector such as restaurant or hospitality.  If you want  more mobile option  of epos system, you might consider an  mPOS system solution , which actually can be used on  a tablet or smartphone  if you have a good internet connection.

As with coffee machines, you have the option to buy your POS outright, or opt to  rent an ePOS system.

  • 10. Create an Online Presence for Your Coffee Shop

Online presence is extremely important for every kind of business in today’s world.

Your coffee shop needs a website so your customers can find you. It will show your customer  who you are  and  why your coffee shop is special.  Overall, through your website you can post your  location, opening hours, images, and get customer reviews.

It is very easy to set up a website. However, remember that the  website design cost  will depend on  how advanced you want your site to be.  Moreover, since customers search for coffee shops on their mobile phones, make sure that you provide the best user experience by adjusting to  mobile web design.

  • 11. Spread the Word About Your Coffee Shop

Increasing the number of customers might take time. Spreading the word about your coffee shop will help you to enhance your newly created business.

Using social media  is one of the best ways to showcase your coffee business to people. You can show your  uniqueness and retain loyal customers.   Instagram in particular might be useful , as both you and your customers can share great photos of your products.

Working with influencers can prove to be an effective way to increase the number of customers.

At the same time,  video marketing  might be very efficient strategy to boost your online presence. Show your audience why your coffee shop is the best.

Further, since you already have a website you might start  writing a blog.  Showing your passion for coffee will make people follow your coffee business journey.

Email marketing  is another easy, cheap, and efficient way to reach your customer directly and make them come back. Think, for example, about  inviting customers to a coffee event at your shop.

If you have allocated marketing expenses in your coffee shop budget, you can easily reach your  desired audience  through ads, either on social media platforms or search engines.

Finally,  offering free coffee to businesses in your neighbourhood might be a great way to introduce yourself to the local community.

  • 12. Hire Staff for Your Coffee Shop

The number of staff will depend on the size of the coffee shop and variety of products you want to offer.

Every coffee shop needs  baristas  to brew the main product that you are offering to your customers.

Moreover, if you plan to make and sell food you will also need a  chef.  Everything depends on your  vision and management style. You need to offer excellent service so your customers come back to you. For that reason, besides  technical skills or willingness to learn,  you should look for candidates that will represent your concept and vision of your coffee shop well. 

Personality and social skills should be factors for hiring the best staff.

  • 13. Create a Menu for Your Café

Although coffee will be the main product at your café, you can consider offering alternatives, such as food, to boost your income.

You can serve  basic and typical pastries  such as muffins, donuts, and croissants, which are an excellent addition to coffee. However, you need to make a decision whether you will order those products from  vendors  or you will prepare them in your café.

Offering a breakfast menu might be a good idea, especially if your café is located close to universities or business centres. You should take  different food preferences  into consideration, and be conscious that many customers will ask for  vegan and gluten-free options . Make your customers happy by offering a variety of products.

Do not stick to the same menu for the whole year. Seasonal special products will definitely make your customers spend more in your coffee shop.

For example, most coffee lovers cannot forego a  pumpkin spice latte  during the autumn season. Christmas season might be a perfect time for a  special edition of a hot chocolate.

Coffee Shop Menu

  • 14. Get the Necessary Permits and Licences for Your Coffee Shop

When you start up your coffee shop you must get all the paperwork done before opening day.

In the UK, when you open a food business, such as a coffee shop, you are obliged to  register it with local authorities.  The registration is free of charge. You should do it at the latest  28 days  before opening.

When your registration is done, local authorities might visit you for  food hygiene inspection.  You will get a rate according to the  Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.

What Licenses Do You Need to Open a Coffee Shop?

To open a coffee shop you will need several licences or permits besides Food Hygiene Certificate mentioned above.

  • Pest control:  it is a legal requirement to have a proper procedure for pest control.
  • Food Premises Approval:  if your products contain meant, fish, and diary you need to get a Food Premises Approval from your local council.
  • Public Liability Insurance:  the insurance will cover legal expenses in case your customers suffer from injuries or property damage in your coffee shop.
  • PRS for Music license:  if you want to play music in your coffee shop you will need to get permission from the copyright owners.
  • Planning permission:  if the space was not a restaurant/ coffee shop in the past, you need to get permission to change to A3 class.

If you plan to place tables outside your coffee shop you need to check with local council whether you need a licence to do that. Different cities and towns will have different regulations and fees so it is in your best interest to check it with local authorities.

Visit The Food Standards Agency (FSA) for further information about opening a business with food and drinks.

  • 15. Become a Coffee Expert

As a coffee shop owner you need to become  a coffee nerd.  You are expected to know  the beans and roast  you offer, as well as  the brewing methods  you use. When you educate yourself, you will be able to answer questions of your customers about coffee.

You might attend  coffee cupping,  which is a gathering to taste the flavour and aroma of coffee at different levels in the brewing process, to increase your knowledge and meet coffee experts. Joining  the British Coffee Association , which represents the coffee industry in the UK by promoting the business, talking to politicians and media to create the best conditions and culture to thrive, will definitely keep you updated about industry news

Further, you might learn about industry events such as coffee shop innovation expo or annual industry dinner.

Last but not least, you might learn a lot from  Specialty Coffee Association , which hosts events, championships, and educate about coffee in the UK.

Patrycja Hala Saçan

Patrycja is a Content Writer at Market Inspector. Her educational background lies in M.LL. in Law, and an MA in International Relations. She gained international experience in HR and content creation in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Poland. Patrycja’s focus lies in the areas of business and technology, digital marketing, and renewable energy.


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How to Start a Café or Coffee Shop

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TechRound Team June 25, 2019

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The Coffee Industry

The last couple of decades have seen an explosion in the coffee and café industry, largely thanks to large chains, today you’ll be hard pressed to find a high street without a Starbucks or Costa. The UK is beginning to embrace the café culture that our European neighbours are so well known for. As the pub industry continues to suffer, the demand for boutique and independent cafés is blooming, offering alternative spaces to connect with friends, sit and read, work or just enjoy a hot drink.

Research has suggested that most of us value convenience of location over the brand of our coffee. This might suggest why so many independent coffee shops are springing up and doing so well. However, just being convent is not enough to run a successful business. As consumers become increasingly aware of the quality of their coffee, how it sourced and how it is roasted, quality often overrules convenience. While big brand coffee is booming many customers are still enticed by the intimacy of an independent.

Is the Coffee Business for You?

Setting up a coffee business can have some significant set up costs and margins won’t be fantastic until you’re well established or even have a few outlets. It’s definitely worth considering a business loan to help you financing starting a café.

Setting up a coffee shop or café could be a great option if you’re looking for a lifestyle business which provides you with a modest income, but if you’re after a high margin, rapid growth venture this is probably not the route to explore.

You’ll need to consider the amount of work involved in setting up a business like this. Anyone who has working in catering or hospitality can tell you that hard physical work is involved, so unless you afford to employ staff from the outset, running a café will involve being on your feet all day.

It’s not essential but this is an industry where experience will go a long way. If you haven’t worked in a café before, spend at least a few weeks working somewhere similar to the establishment you want to open. You’ll be able to see how things are run, what works and what doesn’t, and you’ll likely find that people are more than willing to give advice, providing you’re planning to open in a different area so you’re not directly competing.

You’ll also need to be clued up on the basics of food preparation (see rules and regulations).

As with any business having a well thought out business plan is a must, read more here .

Café Premises

The most important decision you’ll make when setting up a café or coffee shop is your premises. Finding a good location and size will set you up for success, and should not be rushed.

Looking for a busy urban area with a high rate of footfall is a wise choice as two-thirds of consumers buy coffee when out and about. However, choosing a location like this will be expensive and the amount of space you will be able to get will be less than if you choose somewhere suburban. You’re dream coffee shop may well have been a large airy space, with huge sofas and coffee tables stacked with reading material but if you want your business to be successful this is not the most important factor. Two thirds of consumers consider the quality of the coffee to be the most important factor when choosing a coffee shop, so could well be more profitable investing in better beans and saving on the location.

When looking into properties it’s important to know your competition. Consider what the most popular brands are offering and how you could improve upon that, as well as how you will set yourself apart from local competition.

When you’re searching for a space it’s important to consider what is already provided and what you’ll need to add. Carefully consider the layout and how you might use the space. As a rough guide a small café (15-45 covers) will need between 500-1000sq ft., for 45-100 covers you’ll want at least 1000sq ft and for 100+ covers you’ll want a space bigger than 2000sq ft.

Make sure to check what commercial classification your proposed site currently falls under before negotiating the lease or purchase. If the property doesn’t currently have the correct classification for a coffee shop you’ll need planning permission from your local authority.

Rules and Regulations

It’s important to be up to date with food hygiene and preparation if you’re planning to open a coffee shop or café. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is responsible for all food safety standards and can provide you with advice on all matters food hygiene. The FSA has a publication called ‘Safer Food, Better Business’, which will help you comply with the law, making your premises safe for the public. Reading this will ensure you know your stuff when it comes to serving food, covering key areas like contamination, cleaning, chilling, cooking, management and keeping a food diary. You can order the book by contacting the FSA on their email [email protected]

As an owner, you must make sure that you and anyone working with food in your establishment has appropriate training and/or supervision to do their job properly. However, there are currently no laws stating that you must undertake formal training to open a café or coffee shop. The legal responsibility lies with the business owner so make sure you have all the information you need.

You must register your business with the local authorities and you will likely face inspections once your café is up and running.

A failed inspection is something to avoid at all cost, your business could be closed down, it’s certain to be bad publicity, and worst of all you might be endangering your customers by contaminating their food. In order to avoid this you should learn the HACCP; Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. This is an internationally recognised system of food safety management. The HACCP focuses on identifying the ‘critical points’ where food safety hazards might arise and putting steps in place to prevent things from going wrong.

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Coffee Nerd

What License Do I Need For A Cafe UK?

In fact, you need two licences, one for your business premises (premises license) and one for you or your bar manager (personal license) Once you have both these licenses, you’re then also legally obliged to buy alcohol from suppliers approved by HMRC.

What license do I need for a coffee shop uk ?

You can use the licence finder to help you. A café or coffee shop will most probably be classified as an a3 use class , although this will depend on the local authority. Planning permission for A3 use permits the sale of food and drink to be consumed on premises.

Do I need a license to sell coffee UK?

You can register as a food business through the UK government portal, which directs you to your local council information. It’s free to do, and there are no refusals, but you should register at least 28 days before you open. Whichever way you sell your coffee, you’ll still need to register.

What qualifications do you need to have a cafe?

  • Health Trade license. The café must apply to the respective Municipal Corporation or Health Department of the state to obtain this license, failing which the café can be shut down
  • Eating house license
  • Insurance(s) .
  • Fire security certificate
  • License for playing music/video.

Do you need qualifications to run a cafe?

