There’s a very obvious reason why the idea of opening a coffee shop appeals to so many people – it looks like a pretty easy gig. After all, what could be easier than throwing in some tables, brewing up some coffee and getting rich, right? It is precisely that kind of attitude that leads to dozens of lacklustre coffee shops closing their doors every day having failed to keep up with the big-name chains. Why do some fly while other fall? It’s simple really – there are certain rules that must be followed in order for any coffee shop to be a success.

This is something that applies today more than ever before because the level of competition across the industry right now is bordering on ridiculous. The fact that you can’t walk 50 yards without passing three of four coffee shops should drive this message home pretty conclusively, which as far as newcomers go represents the mother of all challenges – especially for those with no prior experience.

Should you be put off the idea altogether by all this rivalry? Not at all – it’s simply a case of understanding that it’s not quite as easy as it looks and that there are cornerstones to success in the industry.

1 – Beware Trends and Movements

First and foremost, there are certain coffee shops on the High Street that are just as hip today as they were a decade ago and will indeed be cool years from now. By contrast, others quickly end up looking and feeling like relics of a forgotten era. Why does this happen? Well, it all comes down to the way in which their respective owners made decisions in according with current trends, or otherwise.

If, for example, you were to open a coffee shop today in a painfully stylish area and mirror the hipster culture of the locals and cater to their every taste – chances are you’d be a pretty immediate success story. Sadly though, fast forward a couple of years and you might find yourself with a hugely expensive investment that’s about as fashionable as a shell-suit, meaning you’ll have to think about a colossally expensive overhaul or face shutting up shop.

By contrast, take a leaf from the books of the biggies and you’ll see that the key lies in timelessness and simplicity. Real coffee with no gimmicks, elegant décor that’s far from a fad and the kind of ambience that you can 100% say with confidence will still be as appealing in a decade as it is today. Big brands with endless capital can afford to take risks on trends – you can’t.

2 - Know Your Onions

If you think the cosy atmosphere of your place and your own wonderful personality will be enough to make it a success, you can think again. Never has there been a time in history where quality standards and thus expectations have been higher across the board, which means that if your coffee isn’t as good as it gets, they’ll not stick around for long.

Which is where the single most important person in the whole business comes into the equation – you. As the owner, you need to be the primary authority in charge of quality, knowledge and everything else across the board. Yes, you need to love coffee to run a successful coffee shop, but at the same time you cannot get by in this business area unless you know coffee inside and out. This will in most cases mean being willing to take the necessary training and to practice, practice and practice again – before getting started.

3 – Remember What Coffee Culture is All About

As for the third and final rule, you must acknowledge the fact that if coffee culture was all about high-end Ethiopian coffees and nothing else, there would be nothing but takeaway joints up and down the High Street. But there aren’t…instead there are dozens and dozens of sit-in cafés and coffee shops that tend to be bursting with patrons all day and night. In fact, a recent large-scale study in the US brought to light data suggesting that the primary motivating factor for the overwhelming majority of coffee drinkers is the atmosphere of the coffee house and the ritual around going out for a cup.

Which begs the million dollar question – how do you create this atmosphere? The answer, believe it or not, it surprisingly simple – you care for your customers genuinely and consistently.