5 December 2012

Coffee shop owner; coolest job in the world?


Eight times out of ten when I tell someone I run a coffee shop, I'd get a response something like this: "Cool!  Wish I had one of my own."  Many people - especially the younger ones - think they'd like to start a coffee shop.  Well, chances are they really don't, because in essence starting one is tantamount to splurging a hundred or so big ones on a job that pays minimum wages - and mind you, that's during the best of times.

What they do want is sit on a lazy couch in an espresso bar and read the latest "Twilight" saga while updating their Facebook status on their tablets ("ENJOYING COFFEE N BREAKING DAWN. EDWARD IS SO COOL. LOL")allowing their latte time to kick in and satisfy their caffeine-deprived anatomies and, after that's done, return to their job as a bassoon player or inventor of cats' toys.


We humans are such; we're quick to recognise when we experience pleasure from using a service - like that experienced in a nice little cafe in this instance.  But then we're similarly quick to conclude - and believe - that owning a coffee shop will give us eternal bliss. That, my friends, is where the pitfall lies.  Quoting a fellow blogger, "You can't be in love with a particular business.  You have to be in love with the idea of running a business".

This philosophy is especially relevant when talking about coffee shops where there is a HUGE mismatch between the work one perceives to be involved and the actual day-to-day labour.  It's one thing to sit in a coffee bar reading today's football gossip column and quite another to actually work in one.


Look at it this way; I didn't open a coffee shop to drink coffee all day any more than the bloke opposite opened his pub because he wants to drink gin and tonic all night.  Know what I mean?  And by the way, did I tell you I am also the barista, accountant, bookkeeper, stock keeper, plumber, electrician and sometimes even the mopper of my coffee shop?  So there you go.

Basically there are two types of people who'd want to start a coffee shop - those who find it "hip" to hang around espresso bars sipping lattes as they tweet on their Korean-made tablets, and those who simply want to make great coffee for their customers for the sake of, well, making  great coffee for their customers.  Unlike most people whose happiness hinges on the number of zeroes on their pay checks, the latter draw theirs from frothing milk and creating latte art.  In other words, their level of happiness is directly proportionate to the amount of time they spend on tamping ground coffee or steaming milk on their espresso machines.  No, they're not kidding themselves - that to them is job satisfaction!  Trust me; I know... I'm one of 'em.

That's me underneath the left poster making frappuccinos


I'm not here to discourage anyone from starting a coffee shop - quite the opposite.  In fact, I believe the world would be a calmer place if everyone drank coffee!  Hence nothing would make me happier than if every other shop on the planet was an espresso bar.  But please, for your own sake, don't start one just because you're seduced by the (false) notion of being able to hang out in a coffee shop and Facebook all day while admiring your customers' designer bags.   It's not like that at all.

And speaking of "all day", it is exactly that.  The hours can be long and the work back-breaking.  But if you do open a coffee shop (and here I wish you every success), you'd be well-advised to make sure it's because you want to serve your customers the best damn coffee in town; because if you don't, that competitor down the street sure as hell will.

If you want to run a successful coffee shop - and enjoy yourself while you're at it - you need to love a lot more than coffee.  You have got to derive some kind of pleasure - even grim satisfaction - out of the daily grind (mind the pun), which essentially means constantly wearing a smile despite an argument with your better half a mere 15 minutes earlier, recruiting/managing wait staff, worrying about this month's staff payroll (you get whatever's left), monitoring and ordering supplies/deliveries, paying the rent, marketing, cleaning and very often dealing with customers who want to occupy your tables all day on a $2.75 cup of mochaccino.



Running a coffee shop is no bed of roses - I'm putting it as it is.  It's hard work and there's an unescapable load of crap that comes with the job - more often than not, from your customers' gobs.  Every day.  So be ready.  In deciding whether or not you really want to open a coffee shop, ask yourself this: "Do I really want to spend my days mopping and putting up with the occasional difficult moron while risking $100K on a low margin biz with a 20% success rate?".  If you're up for it, good on ya!  If not, best keep your day job playing the bassoon.  Whatever it is, remember ALWAYS to strive to make your customers the best coffee in town.  That's the best piece of advice I can dispense.


So back to the question; is being a coffee shop owner the coolest job in the world?  You tell me; I've already put forward my case - but I'd say not by any stretch.  Yes, you get to smell heavenly fresh ground coffee every day but as you know, it's never easy when you're in a people industry.  There are of course the occasional rewards that come with running a coffee shop; not least the compliments you get from customers.  A simple "Great coffee!" more than makes my day.  Don't expect to buy a Bentley just from selling lattes and cappuccinos though; that's a lost cause from Day 1.

Have a great day, everyone.






Do you dream of owning a coffee shop of your own?  If so, did you find this blog post helpful or, at least, informative?

7 comments:

  1. Last time I have thought that I want to open my own shop.. I'll go to study pastries and bakery course. After I finish the course I'll go to work as bakery to gain experience. Then a few years like that, I'll open my own shop.. that is what I plan for after I graduate.. and I'm not sure if that can guarantee my future or not..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you feel you have the passion, then do it Jamie. But you really MUST be passionate enough about baking because it can be hard, hard work. If you need more information about this, I'll be more than happy to share them as well as our experiences with you. Feel free to ask me. Good luck.

      Delete
  2. I would love to listen to your experience.. well,yea... I loves to bake... In the first time I baked cake is oreo cheese cake.. but failed... my cake fell apart like water fall. I put to much cream cheese in the middle of the cake..hahaha
    But it still taste good...even my dad also loves it...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Drop by one day and we'll have a chat, Jamie.

      Delete
  3. so did she drop by or did she not? the suspense is killing us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jamie's my regular, Beng. So the answer is yes.

      Delete
  4. I personally use them exclusively high-quality elements : you will notice these folks during:
    krups best grind and brew coffee maker

    ReplyDelete