The good news is you don’t need any specific qualifications to run a coffee shop , although courses on general business skills such as bookkeeping and marketing along with key topics such as catering and food hygiene are a good idea.

What is an A1 Licence cafe?

Being A1 means you are primarily for the sale of take away food and of course coffee or tea.

What is A3 Licence for shop?

A3 is for restaurants and cafés where hot food is consumed on the premises.

How do I start a small cafe business?

  • Decide The Concept Of Your Restaurant
  • Get Investment To Fund Your Restaurant Business
  • Evaluate All Restaurant Costs Involved
  • Decide The Location For Your Restaurant
  • Get All Licenses Required To Start A Restaurant Business
  • Get Manpower For Your Restaurant Business
  • Design A Stellar Menu.

What do you need to open a coffee shop?

  • Write a business plan .
  • Find the right location.
  • Develop a floor plan.
  • Hire an accountant.
  • Find local funding options.
  • Save money for your personal expenses.
  • Compare prices and quality on everything.
  • Network with lenders and other coffee makers.

Can I sell coffee from home UK?

Selling hot beverages including coffee, whether it is from home or a cafe, requires you to register as a food business 28 days before launching It’s not compulsory to get a food hygiene certificate, but it is strongly recommended.

How do you become a cafe owner ?

  • Get properly licensed.
  • Insure your business.
  • Invest in staff.
  • 5.Consider your food costs . Implement technology. Market your cafe. Get equipped.

How do I register a cafe name?

  • Selection of Trade or Brand Name.
  • Identify the class of Trademark.
  • Search the Availability of Mark.
  • Filing Application with help of Attorney or Agent.
  • Filing of Objection if any.
  • Acceptance of Mark.
  • Journal Publication.
  • Trademark Registration Certificate.

What is the difference between A1 and A3 Licence?

A3 comes with all of the A1 features, as well as desktop versions of the Office applications, and more tools for security and management A3 also includes: Publisher. Microsoft Access.

How do I run a cafe UK?

  • Register with your local authority. Any business that handles food operations must register with the government
  • Register with HMRC
  • Business Insurance
  • Gas / Electrical Safety Certificates
  • Get a Food Hygiene Certificate
  • Undertake a risk assessment
  • Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS)

What license do I need to open a restaurant UK?

How do i open a cafe with a low budget uk.

  • spend only on the stuff you absolutely need;
  • buy second-hand furniture;
  • lease equipment ( espresso machines can cost as little as £5 per day leased, versus up to £10,000 purchased); and.
  • aim to keep your staff bill at less than 35% of turnover.

What class is a coffee shop?

Generally speaking restaurants, snack bars and café’s which sell food or drinks for consumption on site will fall into the A3 class However, some coffee shops have opened under an A1 class – which is generally termed as shops and retail outlets .

What does A1 license cover?

The A1 use class (generally known as general retail) includes shops, retail warehouses, hairdressers, undertakers, travel and ticket agencies, post offices and many more.

What type of business is cafe?

“Cafe” is a restaurant that does not offer table service Customers order their food from a counter and serve themselves. A cafe menu traditionally offers things such as coffee, espresso, pastries, and sandwiches. Cafes originated in Europe and are strongly associated with France.

Do I need a license to sell coffee online UK?

Do you need a license to sell coffee online? The specifics will depend on your location, but generally the answer is almost certainly yes You’ll need certification from a the governing body in your country that regulates food. For instance, in the U.K. you’ll need to register as a “food business” with the FSA.

Can I sell coffee on the street UK?

You will need to: Apply for a Street Trading Licence This is required if you plan on running your coffee cart in a city centre, as opposed to a suburb or town (these areas will require a separate licence). If you have a specific location in mind, this is worth mentioning in your application.

How do you make a cafe?

  • Define your vision.
  • Create a detailed business plan.
  • Choose a location.
  • Find the best suppliers.
  • Source commercial equipment.
  • Design your café
  • Create a menu.
  • Hire the right people.

How much do cafe owners make a year?

Owners of small to medium-sized coffee shops can make anywhere from $60,000-$160,000 annually Usually, the owner’s salary is between 2% and 6% of the restaurant’s sales. In a small operation, your salary may be a higher percentage of the profits, relative to how much labor you put in.

What major should I choose to open a cafe?

Business. A business degree can supercharge your path to restaurant ownership, as you’ll learn so many valuable concepts and topics that you’ll be readier to handle the responsibility of your own restaurant.

Is it hard to open a coffee shop?

According to Bellissimo Coffee InfoGroup, it costs at least $200,000 to open a coffee shop. For a coffee cart, it costs roughly $20,000. Truthfully, it’s much easier to open a coffee shop and succeed with $300,000 than with $10,000, but it’s not impossible to succeed with $10,000.

How much profit does a cafe make UK?

On average, a coffee shop’s profit margin will consist of 12% of all the coffee products on sale , meaning each cup of coffee sold allows for 12% of the money to remain after expenses. According to Project Café UK 2021, the branded coffee shop sector was valued at £3.06bn in revenue in 2020.

Is coffee shop a food business?

In cafes, the main focus is on food rather than coffee, though most cafes will offer coffee pairings on their menus. On the other hand, because a coffee shop mostly deals with coffee, it does not have the qualities – like the main focus on food – that make it possible to be called a restaurant.

How do I start a low budget cafe?

  • Sell coffee in independent boutiques.
  • Retail coffee at farmer’s markets.
  • Start a coffee truck or coffee trailer business.
  • Start an online coffee business.
  • Open a coffee stand or espresso stand business.
  • Piggyback on an existing business.
  • Setup up a coffee cart.

What does A5 Licence cover?

A5 Use Class is for hot food takeaways , where food is sold for consumption off the premises. For example, fish and chip shops, pizza shops, (fried) chicken shops, Chinese, Indian takeaways, Kebab shops etc to name a few.

What is A3 and A5 use?

Class A3 is use for the sale of food or drink for consumption on the premises or of hot food for consumption off the premises. Class A5 is use as the sale of hot food for consumption off the premises.

What does A4 Licence mean?

Yes – an A4 Use Class authorises the use of the Property as a drinking establishment (pubs or wine bars but not nightclubs), which will permit the ancillary sale of food A5 Use Class permits the sale of hot food for consumption off the premises (takeaways).

Can you change from A1 to A3 without planning permission?

For example, if you are planning on turning a Class A1 hairdressing salon into another A1 retail store, it won’t be necessary. Nevertheless, if you wish to change a property’s commercial use class from A1 to A3 – perhaps to operate a café or restaurant where patrons can eat on-site – planning permission is needed.

What is A1 and B1 use in commercial property?

Class E (Commercial, Business and Service) Class E was formerly composed of the following: Classes A1 (Shops) , A2 (Financial and professional services), A3 (Food and drink), B1 (Business), D1 (Non-residential Institutions), D2 (Assembly and Leisure).

What is class A1 business use?

A1 (Shops) Shops, retail warehouses, hairdressers, undertakers, travel and ticket agencies, post offices, pet shops, sandwich bars, showrooms, domestic hire shops, dry cleaners, funeral directors and internet cafes.

Is running a cafe profitable?

In short, coffee shops are extremely profitable due to the high profit margins and low cost of stock. Like any business, effective management of costs will ensure your café is a success.

How much does it cost to open a coffee shop?

The average cost to open a single coffee shop with seating is between $80,000-$300,000 The cost of opening a coffee food truck or kiosk is on the lower end (closer to $60,000 for the minimum possible cost), and including both seating and drive-thru coffee is higher and can reach the $300,000+ range.

How much do coffee shop owners make?

While personal income various per coffee shop, an owner can make between $50,000 and $175,000 per year Several major factors determine coffee shop revenue and income.

Why café is a good business?

By owning a coffee shop, you can create a safe space and a pleasant environment for people who seek it, and also give people space to socialize ! You can make it your brand if you want, bringing people together and offering amazing service seems pretty simple, but it’s such an impactful thing!.

How do you start a cat café?

  • Choose a Name for Your Cat Cafe.
  • Create a Business Plan.
  • Research Local Regulations and Restrictions.
  • Determine Your Model of Operation.
  • Secure a Location.
  • Partner With Local Cat Rescue Organizations.
  • Determine Menu and Pricing.
  • Create a Website.

How much does a food license cost UK?

It’s free to register , and your registration cannot be refused. You should register at least 28 days before opening. If you’re already trading and have not registered, you need to do this as soon as possible.

Can you sell food without a license UK?

Yes. You do not need to be approved and have a food premises approval licence if you sell direct to the public or retailers like caterers, pubs and restaurants However, this only applies if: food is less than 25% of your trade.

What certificate is mandatory for selling food in the UK?

In the UK, food handlers don’t have to hold a food hygiene certificate to prepare or sell food. The skills taught in official training programmes can also be learned by: training on-the-job.

Is opening a café a good idea?

Opening a coffee shop can be extremely profitable if you do it right Pass by any busy specialty coffee shop and it will likely be full of customers enjoying coffee, espresso, lattes, teas, and a variety of pastries and other goodies.

How much money can a café make?

The key to increasing your profit margin is to increase both sales and gross receipts, as some of your expenses will remain fixed. On average, within the industry, a small to medium-sized coffee shop can earn anywhere from $60,000 to $160,000 in personal income for the shop owner.

What do café managers do?

Cafe Manager responsibilities include scheduling shifts for baristas and wait staff, monitoring daily expenses and revenues and ordering supplies like coffee, milk and snacks, as needed To be successful in this role you should have work experience with various roles in coffee shops.

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coffee shop planning permission uk

Have you got the right planning permission for your business?

When you look at buying or leasing a new site for your business you need to make sure that the building has planning permission for your intended use – or that such planning permission can be obtained.

You should also be aware of planning requirements if you open a business falling into one planning category, and then as the business develops it begins to encompass elements of another category. For example a coffee shop may find due to demand that a large part of its business becomes hot takeaway food – which is a separate category for planning purposes.

This article looks at the different categories of planning permission and what amounts to a change of use.  It also looks at the planning issues that can arise as businesses develop, and the potential commercial implications of these.

Use Classes

Planning law (Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987) puts buildings into categories known as “use classes”.  Relevant use classes, for example, relevant to the leisure sector are:

A1 Shops A3 Restaurants and cafes A4 Drinking establishments A5 Hot food takeaway C1 Hotels Sui Generis – uses that do not fall within other use classes are included here e.g. nightclubs.  If your property is mixed use e.g. part restaurant (A3) and part takeaway (A5) this is also classified as sui generis.

When is planning permission required?

Planning permission will be required for a material change of use in a property or for the carrying out of any development on the land.  For example if you wish to change a pub into a shop then planning permission would be required.

