Eight times out of ten when I tell someone I run a coffee shop, I'm able to correctly predict the response, which is usually something along the lines of: "Cool! Wish I had one of my own."
We humans are such; we're quick to recognise when we experience pleasure from using a service – like spending time in a nice little cafe. But then we're equally 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 floor mopper of my coffee shop? So there you go.
Basically there are two types of people who want to start a coffee shop – those who think 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.
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.
Running a coffee shop is no bed of roses – I'm putting it as it is. It's hard work and there's an inescapable 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.