Coffee House

1. What is a sustainable coffee house?

A community space restaurant that serves sustainable coffee, tea, and light fare, and focuses on the enjoyment of a dining experience by not rushing clients through.  Sustainable coffee is typically organic, shade-grown, and Fair Trade certified (in industry lingo, it’s known as “Triple Certified”).  It helps provide an economic incentive for rainforest preservation, as well as valuable jobs for third-world workers, so serving triple certified coffee has benefits well beyond the borders of your local, independent coffee house.  It also tastes much better than commodity coffee.  Margins can be substantial, even on the higher priced sustainable coffees.

Many customers use coffee houses as their “3rd space” (aside from work and home), in which to hang out, relax, socialize, pursue a hobby, or do freelance work aside from their regular job.  This does not mean you can’t serve regular meals.  Many coffee houses make a smooth transition during breakfast and lunch hours by politely asking that people working on wi-fi and laptops make room during busy times for people who are eating.

What about competition from Starbuck’s, though, won’t that kill your business before you get going?  In a popular article in, the authors argue that Starbuck’s can actually help independent coffee houses thrive.  With independent coffee houses growing from 9,800 in 2000 to 14,000 in 2005 (roughly correlating with the time of Starbuck’s fastest expansion), and with a failure rate for first year coffee houses at 10%, this business provides a great startup opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs.

2. What required knowledge or skills are necessary?

There are no formal educational or training requirements for this job.  In general, food service experience would be very helpful in terms of organizing ingredients, getting processes in place to make the kitchen area operate smoothly, and for customer service.  The work is strenuous and requires that the worker be able to be on their feet for extended periods of time, a good ‘people person’, and be able to lift up to 50 pounds.

3. How much money is required to start?

$$-$$$   (on a scale of $ to $$$$$)

4. What is the income potential?

$$-$$$   (on a scale of $ to $$$$$)

5. What is the best location for a sustainable coffee house?

Urban (best), semi-urban (very good), suburbs (good), rural (poor).

6.  Three best questions to ask yourself to find out if this business is right for you (if you can answer yes to all three, this business might be for you):

Do you enjoy a fast-paced (uh, caffeinated?) work environment?
Do you enjoy serving people?
Do you enjoy the environment of a coffee house?  In other words, do you enjoy hanging out at other coffee houses?


Interested in starting one in your community? Where do you begin?  What permits do you need?  Who is your target customer?  How do you find them?  What is the best use of your limited advertising dollars?  What’s the best way to attract a great employee or volunteer?  What does an average day look like?  What strategic tips do veteran eco-entrepreneurs suggest for startups like you?

There’s a lot to think about.  Rest easy.  Our mission is to help you succeed, so drop us a line (  We’ll get you a business planning document to get you on your way for ONLY $199!  We also guarantee our work, so if you are not satisfied, you get your money back!*

Take a look at a sample table of contents and a few sample excerpts from similar plans here.   We’ll provide you the What, When, Where, and How…you provide the Who!

*Subject to the terms of our Licensing Agreement.

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