However, no planning permission is required:

  • For a change of use within the same use class as this does not constitute development. For example if you wanted to change an Italian restaurant into a coffee bar no permission would be required. However, alterations to the premises to facilitate the change of use may require planning permission; or
  • Where legislation permits a change from one use class to another specified use class (Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (SI 2015/596)).  For example the legislation permits a takeaway to be changed into a shop, restaurant or cafe without permission (prior approval from the Local Planning Authority (LPA) may still be required and an Article 4 Direction may restrict these rights).

Click here for more details on use classes and permitted changes

What is a material change of use?

When deciding whether or not your business activities amount to a change of use the planners will look at the planning unit, the primary or dominant purpose for which it is being used and whether any other uses are incidental or ancillary.  Uses that are ancillary will generally not cause a material change in use, however it depends on the scale and nature and what amounts to an ancillary use is a question of fact in each case.

In determining whether or not a material change of use has taken place the LPA will look at relevant factors such as the turnover of the various elements of the business, the floor space used for each element, increased traffic/noise and what customers primarily come in to the outlet to do. For example a restaurant with only a small amount of takeaway is classed as A3 (restaurant) however, if that take-away trade increases beyond the point at which it is ancillary to the restaurant business, a case a change of use may occur to a mixed A3 and A5 (hot take-away), which would be sui generis and would therefore require planning permission.

Another example is where a pub – A4 (drinking establishment) – introduces a dancing element. Whether the dance floor remains ancillary to the drinking will be a question of fact and degree.  Many operators will try to keep the dancing element ancillary to the main use so that it does not cause a change of use to D2 (dance hall) or sui generis (mixed A4/D2) requiring planning permission.

Implications of getting it wrong

It is important to get the correct planning permission for your outlet and to monitor the development of your business to ensure that no material change has taken place which would require planning permission.  When buying a site or considering a costly refurbishment involving a change of use you should consider engaging a good planning solicitor early on who can advise you on how best to proceed.

As an alternative some retailers/operators will adopt a “wait and see” approach to planning hoping that no one will notice that their coffee shop has become a hot food takeaway or that their restaurant is now ostensibly a dance venue.  However, not having the correct planning permission may have the following consequences:

  • Risk of enforcement proceedings which may require cessation of use and if not complied with is a criminal offence where the offender is liable upon conviction to an unlimited fine;
  • Breach of lease – any breach of planning permission is likely to put you in breach of your lease; and
  • Premises licence – when you come to renew your premises licence the local authority will look at the “authorised use” for the premises when deciding whether to grant or refuse your licence.

Ignoring planning issues can be an expensive mistake.  For further advice on your specific situation please contact:

Robert Bruce – Planning Partner Jennifer Roe – Planning Associate

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Setting up a Café Business

All you need to know about starting and running your business.

In this article

What is a Café Business?

There are more than 25,000 cafés and coffee shops in the UK, with the industry worth an estimated £4.4 billion. A café business is often a staple of the local community, with many people visiting cafés to eat, drink, socialise and work.

95 million cups of coffee and 100 million cups of tea are consumed in the UK every day. These statistics, combined with the UK’s love of eating out, explain why the café industry remains strong, despite the decline of the high street.

The term café can have many different meanings but typically refers to a small eating and drinking establishment which serves a variety of drinks, snacks and light meals.

There are many different foods and beverages which can be served in cafés, but the most popular are:

  • A variety of teas, e.g. English Breakfast, green, mint and fruit tea.
  • A variety of coffees, e.g. cappuccinos, lattes, Americanos, flat whites and iced coffees.
  • Other hot beverages, e.g. hot chocolate.
  • Cold beverages, e.g. milkshakes, juices and soft drinks.
  • A variety of cakes, pastries, cookies, desserts and other baked goods.
  • Hot and cold sandwiches.
  • Afternoon tea.
  • Breakfast foods, e.g. bagels, Full English breakfast, pancakes, waffles and avocado toast.

Some cafés choose to offer a varied menu with a wide range of food and beverage options. Others choose to focus their menu on a specific type of food or beverage.

If you are thinking about starting up a café business, you will first need to decide what type of café you want to set up.

There are many different types of cafés, for example:

A café bakery

As well as hot and cold beverages, café bakeries specialise in baked goods, such as sandwiches, cakes, pies, muffins, cookies, doughnuts and pastries. You may offer a sit-down and takeaway service to target a variety of customers.

A themed café

As the name suggests, themed cafés focus on a particular theme and create their brand around the theme. They usually design and decorate their café to fit their theme and may also serve themed food and drinks. Examples of themed cafés include a cat café, an Alice in Wonderland café and a jungle café.

A grab-and-go café

This type of café isn’t designed for people to spend long periods of time, instead, it targets takeaway customers. Although you may have a seating area, this will be smaller than a regular café and the area will be less cosy and comfortable so as not to encourage customers to stay for a long time. You will likely utilise takeaway cups and paper bags and boxes so customers can take their food and beverages with them.

A hangout café

This is the opposite of a grab-and-go café and instead encourages customers to socialise, work and hang out. You will likely offer free Wi-Fi, comfortable seating areas and inviting décor.

A speciality coffee shop café

A speciality café usually focuses on speciality coffee – premium coffee that has been grown, cared for and sold with specific care and attention. The coffee you serve must score above 80 points on a 100-point scale. The coffee will likely be organic, and your business will have a barista who operates as a coffee aficionado. Although coffee will be your main priority, you may also serve other items.

A niche café

This type of café will focus on a specific niche or speciality to attract a specific type of customer. For example, you could open a vegan café, a gluten-free café or a French Patisserie café.

The type of café you choose to open will have a significant impact on the types of food and beverages you serve, your décor and aesthetic, your typical customer base and your price points. When deciding the type of café business to set up, consider your location, your local competition, the demand and your experience and abilities. For example, if you are located on the seafront, you may opt to set up a beach-themed café with a variety of food options and lots of areas for your customers to sit and relax, whereas if you are located in a business district, a grab-and-go café that targets busy professionals on their lunch break or after work may be more beneficial.

There are many different responsibilities associated with running a café. These responsibilities can vary depending on the type of café you set up, the size of your café and the number of employees you hire, the types of food and beverages you serve and how involved you are in the day-to-day running of your café.

The typical responsibilities associated with running a café include:

  • Sourcing and ordering stock and ingredients.
  • Purchasing, cleaning and maintaining equipment and machinery.
  • Preparing, cooking and baking any food and preparing beverages.
  • Ensuring the cleanliness of your café, including the kitchen area and the café.
  • Complying with all legal guidelines and health and safety requirements.
  • Pricing your products.
  • Packaging and displaying any pre-prepared products.
  • Speaking to customers, taking orders and handling payments and receipts.
  • Serving or packaging food and drinks.
  • Handling customer collections and deliveries (if applicable).
  • Marketing and advertising.
  • Completing business and administrative tasks.

You do not need any formal qualifications to open a café. However, you will need the necessary skills required to bake, cook and prepare beverages, a high level of knowledge in the café industry and an understanding of how to run a café. If you have strong business skills, a solid business plan and are a sociable person who enjoys working in a face-to-face capacity, then starting up a café business can be extremely rewarding.

Types of Customers

Cafés are frequented by people of all ages and demographics. However, determining the types of customers your café is likely to appeal to can help you to plan your advertising and marketing strategies, focus your business and maximise your profits.

Multiple factors can determine your typical customer base, for example:

The type of café you run

This will have a significant impact on the type of customers you are likely to attract. For example, a hangout café may be more likely to attract university students and groups of friends whereas a themed café may be more likely to appeal to tourists and people celebrating a special event or looking for a unique experience.

Your location

This will be one of the biggest determiners of your typical customer base. Many people visit a café that is conveniently located near their home, place of work or study, an area they are visiting (for example, a beach, a lake or a popular walking destination) or a popular tourist destination. For example, if you are located close to a train station, you are more likely to attract commuters, whereas if you are located close to a park, you may be more likely to attract families.

Cafés located in busy areas with high footfall (such as a city centre) are more likely to attract passers-by so should focus on how to appeal to these customers, whereas cafés located in a village are more likely to attract local residents. Consider people who typically visit the area close to your café when identifying your typical customer base.

The types of food and beverages you sell

This is another important factor that will influence your typical customer base. Some cafés offer a varied menu with a large number of food and meal options. Others offer a smaller menu that mainly focuses on drinks and baked goods. Alternatively, you could offer a specialised menu, such as a specialist coffee or vegan food. The types of food and beverages you sell will significantly impact your customer base.

Your business brand and aesthetic

Your branding and aesthetic are key to attracting customers. Your business name, logo, and the design of your café are all key to the types of clients your business will appeal to. Consider the outside of your café, your café window and your décor, furnishings and accessories.

Whether your café is dog friendly

This is something that many café owners don’t consider but can be a major factor in your typical customer base. This is especially true if you are located in the countryside or in an area with local walks or popular outside areas (such as a beach, lake or park). Dog owners often search online for a café that allows their dogs onto the premises, and cafés that go the extra mile to welcome dogs, for example, by providing water bowls, dog treats or even a doggy menu, are likely to be even more popular. The UK is a country of dog lovers (with more than 12 million pet dogs), and the rise of the ‘puppuccino’ shows how popular it is becoming to bring your dog along to a café with you.

Your pricing strategy

Your price points will be a key determiner of your customer base. Customers can typically be separated into three pricing categories:

  • Budget: This type of customer is looking for the lowest-priced food and drink and is usually happier with a more basic menu and a simpler café.
  • Mid-range: Mid-range customers are looking for a combination of quality and affordability. Although they don’t want to pay premium prices, they don’t look for the cheapest option and instead look for quality service at a reasonable price.
  • Luxury: This type of customer wants the highest quality, best-tasting food and drink with a luxury experience and is willing to pay higher prices. They are more likely to look at factors such as the aesthetic and design of your café, your furnishings and your menu, rather than your prices.

Coffee Cup Cartoon

Equipment You Will Need

The type of equipment you require will depend on the type of café business you set up, the size of your business and the types of food and drink you offer. Choosing the right equipment is essential, as without it you will not be able to operate your business.

Although your equipment requirements can vary, below is a list of equipment typically required by a café business.

Kitchen Equipment

An industrial fridge and freezer

A fridge and freezer are essential in your café. You will need to store any perishables and fresh stock or ingredients in your fridge or freezer. Consider how much you will need to store when considering what size you will need. Ensure both the fridge and freezer are set to the correct temperature.

An industrial oven

The type of oven you purchase will depend on the types of food you plan to make. Most bakery cafés opt for a convection oven, which uses internal fans to circulate the air to create even browning and uniform baking. However, other types of cafés opt for a different type of oven. For example, a conveyor oven.

A dishwasher

A dishwasher is a necessity, not only because it will help you to save time in the kitchen and reduce your kitchen duties, but also because it will demonstrate the hygiene standards and cleanliness of your café. Opt for an industrial sized dishwasher to allow you to clean a larger amount at one time.

