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David Donde: Advice on starting your own coffee shop

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David Donde
Truth Coffee’s David Donde.

Another week, another new coffee roastery opens up in the Mother City. Like some sinister underground movement, the number swells. Welcome to the dark side of coffee.

Unfortunately the group isn’t organised. A shambles of new roasters really, usually no more than coffee enthusiasts with a dream. All fighting for a place in the sun. Each one carefully analysing their spreadsheet projections, hoping to make a hobby profitable. So many jumping on the bandwagon, but the destination on the ticket reads Failure Central unless…

Become cheaper or better and you will have a chance of surviving and maybe even prospering but it’s not possible to be cheaper AND better. The roastery business is a competitive and specialised environment.

If you choose to play at the top-end of the market, you had better be good, brother. Very good. Coffee with flavour, with character, with provenance. Just look to wine. Coffee is no different. Good marketing may help, but won’t support a grotty product for long. Expect the mediocre to close down. Through insolvency or moving on.

After you’ve got your positioning right, comes the story and the romance. A coffee business needs a USP, something that makes it stand out from the crowd, something that makes it better. . As with wine, coffee is a product of curiosity and you need to beguile a clientele that can be difficult and fussy and fickle. Everything from shop décor to complicated preparation methods start to play a role but first you have to get what’s in the cup right.

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