On the Line / Café & Bakery / What is a Coffeehouse?

What is a Coffeehouse?

Learn about the history of and how to start a coffeehouse, as well as what kind of food and atmosphere a coffeehouse provides.

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A coffeehouse is a restaurant type where coffee is primarily sold. Learn about the history of and how to start a coffeehouse, as well as what kind of food and atmosphere a coffeehouse provides.

What is a coffeehouse?

coffeehouse is a specialty restaurant type where coffee is the primary item sold. A coffeehouse typically sells hot coffee beverages in popular forms, including brewed coffee, espresso, lattes, and cappuccinos.  A coffeehouse usually sells a selection of different pastries, in addition to coffee. They are usually nicely decorated spaces with ample seating to offer customers a place to regularly work or converse with friends while enjoying a cup of coffee.  

What is the history of the coffeehouse?

The term ‘coffeehouse’ was coined in the 16th century as the first coffeehouses appear across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. In America, the first coffeehouse was opened in Boston in 1676 and grew in popularity as Italian-style coffeehouses featuring espresso and pastries started opening in the Italian-American immigrant communities in places such as Boston’s North End district, and Little Italy in New York City. 

Coffeehouses started as places for people to meet for conversation, usually business related. With the rise of wireless Internet, many coffeehouses transitioned into an environment for people to work while enjoying coffee and light food items.

What is typically on the menu at a coffeehouse?

While the main item served is coffee, most coffeehouses offer specialty food items or snacks. Some foods you will find on the menu at a coffeehouse include bagels, pastries such as croissants, tarts, scones, muffins or cookies, and sometimes sandwiches, salads, and soups. In terms of the beverages being offered, coffeehouses will offer a wide variety of coffee-style drinks, from cold brewed coffee to hot and iced lattes.

How do you start a coffeehouse?

The coffee industry can be lucrative, but it’s competitive and you must consider how to set your coffee shop apart to find financial success. 

Before you start a coffeehouse, write a business plan that clearly outlines who your competition is, what sets you apart, how you plan to market the business, what the internal organizational structure will look like, and how the business will be funded. Taking the time to write this out will help you find success in opening a coffeehouse. 

Other steps include finding a location, securing financing, and designing your food menu. You will also need to obtain a health department permit, a food handler’s license, and a food sales permit.

Once you know your location, you should conduct market research in the neighborhood to determine what your coffeehouse can offer to set itself apart. And, of course, make sure your coffee is top-tier. Be sure to test various roaster options to pick a coffee you think customers will like – and that you can sell.

How much does it cost to start a coffeehouse?

Opening a coffeehouse takes a lot of work, but the costs for getting started are not too scary, especially if you keep your menu simple. Once you find a location, set a menu, and secure a coffee roaster, you will then need to invest in coffee equipment, which can add up. 

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.

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