Depending on what you cook in your kitchen, there are several different pots and pans and other cookware you may require, including:

  • Frying pans.
  • Grill pans.
  • Sauté pans.
  • Baking trays.
  • Roasting pans.

Bakeware is the type of equipment you will use to bake your products. Investing in quality bakeware is recommended as it will likely be heavily used and can be susceptible to dents and warping.

Some pieces of bakeware you may need to purchase include:

  • Bread pans.
  • Muffin tins.

Shelving creates a safe and organised area for storing non-perishable ingredients (such as bread, seasoning and coffee beans), as well as equipment, accessories and utensils. Shelves also allow you to maximise the space in your kitchen.

Sheet pan racks

If you are baking large quantities of food at one time, a sheet pan rack allows you to cool multiple products at the same time. You could choose a tiered rack, allowing you to conserve space, and a rack that is on wheels, enabling you to transport your products around your kitchen more easily.

Kitchen accessories

Some kitchen accessories you may require include:

  • Chopping boards.
  • Kitchen knives.
  • Mixing bowls.
  • Food processors, mixers and blenders.
  • Temperature gauges.
  • A strainer and colander.
  • Weighing scales, measuring cups and a measuring jug.
  • Oven gloves.

Cooking utensils

Some cooking utensils you could require are:

  • Stirring spoons.
  • Peelers and graters.

Dough proofer

If you make baked goods in your café, including sandwiches, pizzas, pastries and cookies, dough will be an important ingredient and you will likely need a dough proofer. A dough proofer can help to simplify the dough-rising process, helping you to ensure your products are uniform in shape and size, and that the production process is streamlined.

Storage containers

Storage containers can be used for safely storing any opened stock, to prevent spoilage or contamination. You can also use the containers to store any cooked or pre-prepared food, such as salads, to keep them fresh for longer. Ensure your storage containers are strong and airtight.

Date labels

These are necessary to label when ingredients were opened and when certain items were cooked. It ensures that all stock, ingredients and food products are completely safe to use and that your kitchen is operating in line with food safety and hygiene guidelines.

Stainless steel worktops or worktables

You will use the worktops for all your food preparation tasks. Your worktables should be stainless steel as this material is non-porous, meaning it is resistant to most bacteria and germs. It is also easier to clean and will help you to maintain high standards of hygiene.

Equipment sink

This sink should be used specifically for cleaning, disinfecting or storing food equipment and utensils and should not be used for handwashing. You must ensure the sink has both hot and cold running water. Depending on how big your café is, you may require two sinks for equipment.

Handwashing sinks

You will need separate handwashing facilities and cannot use the same sink for handwashing and food preparation or equipment. This sink must be exclusively used for handwashing.

Kitchen Display System (KDS)

This is a digital screen that is used instead of handwritten or printed orders. A KDS manages your orders and helps you to prioritise, edit and track your orders. It creates a more streamlined ordering system that can help your café to be more organised and efficient.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE is a necessary purchase for all food businesses, as it helps to protect your food from contamination. PPE can also protect you and your staff from harm (e.g. when using sharp instruments or hot equipment). Some PPE you may require includes hairnets, gloves, oven mitts, anti-slip footwear and aprons.

Rubbish bins and a waste disposal system

You will need rubbish bins in all food preparation areas. You will also need different bins for different items to ensure you are disposing of rubbish correctly and following recycling guidelines. Colour-coded bins are the easiest way to ensure your waste disposal system is operating correctly.

Cleaning equipment

Keeping all areas of your café clean is imperative. Food preparation, cooking and storage areas are particular areas that should be cleaned regularly throughout the day, to avoid cross-contamination and the breeding of bacteria. You will likely need different cleaning materials for different parts of your café. You may need to invest in cloths, sponges, antibacterial surface cleaners, bleach, sanitiser, dishwashing soap and a sweeping brush and mop.

Café Equipment

Coffee machines

There are many different types of coffee brewers and coffee machines. Depending on the type of café business you set up, you may opt for one type of coffee machine or purchase multiple.

The most popular types of coffee-making facilities are:

  • An espresso machine: An espresso is a typical Italian coffee, which has grown extremely popular. This machine uses high pressure to force pressurised water through finely-ground coffee beans in a few short seconds. The end product is a small coffee (‘shot’ size) that is rich and creamy in flavour and has a thicker consistency. It can be drunk alone or used as a basis for other types of coffee, such as cappuccinos, lattes and macchiatos.
  • A drip coffee machine: This is a system through which water automatically drips into a heating tube and is then poured onto ground coffee. It then goes through a filter before being poured into a cup. This type of machine usually makes a larger amount of coffee, allowing you to serve multiple customers at one time. Drip coffee has a stronger coffee taste.
  • Coffee bean grinders: Some coffee machines come with an in-built bean grinder, whereas others require a separate piece of equipment. A coffee bean grinder is used to grind whole coffee beans into a small, uniform size ready for brewing.
  • A coffee machine: A coffee machine can usually make a variety of different coffees, such as cappuccinos, lattes and macchiatos. Many coffee machines can also make other hot beverages, such as hot chocolate. They often include a milk frother.

Coffee accessories

With the rise in popularity of specialist coffees and flavoured coffees, there are several different types of equipment and accessories you may require, including:

  • Coffee cups.
  • Flavoured syrups and syrup dispensers.
  • Coffee beans.
  • A milk frother.
  • Coffee stencils.
  • Coffee spices and flavours (e.g. powdered chocolate, cinnamon and nutmeg).
  • Coffee spoons and stirrers.

Tea-making and serving equipment

Tea is a quintessentially British drink and there are multiple pieces of equipment and accessories your café could need, including:

  • Cups and saucers.
  • Tea strainers.
  • Tea baskets (to hold the tea while it is steeping).
  • Sugar dispensers.
  • A tea bag dispenser and display unit.

Blenders and juicers

If you are making fresh milkshakes or juices in your café, you will require a blender and/or juicer. A blender can also be used to make soups and smoothies.

Display cases

If you sell any pre-packed food, such as sandwiches, cookies and muffins, or pre-packed drinks such as cans or bottles of juice or fizzy drinks, you will need glass-fronted display cases to store your products. You may opt for a refrigerated display case for perishables and a room-temperature display case.

Shelves may be required to store a variety of non-perishable food, utensils and equipment. You may have shelving behind the counter and on your shop floor area. Shelves can also be used to decorate your café and you can add decorative items, plants and flowers to your shelves.

Tables and seating areas

The majority of cafés offer a seating area for their customers. Choose tables and seats that fit the design and aesthetic of your business and portray the type of café you are choosing to set up. You could opt for traditional wooden or plastic tables and chairs, sofas, armchairs, booths, long banquet-style tables, high-top tables and stools and outdoor seating. Some cafés even offer alternative seating options, such as beanbags, hammocks and sofa cushions. You may also offer outdoor seating options and high chairs for babies and toddlers.

This is where your customers will place their orders. It will likely include an area for you to stand behind and may feature display cases and shelving, your till and a menu that clearly displays your products, prices and any allergen information. You may opt for a long counter to give your customers a place to queue or a smaller counter.

Cash register and Point of Sales (POS) system

This can help you to record sales and manage the financial aspects of your café. Your payment system should allow customers to pay cash, debit card, or credit card for their purchases.

Cups, utensils and cutlery

Depending on the type of café business, you may only need to buy takeaway cups, packaging and wooden stirrers for your customers. If your café business offers a sit-down area, you may also need to invest in reusable or porcelain plates, bowls, mugs, cups and sauces and glasses and cutlery. If you are happy to spend a little extra, you could choose cups and cutlery that matches your brand or are branded with your business name.

Other equipment

Some of the other equipment you may require for your café business includes:

  • Napkins and linens.
  • Table cloths.
  • Paper straws.
  • Decorative items and accessories (to fit the aesthetic of your business).
  • A sanitising station.
  • Bins (recycling and non-recycling).
  • Serving trays.
  • Signs (inside and outside your café).
  • Menus and menu holders.

Food labels

All food businesses in the UK must ensure their food is properly labelled and includes information about any of the 14 allergens. Invest in labels or a labelling system that securely attaches to your products and is easily readable.

A CCTV system

A CCTV system is necessary for protecting your café from theft and burglaries. It can also help to protect you in the event of a threatening customer or an allegation against your business. A CCTV system can cost between £300 and £5,000 depending on the specification of the equipment, how many cameras you require, and the installation costs.

A fully stocked first aid kit

A first aid kit is a necessity, as you will be working with potentially dangerous equipment and products. A first aid kit can also be used if any customers sustain an injury in your café. Ensure your first aid kit is restocked regularly and is easily accessible.

If your café features a seating area, your customers will expect you to provide Wi-Fi. Because multiple devices will be connecting at one time, you will need a Wi-Fi system that is reliable, fast and can handle a higher capacity. Depending on the size of your café, you may require multiple routers or Wi-Fi boosters.

A music system

Cafés generally play music as background noise. You may require a music player and multiple speakers, depending on the size of your café.

Café Business

Typical Costs

When you are setting up your business, an important consideration you will need to make is the approximate costs associated with starting up and running this type of business. Calculating your typical costs allows you to estimate your initial investment requirements, any monthly and annual costs, your pricing strategy, your profit goals and your acceptable profit margins.

There are multiple costs associated with setting up and running a café business. Some of these costs will be one-off initial costs that you will need to pay when you are setting up your business. Other costs will be ongoing costs you will need to pay regularly – usually weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.

Although typical costs can vary, depending on the type of café you set up and the size of your business, the typical costs you can expect to be responsible for include:

Your café premises

Your business location will likely be your biggest expenditure. You will need to rent your premises on a monthly or annual basis. Rental prices can vary significantly, depending on the location and the size of the premises. City centre locations and newly built premises usually have the highest rental costs. Rental costs are often calculated per square metre. They can range significantly, from £500 to £15,000 per square metre annually. Your rental cost may be higher if you are renting an already established, refurbished or equipped café.

Refurbishment and installation costs

Unless your premises previously operated as a café, you will likely need to refurbish or convert your venue to install the equipment and furniture you need for your business and make the area fit for purpose. You will also want to refurbish and decorate your premises to fit the aesthetic of your business and make it attractive to customers. Renovation costs can vary, from £500 to £20,000 depending on the level and scale of work required. As part of your renovation costs, consider how you can make your café easy to clean and ensure it is safe and in line with health and safety regulations.

Your equipment is an important purchase, as without it you will not be able to run your café. The cost of equipment can vary based on how large your café is and the type of equipment you require. The bigger your premises and the more customers you want to accommodate at one time, the more equipment you will require. You may choose to purchase less equipment initially and expand your equipment as your business grows. Equipment for your café business can cost between £5,000 and £50,000.

