Managing a successful coffee shop relies on a number of small but important decisions, many of which will relate to budgeting and the realisation of projected profit margins.
One of your first actions will be to invest in one or more commercial coffee machines, as this will enable you to begin selling and generating a turnover for your venture.
There are a number of important considerations that you will need to keep in mind when buying your first coffee machine, including the following: -
#1 - Consider Your Commercial Needs
Let's start with the basics; as you cannot successfully choose a coffee machine without first understanding the precise needs of your business.
This will be the determining factor when comparing the market, after you initially shortlist options based on a detailed financial budget.
When appraising your commercial requirements, the best practice is to work out how many cups of coffee you will serve on average each day.
A cup is usually measured as an eight-ounce serving, and this simple equation enables you to select a cost-effective machine that delivers excellent value and a suitable ROI.
As a general rule of thumb, low capacity machines are ideal if your intend to serve just 50 cups per day, whereas medium volume products can comfortably deliver anywhere between 150 and 200.
If you are going to serve in excess of 200 cups on a daily basis, it is worth investing in a large capacity machine that can meet this need over a sustained period of time.
The most important thing is to be accurate in your estimates and ensure that you strike the balance between value and performance.
#2 - Does your Purchase include a Service Agreement?
Before buying, you will probably have considered the option of leasing a coffee machine.
This usually includes some additional benefits including servicing agreements, which will typically feature a free, 12-month check-up for your machine while relieving some of the financial responsibilities of ownership.
Such a feature is not always included when you buy direct from a supplier, but it is important to determine the precise terms of your purchase and whether or not some form of service agreement is referenced.
In instances where no service agreement exists, you must be aware that you will be financially liable for repairs and responsible for scheduling (and funding) annual check-ups.
While this may represent an expense that you can do without, the regular maintenance of your machine will help to optimise it's long-term performance, so it is an important investment in your business.
#3 - How will you respond if the Machine Breaks down?
Even if you do not have a service agreement with the supplier, your investment will be protected by a warranty.
The length of this will vary depending on the product, but a manufacturer's warranty will safeguard you and entitle you to a replacement if the machine breaks down within a specified time-frame.
Should the length of your warranty be two years, for example, the supplier will be liable for any faults or breakdowns that occur during this time (so long as they are beyond your control, of course).
This may mean that they repair your machine free-of-charge, or simply provide a replacement model in the case of more serious issues.
Either way, this will offer at least some peace of mind when you first invest in your machine, so look out for the warranty terms when comparing the market.
If your machines experiences a fault outside of your warranty or as a result of human error, you will need to engage the services of an independent maintenance firm.
Fortunately, there are plenty to choose from in the current marketplace, so you will simply need to keep a list of the most affordable service providers within your local area.
Also, it is wise to keep a record of the locations from which you can source space parts for your machine, as this can minimise costs and help you to avoid long periods of down-time.
#4 - How much will Repairs and servicing cost?
If you do need to employ the services of independent maintenance firms, it is important to understand the costings involved.
After all, it is inevitable that even the most expensive coffee machines may break from time to time, so you will need to create a detailed budget that accounts for such instances.
In terms of annual servicing, your costs will vary depending on what is provided.
Services usually carry a nominal fee of between £100 and £150, for example, while subsequent repairs may drive additional costs for parts and labour.
You can also tailor your costs depending on the precise level of service that you require, as while all firms over basic checks some will also perform useful additions such as pressure safety, electrical safety and boiler tests.
Much will depend on the value of your machine, but it is worth servicing premium equipment to the highest possible standard.
Some service providers will also operate out of hours, offering emergency repairs to local coffee shops.
This will carry a significant price premium, which needs to be balanced alongside the potential for lost revenue if your business cannot open the next morning.
The key is to remain calm and make an informed decision, as making the right choice will save you money.
#5 - The Importance of in-house Cleaning and Maintenance
We have already touched on the importance of regularly cleaning and maintaining your machine, as this not only improves performance and longevity but it also minimises future repair costs.
You will need to plan your cleaning routines and techniques in accordance with the machine that you buy, however, so that you achieve the best possible results.
In some instances, your supplier may have advised you on the best practices for cleaning your coffee machine.
This is usually a key feature of aftersales, particularly when you procure a premium machine from a reputable brand.
Utilising the best techniques will extend the life of your machine and prevent residue from clogging up your filters, enabling you to maintain the quality and consistency of your beverages.
Larger machines may also come with automated cleaning cycles, which should be commenced regularly when the equipment is not in use.
These self-clean cycles help to maintain the inner components of the machine such as the heating elements, although they can take a while to complete.
We would always recommend running these at the end of the day, so that the machine can be regularly cleaned without causing downtime.
#6 - Have you checked the returns or exchange policy?
This is an important consideration when buying any merchandise as if you do not comply with the stipulated terms and conditions when returning products you will be ineligible for a refund. While this does not apply in the event of your machine malfunctioning, it does in instances where you are simply unsatisfied with the machine or have discovered that it is unfit for purpose.
While this does not apply in the event of your machine malfunctioning, it does in instances where you are simply unsatisfied with the machine or have discovered that it is unfit for purpose.
In general terms, you will usually have 14 days in which to repackage the machine and send it back to the supplier. It must also be presented in its original condition, and if either of these terms are not met your item may not be refunded or exchanged.
You will most likely have to pay for the return of the goods too, although some brands will offer to cover this cost as a gesture of goodwill. You should also bear in mind that precise terms and conditions can vary between suppliers, although most requirements are set as
You should also bear in mind that precise terms and conditions can vary between suppliers, although most requirements are set as standard by regulatory bodies.
#7 - Do you wish to alter the strength and temperature of the Coffee?
Coffee machines are usually classified in groups, with single group machines typically low-volume products and two or three group options capable of producing numerous beverages simultaneously and in high volume.
Your choice will also impact on the level of control that you have over the strength and temperature of your beverages, and there is one main reason for this.
More specifically, two or three group coffee machines often come with an in-built PID system, which includes numerous control and diagnostic features.
These enable you to fine-tune elements of the machine, from the steam temperature and boiler output to the strength of each individual beverage.
If these products (which can cost between £1,200 and £3,700 on average) are outside of your budget, you can at least look to invest in dual-boiler machines that allow for superior temperature control and consistency.
Given the need for specialist coffee shops to deliver a wide range of drinks, having the ability to control your temperatures and other elements may prove crucial over time.
The Last Word
With these considerations in mind, you can make an informed decision when purchasing your first coffee machine. This will balance both your budget and the needs of your venture, enabling you to strike cost-effective solutions that allow you to achieve success!