Maintaining, repairing and replacing equipment

Repairs, maintenance and replacements are ongoing costs you will need to factor into your budget. Although some of your equipment and machinery will come with warranties, repairs and replacements are inevitable – particularly because the equipment will experience heavy use. Cleaning and maintaining equipment and ensuring it is used correctly can extend its life, but potential repairs and replacements should still be factored into your budget.

Stock and ingredients

This is an ongoing cost you will have to factor into your budget. It includes any stock and ingredients you will need to create your products, such as eggs, milk, coffee beans and vegetables. Because many of the ingredients you require are perishable, you will need to order stock regularly (you will likely take stock deliveries at least twice per week). You can reduce the cost of your stock by buying wholesale, buying in bulk and shopping around. To maximise your profits, your food stock cost should be no more than 30% of your food sale price. The higher the return, the higher your profits will be. Some stock will be more expensive, for example, organic coffee beans.

Running costs

These are the day-to-day costs associated with running your business. Some running costs are paid monthly, and others are paid quarterly or annually. Your running costs can include electricity, gas, water, council tax and insurance. To maximise your profits, try to keep your running costs as low as possible.

You will need to hire staff such as chefs and other kitchen staff, front-of-house staff and cleaners. You will need to pay any staff you employ at least the national minimum wage of £9.50 per hour and account for other expenses such as holiday pay, sick pay, maternity/paternity pay, National Insurance and any company pension contributions.

When creating your brand identity, consider how you want your business to be perceived by potential customers. When creating your brand, consider the type of café you are setting up, the food and beverages you sell and your typical customer base. Branding can include creating your business’s visual identity, design and aesthetic, your business name and logo, your signage and your website. You could hire a professional to help you with branding or do some or all of the work yourself. Branding can cost between £500 and £10,000, depending on the level of work required.

Advertising and marketing

To ensure your café attracts customers and creates maximum profits, you will need to spend money on advertising and marketing. It is recommended that you spend between 1%-3% of your annual turnover on marketing. For example, if your annual turnover (or your desired annual turnover) is £100,000, you should spend between £1,000 and £3,000 on advertising and marketing. You may need to invest more money when you initially set up your business or when you are trying to grow your business. To reduce your costs, capitalise on free marketing strategies, such as on social media or in your local community.

You and your employees will need to obtain food hygiene training before you open your business. You will also need to refresh your training regularly (at least every three years). You may also opt to undertake other training courses, such as manual handling, first aid and electrical safety. You can expect to pay approximately £20 per training course per person.

Business insurance

There are multiple coverage options available for a café business, including:

  • Public Liability Insurance.
  • Employers’ Liability Insurance.
  • Product Liability Insurance.
  • Equipment Insurance.
  • Building and Contents Insurance.
  • Business Interruption Cover.
  • Personal Accident Cover.

Insurance prices can vary, depending on your insurance provider and the level of coverage you require. Prices typically start from £15 per month.

Typical Pricing for Customers

Once you have calculated the typical costs associated with setting up and running a café business and the approximate costs of your stock and ingredients, you can then determine your price points. Each item on your menu will be priced individually and you may also offer your customers the option to add extra items to their order for an additional cost, for example, by adding caramel syrup and oat milk to their coffee or halloumi to their breakfast sandwich.

The price of your ingredients and the time taken to make each item will be the biggest factor in your pricing. For example, a chicken and bacon ciabatta has more expensive ingredients and involves more preparation and cooking compared to a cheese sandwich. Consider your ingredient costs and your time when pricing your menu.

However, there are other factors that will influence your pricing strategy, including:

Cafés located in a desirable location, such as in a city centre or close to a famous landmark or tourist attraction, typically charge higher prices. Your location can also mean you are more likely to attract budget, mid-range or luxury customers.

The type of café you set up

Different types of cafés have different pricing structures. For example, niche cafés (such as a vegan café) and themed cafés can typically charge higher prices as they have less direct competition and may be more likely to attract customers who are happy to pay higher prices. Additionally, the price points for grab-and-go cafés are usually lower than for hangout cafés as customers are typically looking for convenient food and beverages at an affordable price.

Your furniture and décor

Customers are usually willing to pay higher prices in cafés that are aesthetically pleasing, comfortable and well-designed. Consider your signage, your café window, your décor and your furniture (particularly the tables and chairs your customers will sit on) when creating your pricing plan.

Safely Running a Café Business

Safe practices in your café help to protect the health, safety and well-being of you, your staff and your customers. They can also help to protect your business. Some ways you can safely run your café business include:

Safely store food

All food must be stored safely to prevent contamination and ensure any food and drink is of good quality and safe to consume.

Some safe storage practices you can follow include:

  • Keep storage areas clean and tidy.
  • Check food deliveries are safe and of good quality before accepting them.
  • Follow the First In First Out (FIFO) stock rotation system.
  • Pay attention to use-by and best-before dates.
  • Ensure fridges and freezers are set to the correct temperature.
  • Follow the storage instruction on pre-packaged food.
  • Store raw food and high-risk food correctly (e.g. below ready-to-eat foods).
  • Keep foods that contain allergens separately.
  • Store any chemicals away from food.
  • Label any chilled or frozen food with the date.
  • Ensure hot hold food is kept at the correct temperature (63°C and above).

Use a chemical safety data sheet (SDS)

If you store any chemicals, you should create safety data sheets to list the properties of each chemical, any potential physical, health and environmental hazards and any safety precautions for handling, storing and transporting the chemicals. An SDS can help to prevent exposure and reduce hazards and prepare emergency responses and procedures.

Ensure the personal hygiene of all staff

Good personal hygiene is essential when working in the food industry. Good personal hygiene can include:

  • Following handwashing procedures.
  • Tying back hair or covering hair.
  • Not wearing false nails or nail varnish on your fingernails.
  • Not wearing jewellery or watches when preparing or cooking food.
  • Not wearing strong perfume or other chemical products that could contaminate the food.
  • Wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Following good habits, such as not coughing or sneezing near food and refraining from touching your hair or face.

Be aware of staff illnesses

If any of your staff are ill, they should not be working around food or near your customers as this can compromise food safety. If any of your staff have an infection or gastrointestinal symptoms (such as vomiting or diarrhoea), they should not handle food and should not attend work. Any cuts or sores should also be covered with brightly coloured, waterproof plasters or dressings.

Implement pest prevention and control methods

Pests can be a major issue for food businesses and can result in contaminated food and your café being shut down by an Environmental Health Officer (EHO).

Some ways you can prevent pests are:

  • Fill any gaps or holes in your building.
  • Keep your external areas free from food, rubbish or vegetation.
  • Dispose of food properly in closed bins.
  • Keep your premises clean and tidy.
  • Store food in sealed containers.
  • Use fly screens on open windows or doors.
  • Check your deliveries for signs of pest damage.

Coffee at a Café Business

Be aware of food hazards

Food hazards are any contaminants that could enter food and cause harm to consumers. The main food hazards are:

  • Biological: These hazards are microorganisms that contaminate food, usually during the cooking, reheating, chilling, storage or defrosting processes. Biological hazards can also occur through cross-contamination. Examples of biological hazards are bacteria, fungi and viruses.
  • Chemical: Chemical hazards occur when naturally occurring or human-made chemical substances contaminate food. For example, chemicals from cleaning products, toxins produced by animals, plants and microorganisms or chemicals that are added to food and drink.
  • Physical: This refers to foreign materials or objects that enter food or drink during preparation or handling. Physical hazards can include natural hazards, such as bones, shells and pips, and unnatural hazards, such as hair, fingernails, plastic and wood.
  • Allergenic: Allergenic hazards can cause an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis in people with allergies. Allergenic hazards can occur through cross-contamination, such as the foods being prepared in the same workspace.

Ensure correct cooking temperatures

All food businesses, including cafés, must ensure they are cooking and baking at the correct temperature. This is to reduce or eliminate the risk of food poisoning. Ensure your oven or other cooking equipment is set to the correct temperature and use a food thermometer to ensure food is thoroughly cooked.

Cleaning and washing of equipment and surfaces

Having effective cleaning procedures is essential to any food business. It is recommended that a cleaning schedule or cleaning policies are in place that cover the cleaning of equipment, surfaces, and food preparation and storage areas.

Conduct risk assessments

Although not a legal requirement for businesses with fewer than five employees, risk assessments can help to eliminate risks and ensure safe practices in your café. As part of your risk assessments, you should:

  • Identify hazards.
  • Determine who could be at risk.
  • Evaluate any potential risks.
  • Implement relevant safety measures.
  • Record the results of the risk assessment.
  • Review the risk assessment regularly.

You should keep physical records of your risk assessments as evidence of your commitment to safe practices.

Keep clear and accurate records

When you are inspected by the EHO, they will likely request to see up-to-date records of your business’s cleaning schedules, risk assessments, health and safety policies, allergen information, and temperature checks. Keeping such records not only helps to protect your business and improve the likelihood of you receiving a higher score, but it also ensures procedures are followed at all times.

Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Some of the PPE you may require include latex gloves, protective aprons, hair coverings and protective footwear. PPE can help to prevent cross-contamination of the food and help to protect you and your clothing.

Implement security measures

Security measures can be implemented to protect your business. Your café will likely store a lot of expensive equipment and may keep cash on site. Some ways you can protect your business include installing a CCTV system, using secure and reliable locks and installing an alarm system.

Legal Requirements

Complying with legal requirements is essential when setting up and running your café.

Some legal requirements you should be aware of are:

Comply with the Food Safety Act (1990)

The Food Safety Act applies to any business that sells food. It covers food safety, consumer protection and food information. It makes it an offence to make or sell any food which could be harmful to health and lays out hygiene practices you should follow.

There are several responsibilities laid out in the Act, including:

  • Not taking away or adding any ingredients that could cause the food to become harmful.
  • Not treating the food in any way that could cause it to become dangerous.
  • The nature, substance and quality of the food must be to the standard that customers expect.
  • Your labelling and presentation of the food should not be false or misleading.

Comply with the Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations

These regulations specify the standards relating to the control and management of the steps that are critical to food safety, including the cleanliness of your premises and equipment and temperature control in food preparation, storage and serving.

The regulations differ depending on where in the UK your business is located:

  • England: The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013.
  • Scotland: The Food Hygiene (Scotland) Regulations 2006.
  • Wales: The Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006.
  • Northern Ireland: The Food Hygiene Regulations (Northern Ireland).

Comply with The Food Information (Amendment) Regulations 2019

These regulations set out the responsibilities of food businesses to provide information regarding the 14 allergens (celery, cereals, crustaceans, eggs, fish, lupin, cows milk, molluscs, mustard, nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, soya and sulphur dioxide). The regulations were updated in 2019 to include Natasha’s Law. You must ensure that any packaging, menus, signs or labels clearly state if any of these allergens are present.

It is also a legal requirement that pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) food is labelled with:

  • The name of the food.
  • A full list of ingredients.
  • Any allergens that are present.

Obtain Food Hygiene training training

Any employees who prepare, handle or sell food must be supervised, instructed and trained in food hygiene. Although a food hygiene certificate isn’t a legal requirement, it is the easiest way to demonstrate your compliance to the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) that will inspect your business. Training will need to be refreshed regularly.

Implement a waste management system

Café businesses should have appropriate provisions for the separation, storage and removal of waste.

Some guidelines you should abide by include:

  • Have appropriate bins inside and outside your café which are sufficient in number and specified for different types of waste.
  • Do not allow waste to accumulate.
  • Use bins that have fitted lids and foot pedals.
  • Have a specific waste disposal area.
  • Do not dispose of food waste in the sink.
  • Use commercial sink strainers to prevent fat, oil, grease and small bits of food from entering the sewer network.
  • Apply for a waste carrier registration if you transport any waste.

It is also recommended that you clean and disinfect bins regularly.

Comply with premises regulations

When choosing or refurbishing a commercial location, there are some guidelines and regulations you should comply with. These guidelines ensure your business is in good condition, clean and maintained and allow you to follow good hygiene practices.

  • Handwashing facilities: There should be separate handwashing facilities with hot and cold running water and materials to allow hands to be washed and dried hygienically.
  • Changing facilities: There should be adequate changing facilities if a member of staff needs to change their clothes.
  • Ventilation, lighting and drainage: Your premises must have adequate ventilation, lighting and drainage in all relevant areas.
  • Food preparation areas: – Floors and walls must be in good condition, easy to clean and frequently disinfected. – Ceilings must be in good condition, easy to clean, free from condensation and mould and free from flaking paint or plaster. – Windows and doors must be easy to clean and disinfect and if they open to the outside, fitted with removable insect-proof screens. – Surfaces should be maintained in good condition, easy to clean and frequently disinfected.
  • Facilities for washing food: You should have separate sinks for washing food and cleaning equipment. These sinks should have hot and cold running water that is of drinking quality.
  • Equipment: Any equipment that comes into contact with food must be in good condition and cleaned and disinfected frequently.

Register as a food business

Any business in the UK that sells food must register as a food business with their local council. You must apply for your food registration business at least 28 days before you begin trading. You can apply for your registration on , and it is free of charge.

Display your food hygiene rating

Once you have registered your business, you will receive an inspection from the Environmental Health Office (EHO) to determine your food hygiene rating.

The inspector will assess your:

  • Food storage.
  • Food handling.
  • Food preparation.
  • Food cleanliness.
  • Food safety management system.

Once you have received your food hygiene rating, this information should be clearly displayed on your premises.

Comply with the Bread and Flour Regulations (1998)

If you bake bread or other baked goods, you must follow The Bread and Flour Regulations . The regulations state the nutritional value of bread and flour that must be adhered to.

These regulations also cover information such as:

  • Essential ingredients.
  • Iron powder specifications.
  • Non-permitted ingredients.
  • Composition of flour.

Implement a Food Safety Management System (FSMS)

Food businesses in the UK must implement a Food Safety Management System. An FSMS is a systematic approach to controlling food safety hazards. It ensures that your business is following safety protocols and will influence your food hygiene rating.

Comply with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013

RIDDOR states that you must report all injuries, diseases and dangerous events that occur in your business. Reports must be made to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) using an appropriate recording document. These regulations apply to any incidents that involve employees or customers.

Comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002

The COSHH regulations state that you must control any substances that are potentially hazardous. You should also assess, control and reduce any risks or potential hazards and protect people from harm.

Some hazardous substances you should be aware of are:

  • Flour dust.
  • Concentrates of flavour, citrus oils and spices.
  • Cleaning substances.

Comply with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998

PUWER regulations apply to you and any employees you hire. You must ensure any equipment in your café is fit for purpose and is maintained and inspected regularly. You must also ensure that health and safety risks are minimised to an acceptable level, that you have the correct knowledge and training to use the equipment, and that protective measures are put into place. Equipment should also be used under appropriate conditions.

Comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

The Electricity at Work Regulations state that any workplaces that use electricals must construct electrical systems in a way that prevents danger, maintain electrical systems to ensure they are safe, ensure electrical equipment is checked by a competent person annually and conduct Portable Appliance Tests (PAT). This includes any electrical equipment in your kitchen.

Comply with gas safety regulations

If you have a gas boiler you will need to have it inspected by a gas-safe engineer. If your equipment is deemed safe to use and complies with government requirements, you will be issued a Gas Safety Certificate. You will need to display your gas certificate clearly for your guests and other visitors to your business to see.

Comply with fire regulations

As the business owner, you are responsible for fire safety measures in your café. There are multiple fire regulations you must ensure you comply with. For example:

  • Perform a fire risk assessment.
  • Comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 .
  • Implement any necessary fire safety measures.
  • Implement emergency procedures and ensure these are clearly displayed.

Comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

Manual handling regulations can help to protect you and your employees from sustaining an injury or illness as a result of manual handling tasks. The regulations apply to the lifting or moving of any objects, bending down and reaching high and repetitive movements. You will likely be performing manual handling activities when performing tasks such as kneading and rolling or carrying heavy pots or trays of food.

Appoint a competent person

A competent person should be appointed to help your business meet your health and safety legal duties. You can act in this role yourself or appoint another person to fulfil this role. The competent person should have the skills, knowledge and experience to identify any hazards in your business and put controls in place to protect people from harm.

Prepare a health and safety policy

The law states that every business in the UK must have a specific policy for managing health and safety. Your policy should state exactly how you will manage health and safety in your business and state who is responsible for specific tasks and how and when these tasks are completed. Follow the recommended tips from the Health and Safety Executive on how to write a health and safety policy.

Comply with employment legislation

If you employ any staff, you must ensure you follow employment legislation, including the Employment Rights Act (1996 ) and the National Minimum Wage Act (1998) . You must also comply with legislation relating to recruitment, working hours, sickness, discrimination, dismissals, and maternity or paternity pay.

Register your business

You must register your business with HMRC before you begin operating. You can register as a sole trader or as a limited company. You will need to register your business name and any other relevant information. You will also need to register for self-assessment tax.

Coffee at Café

Positives of Owning a Café Business

Running a café can be rewarding in many ways. Some of the main pros associated with this type of business are:

Be part of your local community

Cafés are a fantastic social hub. Owning a café will give you the opportunity to meet new people, get to know your customers and socialise while you are at work. A café is an important part of the community and can act as a central hub for people of all ages. You can create rewarding social and professional relationships in your community.

Fewer food options

Even if you love cooking and baking, ordering stock, preparing food and cooking, baking and decorating can be extremely time-consuming. Cafés typically offer fewer food options than other food establishments, such as restaurants, which can save you money, time and effort. Having a less extensive menu also reduces your food waste.

Work in your dream industry

If you love food and drink and spending time with people from all walks of life, running a café can be very rewarding, Running your dream business can make your job feel less like work and more like a vocation.

Customer loyalty

If your customers enjoy your food and drinks and the atmosphere of your café, they are likely to return time and time again. Many customers return for their favourite cup of coffee daily or lunch with a friend every week. Not only does this give you the opportunity to get to know your customers, but customer loyalty can also help you to grow your profits. Loyal customers may even recommend your café to other people which can help you to grow your customer base.

Be creative

You can be creative with your food and beverages. You have the opportunity to be creative with your designs and decoration and the flavours, textures and ingredients to create the perfect products. If you love being creative and artistic, running a café can be enjoyable and rewarding. Creativity can even happen in small ways, such as a fun design on a cappuccino or a well-decorated table.

Create your dream business

You will have complete control over all business decisions, allowing you to set up your dream business, in line with your business goals and vision. You can decide the type of café to set up, the products you will sell, your brand and the café culture you want to create – the opportunities are endless. Owning your own café gives you the opportunity to be creative.

Hands-on work

As a café owner, you won’t be sitting around staring at a computer screen all day. You’ll be active for a lot of the day, involved in different tasks, running your café and talking to staff and customers. This is great for people who don’t want a traditional office job.

Create a positive work environment

You will be responsible for hiring staff and creating staff policies. This gives you the opportunity to create a positive work environment. You could hire staff that you know will bring positivity to your café and will be an asset to your business. Your staff will also likely be like-minded people who are also passionate about food and beverages and also enjoy talking to customers.

Face-to-face interaction

If you are an outgoing person and you enjoy speaking to people from all different walks of life, you will likely enjoy working in a customer-facing business. You can get to know your customers and spend time talking to them every day. Because café businesses usually experience a lot of repeat business, you can really get to know your customers.

High profit margin

Many of the products you sell will have a high profit margin, meaning the price of your products will significantly exceed your costs. For example, a cup of coffee can have a profit margin of 70%, once you factor in the cost of the ingredients and your time. A high profit margin can help you to maximise your profits and increase your business’s income.

Potential for growth

There are many potential ways you can grow your business. You could extend your premises, grow your menu, hire more staff and even open additional café franchises. Even Starbucks started out as one coffee shop and now has more than 35,000 locations worldwide. Having multiple options for growth gives your café business an unlimited income potential.

Free advertising on social media

You can easily gain exposure on social media by posting photos or videos of your café and arty or appealing pictures of your food and beverages. Your customers may also post pictures to their own social media accounts which will be seen by their followers. This can help you to gain exposure and be noticed online. Social media is a form of free advertising which can help you to grow your customer base and increase your income.

Choose your own schedule

You can choose which days your café opens and the hours you want to work. You can choose the opening hours, based on your busiest days and your own preferences. As your business grows, you can also work fewer hours and allow your employees to handle the day-to-day running of your business.

Be your own boss

You can make all key decisions yourself and steer your business in whichever direction you choose. You can choose how involved you want to be, the type of café you open, the food and beverages you sell and how you want to run your café. You can make the best decisions for you and your business.

Seasonal opportunities

Holidays and celebrations such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween and Easter can result in a huge increase in business. You can decorate your café and sell themed products, such as Valentine’s Day cupcakes and Christmas cookies. You can even offer deals or special events at these times of year to help attract customers, for example, a chocolate egg hunt or breakfast with Father Christmas. Capitalising on special occasions can help you to attract new customers and increase your profits.

Serving Customers at a Café

Negatives of Owning a Café Business

Although owning a café can be rewarding in many ways, there are some potentially negative aspects to running this type of business that you should be aware of.

Lack of work-life balance

There are a lot of business and administrative tasks associated with running a café that can be time-consuming. Not only will you be responsible for the day-to-day running of your business, but you will also have a large number of administrative tasks to handle, such as ordering stock, completing staff rotas, advertising and marketing and ensuring health and safety. Being responsible for such a time-consuming enterprise can negatively affect your work-life balance.

High start-up costs

The equipment needed for a café business can be expensive. You will also be responsible for the rent and renovation costs. The high start-up costs mean you may need to source outside investment. It will also take longer for you to begin turning a profit.

Ingredients and stock can be expensive

Depending on your menu, you may require expensive ingredients, such as speciality coffee beans and expensive cheeses. Although you can price your menu accordingly, prices that are too high will deter customers. Expensive stock and ingredients can affect your profit margin and your overall income.

Spoilage can affect your profits

You will be dealing with a lot of perishable ingredients and baked goods which spoil quickly. Some of the products you make will need to be sold the same day to prevent them from spoiling or going stale and becoming food waste. This can have a significant impact on your profits, as the ingredients and time required to make them are wasted.

Accountability and liability

The food industry is highly regulated with a large number of laws and regulations you must be aware of. You need to ensure you follow all policies and procedures, particularly those relating to health and safety. Not only can it be time-consuming (and sometimes expensive) to ensure compliance, but failure to comply, even unintentionally, could have serious consequences. If a customer contracts food poisoning after eating at your café, you could be held liable.

Highly competitive

Not only are you competing with other local cafés, but you will also be dealing with popular chain cafés and coffee shops, such as Starbucks and Costa. You will also have competition from local restaurants, bars and other food establishments. Having such high competition can make it more difficult for your business to succeed, particularly if your local competition is popular and well-established.

Managing staff

You will have a lot of responsibilities in relation to staffing, including hiring and firing, payroll and managing your staff. This can be stressful and time-consuming. It can also be difficult if the motivation of your employees doesn’t match your business values. If your employees demonstrate a poor attitude or don’t complete their tasks in line with your expectations, this can be viewed negatively by customers and can result in negative reviews.

Issues out of your control

This can be one of the most frustrating aspects of running a café, as things that are outside of your control can have a negative impact on your business and your profits. For example, your supplier raising their prices, your stock delivery being cancelled or your equipment breaking can prevent you from properly running your business, which could not only affect your profits but also result in negative customer reviews.

Difficult to grow your business

Many new café businesses fail to succeed because they find it difficult to successfully market a new business and grow their customer base. Successful cafés may spend years building up their client base. This could mean you initially receive less custom and earn a lower income. If you have invested a lot of money into your business, this could result in your business failing.

Long working hours

Your café could be open 7 days a week, including weekends and, depending on your location, may be open early in the morning to target workers grabbing a morning coffee or breakfast. You may find yourself working long hours which can not only be tiring but can also impact your personal life and family life.

Physically demanding

Working in a café can be physically demanding. You will be spending long hours on your feet every day and will be engaged in many physically demanding tasks, such as reaching high and bending low and carrying heavy items.

This can cause multiple health concerns, such as:

  • Neck or back pain or strain.
  • Pain, strain or injuries to your fingers, hands and wrists.
  • Pain in your feet or legs.

It can be stressful

There are many responsibilities associated with running a café which can be stressful. Not only will you be responsible for the day-to-day running of your business, but you will also need to ensure your customers are satisfied. You are also responsible for your business’s success, which can be stress-inducing.

A lot of skill, knowledge and experience are required

To help your business succeed, you will need to be highly proficient in a variety of skills and will need to have a lot of experience with different foods and beverages. You will also need to have extensive experience working in a café and have a high level of knowledge about health, safety and hygiene legislation. It can be time-consuming to gain the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience to make your business succeed.

High risk of your business failing

Starting up a café business can be risky. Many new businesses fail which could result in you losing money or getting into debt. Your business could fail for several reasons, such as high local competition, an ineffective business plan or if the UK encounters another recession or period of financial difficulty. Because your premises and equipment will require a high initial investment, if your business fails, you will potentially lose a significant amount of money.

Complying with legislation

There are many different pieces of legislation and legal guidelines you will need to comply with. Not only can this be complicated and time-consuming, but any non-compliance (even if this is accidental) can be punished with a fine or the forced closure of your business. Some types of legislation also require you to go through specific training and/or gain a qualification, which can be costly and arduous. A café can have high liability which can be a lot of stress and pressure on a business owner.

No benefits

As you are self-employed, you won’t receive benefits such as pension contributions. You will also be responsible for doing your own taxes and organising your National Insurance contributions. You will also have a lack of job security.

Bad reviews

Although the majority of customers leave honest reviews, some customers are difficult to please and will leave a negative review because of the smallest complaint (even if it is something outside of your control, such as other customers being too loud). Sometimes a fake customer also leaves a fake review, which can be extremely difficult to disprove and remove. Negative reviews can be extremely damaging to your business, particularly if your business is new or you’ve had relatively few reviews.

Planning Your Café Business

An effective and well-designed business plan is essential to the success of your café. A business plan can help you to focus on the specific steps that will help your business succeed, plan your short-term and long-term goals, determine your financial needs and help your business to grow.

When creating your business plan, ensure it contains information such as:

  • Your company information.
  • Your company description.
  • The services you will provide.
  • Your branding, marketing and advertising plan.
  • The structure of your business.
  • The operational plan for your business.
  • The financial plan for your business.

Some of the factors you will need to consider when creating your business plan are:

Your business summary

Your business plan should include a detailed overview of your business, including your location, the size of your business, the type of café, the products you will sell, your equipment and your business goals.

The type of café you are going to set up

Deciding what type of café you are going to set up is the first step you will need to make when creating your business plan. For example, you could choose a grab-and-go café or a hangout café. Alternatively, you could opt for a themed café or choose to operate in a specific niche, such as gluten-free or vegan. The type of café you set up will impact your premises, staff requirements, your target customers, and the types of products you sell. Consider your local competition, your budget and your own skills when deciding what type of café you will run. You should also ensure the design and aesthetic of your café fit in with your chosen niche.

The food and beverages you will sell

Cafés generally have a smaller menu than restaurants and other food and drink establishments. You may choose to offer a limited food menu and mainly focus on speciality coffee, tea and other beverages. If you plan to sell food, you must decide whether to offer a more extensive food menu, such as soups, sandwiches and breakfasts or only sell baked goods, such as cakes, brownies and cookies or pre-packed foods. Some cafés choose to specialise in a particular product, whereas others offer a more varied menu.

Your local competition

Being aware of other cafés in your area can help you decide what type of business to run and how much to charge your customers. If your local area already has several successful cafés, you may want to focus on an untapped niche and target different customers. On the other hand, if there is already a vegan café operating close to your chosen location, you may opt to open a different type of café.

Your target market

Determining your target market is a key step to helping your business succeed. Different types of cafés, different foods and beverages and different designs and aesthetics are likely to attract different customers. Your pricing strategy will also be a key factor in determining your target market. Once you have identified your typical customers, you can then focus on how to attract them to your business.

Your equipment and stock requirements

Consult the list above to determine your equipment requirements. The equipment you require will depend on the type of café you set up and how big your premises is. Once you have determined your equipment requirements, you can then calculate the initial costs of purchasing the equipment and the monthly replenishment costs, e.g. for stock and ingredients.

Your business location

Your location will have a significant impact on the types of customers you are likely to attract. It will also impact your premises’ rental costs. If your business is located in an area with high footfall or a place popular with your target market, the increased custom and higher profits will be extremely beneficial to your business. Consider your rental budget and your size requirements when choosing your premises.

Your start-up costs and running costs

Consult the list above to help you calculate the approximate costs of setting up and running your business. Determine what equipment you need and the amount of equipment, as well as the cost of your premises, to help you determine your start-up costs and what your initial investment requirements will be. You can then calculate whether you can finance your business yourself or whether you need to source outside investment, for example, from a bank or an independent investor. Determining your start-up costs and running costs can also help you to create a budget and predict when you will begin to turn a profit.

Your sales forecast

What is your average footfall likely to be? How many sales do you predict you will make each day and week? As your business grows, your sales forecast is likely to change. You should also consider whether certain times of the year are likely to have increased sales, for example, if you are located close to a beach you will likely be busier during Spring and Summer.

Your strategy for growth

Your strategy for growth is the actions you will take to realise your goals for expansion and any potential challenges your business could face and how you will avoid or overcome them. For example:

  • Expand your menu.
  • Hire chefs or bakers.
  • Open another café location.

Creating your brand is a key way to ensure you stand out from your local competition. Branding can help you to focus on your target customers, attract clients and concentrate your marketing and advertising strategies. Some ways you can create your brand are by focusing on your business’s visual identity and creating a brand story. Your business name and logo are also part of your branding so ensure you consider these when creating your business plan.

Your business goals

Determining your business goals is an essential part of creating your business plan. Your business objectives highlight the targets and goals of your café business and help you to create a one-year, three-year and five-year business plan.

Your business objectives should be SMART:

  • S = Specific
  • M = Measurable
  • A = Achievable
  • R = Realistic
  • T = Time-bound

Legal requirements

Consult the list of legal requirements above to check you have complied with all requirements and regulations and that all your paperwork is accurate. Failure to comply with legal requirements could have a detrimental effect on your business or could result in a fine, the forced closure of your business or, in serious cases, prosecution.

Download our business plan

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I want to change a residential building or land into a shop

Planning Permission

The planning system defines the different uses of buildings and separates them into different classes. In most cases planning permission is required to change the use of a building from one class to another, although permitted development rights do allow for some uses to change to a different use without the need for planning permission. See our pages on Change of Use 1 for more detailed information.

Planning permission will almost certainly be required for the change of use of a residential property to a retail use.

The majority of local authorities have designated shopping or commercial areas within their planning policies where shops and other commercial uses are encouraged. It is likely to be very difficult to gain permission for retail use outside of these areas, especially in an area that might otherwise be wholly residential.

Read the guidance on the use classes within planning 2 .

Building Regulations

The regulations define converting a home into a shop as a 'material change of use' and specify the requirements with which, as a result of that change of use, the building, or the relevant part of the building, must comply.

The specific requirements include those concerned with escape and other fire precautions, hygiene, energy conservation, and access to and use of buildings.

The building may therefore need to be upgraded to make it comply with the specified requirements.

You should also check with the local fire authority, usually the County Council, to see what 'ongoing' fire precautions legislation will apply when the building is in use.

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Planning permission: shops

In this guide, 2. i want to convert my shop to a cafe (use class a3).

Planning permission would be required for such a material change of use as the proposed new use is a different use class within the planning system.

The majority of Local Authorities will have designated shopping or commercial areas within their planning policies which often contain policies on striking a balance of uses in an area.

Some authorities may have specific polices to retain a level of retail uses.

Permission will also be required for commercial extractor flues if cooking is intended to be carried out on the premises.

The placing of tables and chairs on the highway* is very likely to require a licence from the highway authority to allow them to assess factors such as pedestrian movements, sight lines and road safety.

Changes in signage are likely to require express advertisement consent.

While permission is not required for the change of use before work starts, if permission is refused the work will have to be undone and the authority may take formal enforcement action over a change of use without planning permission.

You may also require the consent of the landlord or landowner.

*Highway refers to footways and verges associated with publicly maintained roads.

Read the guidance on the use classes within planning .

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Coffee Shop Startup Costs and Expenses for Your New Business

coffee shop startup costs

Running your own café is up there as one of the top entrepreneurial dreams. And the sooner you think about practicalities like coffee shop startup costs, the closer your dream wil be to reality. The good news is that the number of independent coffee shops in the UK continues to grow year on year. As high street retail continues to decline, more of us are reclaiming the space for social and leisure activities. That seems to include hanging out in cafés and drinking coffee!

So running your own coffee shop isn’t the pipe dream it might have been a few years ago. But it’s still not a venture for the faint-hearted. To make a success of a coffee shop venture you’ll need to do your homework, take a good degree of risk, and be prepared to work hard for long hours.

Of course, you need to make that risk as calculated as you possibly can. That means knowing your numbers. Start with footfall. Nothing beats the old-fashioned approach of standing outside potential premises with a clicker and counting the number of people passing by at different times of the day. Make a comparison graph for the different venues that you are considering.

Next, you need to know your coffee shop running costs and startup costs inside out. Identify your likely costs and get quotes for your startup costs and estimate your direct costs and overheads. Here is an overview and checklist of all the coffee shop cost areas you should take into account.

Coffee Shop Startup Costs

Coffee shop startup costs are the one-time costs that you’ll need to invest up-front to get the premises in shape and ready to open. They are likely to include:

  • Building improvements, frontage and signage . Focus your budget on a great first impression. And don’t forget the toilet, make sure that nothing is chipped or broken there and that it is always immaculate;
  • Kit-out with tables, chairs, crockery etc. Vintage trends are in fashion at the moment, particularly for community or co-working style cafés, so you may be able to make savings by cashing in on that trend with second-hand and mis-matched furniture and crockery!
  • Kitchen equipment . Again, there are savings to be made here with second-hand equipment.
  • Machinery . This could be a start-up cost if you buy the machine up-front, or if you lease, then it will be an ongoing cost. The latter may be worth considering to ease cash-flow management, but check the terms of the contract very carefully – more than one business has been bankrupt because of outrageous lease terms. Essential machinery should include a coffee machine and a Point of Sale (POS) system . In addition, depending on your customer base you may want to consider a frozen drink machine. An FBD Partnership offers a wide range of beverage dispenser options.
  • Licenses and legal costs. You’ll need A3 planning permission for a catering outlet. You will also need to pass health and safety and food hygiene regulations. The various leases and regulations involved in running a catering outlet can be complicated, so make sure you run everything past a lawyer and that you make provision for that.

Direct Costs

Food and beverage. This is literally the bread and butter of your business! Industry markups for the catering industry are 200%. So you should expect to charge at least 3 times the cost of the ingredients. Drinks attract an even higher markup.

Café Overheads – coffee shop monthly expenses uk

Everything else is a regular ongoing monthly cost for your coffee shop. That includes:

  • Premises costs, including the rent or mortgage and the business rates.
  • Insurance – get quotes from a broker for public liability, employee liability, contents, stock and buildings insurance.
  • Salaries . This should cover the costs of all the people you pay to work in the business, including chefs, serving staff, cleaners, and other maintenance personnel. You should aim to keep total salary costs to less than 50% of total overheads. If you employ permanent staff, don’t forget to make provision for holiday and sick pay in addition to other potential staffing costs like maternity leave. You should also get your lawyer or accountant to provide staff contracts and terms.
  • Marketing and advertising . Don’t underestimate this, especially in the early days when you’re establishing the venue. You need to include a launch event and these days ongoing social media is a must.
  • Other . Other regular costs are likely to include waste management and pest control.

So, do your homework and find suppliers and quotes for all of those coffee shop running costs and expenses before you even begin to think about menu plans.

Hopefully, it will all add up and you’ll be able to open the doors of your very own coffee shop in a perfect part of town.

And of course, the most important number is the number of people who love your welcoming atmosphere and amazing cuisine and who keep coming back and telling all their friends about you. If you can hit those numbers, it will all be worthwhile.

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How to Write a Coffee Shop Business Plan

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.

coffee shop planning permission uk

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.

Mission statement

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:

Market segment

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.

Market Trends

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.

Marketplace summary

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.

6. Marketing

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.

Online promotion

  • 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.

Traditional promotion

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.

Marketing summary

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.

8. Financials

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.

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Can I run a food business from a shop?

In our previous article on “the top five issues facing the restaurant industry in 2017” we set out our view that current competition for A3 (or restaurant premises) is greater than it has been over the past 10 years.

With a distinct lack of supply of premises on the market, and ever-increasing rents and premiums being demanded by both landlords and outgoing tenants, coffee shops and start-ups are looking at alternative ways to operate to make use of available property stock.

When taking a new lease of premises, it is important to remember that you will not only be required to comply with the “permitted use” under the terms of the lease but will also need to comply with the use permitted under planning legislation. 

Most restaurants will operate within Use Class A3 (which permits the sale of food or drink for consumption of the premises or hot food for consumption off the premises) however, a number of coffee shops, which nowadays operate as restaurants in all but name, are varying their offering to enable them to trade from A1 (or retail) premises. This loophole has been used by Pret, Starbucks, Costa etc. to enable them to open quickly and in locations where competition for suitable A3 premises may lead to prohibitively high rents with A1 properties often being cheaper than A3 premises due to the level of available stock.

However, the question as to where A1 use ends and A3 begins is a tricky one. Many consider it a question as to whether you will be carrying out primary cooking on site (e.g. frying bacon) as opposed to re-heating pre-prepared food, cooking sous-vide, or keeping food at an ambient temperature. While this goes some way towards the distinction it is not the be all and end all.

In reality the decision will vary from local authority to local authority, who will most likely take the availability of existing amenities and prevailing use classes in the area into account. Although, councils may also consider the percentage of your business involved in the sale of food, the number of covers at the premises and whether you require extraction for your kitchen.

If you operate your premises in breach of the authorised planning use a local authority may seek to take enforcement action and could ultimately prevent you from operating from the premises.

If your business plan involves an all-day offering and you intend to serve alcohol you will also need to consider applying for a premises licence. While somewhat of an anomaly it is possible to obtain a license permitting the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises for an A1 retail site.

We asked Steve Burnett a specialist licensing solicitor at Poppleston Allen to explain what should be considered when applying for a license for your new coffee shop.

“With all licensing matters, the complexity of, or ease of the process is dependent on the Local Authority’s procedures but nothing bars an operator from applying for a Premises Licence to sell alcohol from an A1 site.  However there are certain matters which require early consideration.

 The current principles as far as the Home Office Guidance to the Licensing Act 2003 is concerned is that the licensing and planning regimes ‘Involve consideration of different (albeit related) matters. Licensing Committees are not bound by decisions made by a Planning Committee and vice versa’.

 Some Councils will grant a Premises Licence permitting the sale alcohol without the appropriate planning permission being in place at that stage but others will simply either refuse an application or adjourn a hearing until the issue of planning has been addressed. Once a site is located, it is therefore wise to obtain advice from a licensing expert, familiar with the process and certainly familiar with Council procedures.

 It is prudent to check the terms of the lease and any existing planning permissions to identify any restrictions for example, on the opening times of the premises or on selling alcohol at the site.

 Whether an A1 site trades as a shop or sandwich bar, a crucial issue to consider is whether the premises is located in what some Local Authorities call their Cumulative Impact areas. If this is the case, there is a rebuttable presumption against the grant of any premises licence unless it can be shown the operation will not add to the existing problems causing crime and disorder and public nuisance in the area. This is evidentially difficult and legal advice is a must.”

While the greater availability of A1 premises may prove alluring to a new entrant to the coffee shop or fast casual market it is worth remembering that any other alterations to the premises, such as signage or extraction, will require planning permission and if you are unsure whether your use will fall within use class A1 you may wish to consider applying for a change of use to A3 at the same time.

If you are looking at taking a lease of commercial premises to run a coffee shop or food based business and would like to speak to CBG Law to discuss your property requirements, then please call Sammi Hsu on 020 7436 5151 or email sh  for an initial conversation.

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We secured planning permission earlier this year for the change of use of a Grade II listed building at London Street in the centre of Norwich City from a retail unit (A1 use) into a specialist Coffee Shop, which falls under an A3 Café Use.

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New Use Classes Order 2020 Affecting Restaurants & Cafes

  • 3 years ago
  • Latest News

new use classes for commercial properties

Changes to the Use Classes Order in England which may have significant effect on Restaurant & Cafe Businesses

On July 2020, the Government introduced new planning reforms, which came into effect from 1 st September 2020. This change to Town Centre Use Classes will provide greater flexibility for changes in uses (1987 Use Classes Order) without the need for planning permission with the aim being to support the high street resurgence.

From the 1 st September 2020 a new use “Class E” will replace the following existing use classes:

Class a1 – shops (retail units), class a2 – financial and professional services;, class a3 – restaurants and cafes; and, class b1 – business..

This means, the above uses “will not need” to obtain planning permission for changes within this use class. An A1 use premises can be converted into an A3 premises without planning permission. However, to convert an A1 into A5 (hot food takeaways) will still require obtaining planning permission.

Please note: You may still need local council’s planning permission to install “an extractor” and landlord’s permission to “connect gas” to the unit. Hence, before you take on a old Class A1 unit for restaurant purpose, you must contact your local council. 

A4 (Pubs & Drink Establishments) and A5 (Hot Food Takeaways) fall under “Sui Generis”. They do not fall under any specific use class. A sui generis use may make it harder for takeaway operator clients to find premises given that any new tenant at the end of the term would need a change of use permission.

It is currently unclear whether a mixed restaurant and takeaway use (A3/A5) would now fall within the new E class or sui generis.

The “Three New Use Classes” are as follows:

Class E (Commercial, business and service) – including retail, restaurant, office, financial/professional services, indoor sports, medical and nursery uses along with “any other services which it is appropriate to provide in a commercial, business or service locality”;

Class F.1 (Learning and non-residential institutions) – including non-residential educational uses, and use as a museum, art gallery, library, public hall, religious institution or law court; and

Class F.2 (Local community) – including use as a shop of no more than 280 sqm mostly selling essential goods, including food and at least 1 km from another similar shop, and use as a community hall, area for outdoor sport, swimming pool or skating rink.

Key points to be noted affecting restaurant and cafe businesses:

Planning Permission Not Required:

  • A1 Use (retail unit) to Restaurant
  • A2 Use (financial & professional) to Restaurant
  • B1 Use (business) to Restaurant

Planning Permission Required:

  • A1 Use (retail unit) to Hot Food Takeaways (old A5)
  • A1, A2 & B1 to Pubs and Drink Establishments

Sources: Lichfields & Knight Frank

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